Joseph Woll has played his way into being next goaltender called up to Maple Leafs

Joseph Woll has played his way into being next goaltender called up to Maple Leafs

Joseph Woll last played in the NHL 419 days ago and it’s time for him to return there, again, with the Maple Leafs.
It was a strange Friday night for the team, to say the least. Matt Murray was supposed to start against Ottawa. That was until he suffered an injury in warmups, according to Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe.
“He’s been dealing with something that flared up on him tonight,” Keefe told reporters on Friday night, “so he wasn’t available to play.”
That meant Ilya Samsonov — who’s played in Toronto’s previous four games — was getting the start.
Murray remained on the bench for the entire game, though Keefe did say that he wouldn’t have been able to play had Samsonov got injured.
“We would’ve been EBUG in that situation I believe.” The head coach added.
It’s not known whether Murray will be available to play, or even be the backup for Toronto on Sunday against Washington . And when Keefe was asked if the team would have another goaltender for Saturday’s practice, he really didn’t have an answer.
“We’ll see,” Keefe said to reporters Friday night. “The Marlies are away and we’ll get a better idea of exactly where everything’s at — it obviously happened pretty quickly and right before game time. (We) haven’t had a lot of time to get organized on it, bu …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Is this the year for the Leafs to overpay, Sandin vs. Liljegren and a tip of the hat to a legend: Leaflets

Is this the year for the Leafs to overpay, Sandin vs. Liljegren and a tip of the hat to a legend: Leaflets

It’s Saturday morning and we’re hours away from the Leafs vs. Habs. It feels good. It feels like the these two teams are never good at the same time, but that also hasn’t stopped the Habs from knocking off the Leafs before so it’s not a game to be taken for granted. If the Leafs can beat up on just one lottery team, this is the one they should commit to.
Now here are the stray thoughts rattling around in my head…
It’s time for the Leafs to go all-in (but in a smart way)
On the Leafs Morning Take yesterday, Nick Alberga was discussing possible Leafs trade targets with Frank Seravalli. One of the players that was swiftly dismissed in the conversation was Bo Horvat. Then not a minute later it was mentioned that Boston could be a possible landing spot for Horvat. The belief is that the price on Horvat is more than the Leafs are willing to pay, but at the same time, the Bruins would be willing to pay it. So let’s break that down.
The Bruins find themselves in a situation where their prospect pool is even more drained than the Leafs. They have a very similar draft pick situation, and their salary cap situation is even more …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Batted Ball Distribution is crucial for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to take the next step

Baseball is hard.

But it’s a lot harder when you hit the ball on the ground every time, something that the Blue Jays, as a team, do more than anyone else in the American League. At this point, it’s an undeniable problem. The correlation between Vladimir Guerrero’s groundball rate and his overall hitting ability couldn’t be more blatantly obvious…

We can see, that aside from a weird little run in the middle of his season, Vlad’s wRC+ seems to be the opposite of his GB%, suggesting that it could be at fault when he’s not doing well. Now, in fairness, correlation = causation is the oldest fallacy in the book. So let’s start by proving that the groundball issues are DIRECTLY responsible for the first baseman’s struggles this season.
What’s the best kind of batted ball? Let’s see…

This chart breaks down league average wRC+ based on what type of batted ball is entered. As you can see, the best specific type of batted ball is a pulled flyball. However, in general, line drives are significantly better than flyballs, which are significantly better than groundballs.
Groundballs are very significantly the worst type of batted ball, and the Blue Jays hit them more than any other American League in 2022. This is a problem that needs to be addressed. It hurt several of their biggest stars, not just Vladdy. It definitely hurt the first baseman, who saw his groundball rate jump 7% in 2021, as his wRC+ tanked more than 30 points. But it’s not just him. George Springer had a ridiculous 2021, as his groundball rate was only 32.6%. In 2022, it jumped up to 44.5%, and his wRC+ dropped 8 points.
But, let’s not kid ourselves. Vlad Jr. is a very good hitter. I’m not here to tell you about why a bad hitter could be a good one if he stopped hitting groundballs. He finished 2022 with a 132 wRC+. Nonetheless, there is so much room for improvement. Vladimir Guerrero is among the most talented hitters that the league has seen in decades. George Springer, Bo Bichette, Matt Chapman and Teoscar Hernandez are no slouches of their own. How can Vladdy unlock the (hashtag) next level?
Well, it would take fundamental change. Nothing is simple when you’re facing major league pitching.
However, let’s take Vladimir Guerrero Jr. as our example once again. This frame is from a game in Texas, during an at-bat that is just about to end, with a pulled groundball resulting in an out.

You can see that Vladdy is making contact with the baseball at the lowest point of his swing, t …

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Author: Tate Kispech / Blue Jays Nation

Blue Jays Nation’s 2023 Preseason Top 50: #15 Josh Kasevich

It’s been a while since a 2022 draftee was ranked on Blue Jays Nation’s Top 50, but that changes with this article.

Josh Kasevich is an intriguing prospect, as he has a great hit tool and will be able to stick at shortstop as he’s a great defender.
However, we’ll look at the criteria before taking a deep dive.
Brennan’s criteria:
Instead of writing this out every time I did for the mid-season Top 60, I’ll copy and paste my criteria for how I rank and scout these players.
There are many factors that determine a top prospect. The eye test is the biggest driver in determining a top prospect, but proximity to the majors, ceiling, and floor is also important. Moreover, statistics are another key ingredient, as everything works together to give you numbers.
As for the grades, it’s important to remember that they are relative to the league in which they play. A kid from Dunedin is not going to have a 50-grade hit tool if he were placed in the big leagues. But relative to the league in which he plays, a .300 hitter is eligible for that grade.
For these prospects, I’ll review their background, numbers in the minors, pitch mix (if they’re a pitcher), and give a scouting report (if feasible, rookie league guys are difficult).
Let’s jump in!
Josh Kasevich’s career so far:
The 21-year-old (who’ll turn 22 a day after this article is published) was drafted in the second round of the 2022 dr …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Erik Karlsson sticker price shock, the future of the Leafs goal, and more: Weekend Leaflets

Erik Karlsson sticker price shock, the future of the Leafs goal, and more: Weekend Leaflets

It’s a new year and a new me. Part of that means changing up when I post Leaflets. Rather than having them starting your work week, they will now kick off you weekend. Instead of me ruining you Monday with my horrible takes, you’ll start your weekend with coffee spit take. You’re welcome.
The Erik Karlsson trade ask is ridiculous
I’m sure if hop in the way back machine we’ll remember a time when there was some entertaining of the idea of Erik Karlsson being someone the Leafs should acquire. Remember that point when missing Muzzin seemed like a big deal and the blueline was so overwhelmed by injuries that Victor Mete was playing with Mac Hollowell?
Anyway, at that time there seemed to be some interest in Karlsson if the ask was low enough and the Sharks would eat half his salary. Karlsson was playing pretty good at that time too, but was being actively shopped.
Now, I don’t doubt he’s still being actively shopped (why do the Sharks need him?), he’s still playing some of his best hockey, but the asking price on his is far steeper than anyone expected.
Via Frank Seravalli at Daily Faceoff:
This week, the San Jose Sharks reportedly asked for three first-round picks in exchange for Karlsson, with the Sharks willing to retain 18 percent of his contract. That would knock Karlsson down to a roughly $9.4 million salary cap hit.
That shoul …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

It’s the midseason grades edition of The Leafs Power Rankin’s

It’s the midseason grades edition of The Leafs Power Rankin’s

It’s a new month and another chance to rank the Leafs players. It is also very close to the midpoint of the season and that warrants assigning some grades to the Leaf players as well. Rather than doing two separate articles to accomplish the same thing, we’ll blend them into one time saving piece that cuts our potential pageviews in half. Take that network fat cats.
Grading players is somewhat tricky. Are we grading them to what we expect of them or are we grading them to where they compare to players around the league? Is Pontus Holmberg a B player because he’s come in and grabbed an NHL job, or is he a C- player because he’s a decent fourth line center? Unfortunately for Holmberg, I feel the latter grading system is far more useful, but I will include whether or not players are meeting, exceeding, or failing to meet expectations as well.
The previous Power Rankin’s can be found here.
1. William Nylander (up from 5th) 
Grade: A, exceeding expectations
There are plenty of supporters of William Nylander around Leafs Nation, but I think it is still safe to say that no one saw him as the team goals and points leader at the first week in January.
As the Leafs exited the playoffs last year, Nylander more than any other player seemed committed to finding the next level in his gam …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

The Blue Jays sign five players to minor league deals with invites to spring training, including 2015 opening day starter Drew Hutchison

It’s hard to believe that pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Florida in just a few short weeks.

Today, the Blue Jays Twitter account announced that they’ve signed five players to minor league deals, with an invite to spring training.

OFFICIAL: We’ve signed the following free agents to Minor League deals with invites to Spring Training. pic.twitter.com/t9bE8koWTM
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) January 6, 2023

There were already a couple of players that we were aware of. You can read my deep dive on right-handed pitcher Julián Fernández here. The skinny is that he throws hard, has a nice changeup, but struggles with control and command. Furthermore, right-handed pitcher Casey Lawrence was on the 40-man roster last season, before being outrighted around the start of free agency. You can read his article here.
So what about Paul Fry, Drew Hutchison, and Rob Brantly?
Paul Fry:
The Seattle Mariners drafted the left-hander back in the 17th round of the 2013 draft, but he made his debut for the Baltimore Orioles in 2018. He spent parts of five seasons with the bad birds of the AL East, posting a career 4.82 ERA and 4.02 FIP in 177.1 innings pitched. He also has a career 24.6 K% and 12.3 BB% while sitting in the low 90s.
Fry’s best season came in the plague year, where he posted a .245 ERA and 3.69 FIP in 22 innings pitched. The 30-year-old also had a 29.6 K% and 9.2 BB%, a career best in both those numbers. He struggled with his ERA in 2021 (3.93 FIP that year), before once again having issues in 2022.

Paul Fry, Nasty 86mph Slider. 🍟🍔😨 pic.twitter.com/aXFnKSkGSK
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 11, 2021

Last season, he posted a 6.23 ERA and 4.50 FIP in 13 innings pitched (one with the Arizona Diamondbacks). Fry’s K% dropped from 27.9% in 2021 to 23% this season as well.
He has options and has shown to be able to get batters out, so this is a nice pickup.
Rob Brantly:
The definition of a depth catcher for Triple-A, the 33-year-old Brantly has spent the past two seasons in the New York Yankees organization, registering 24 plate appearances. For his career, he has a .225/.287/.326 slash line with seven homers in …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

The Blue Jays re-sign pitcher Casey Lawrence to a minor league deal

Since it is Tuesday, it means it’s time for a transaction!

Per MiLB-Transactions (which monitors the transactions page), the Blue Jays have re-signed right-handed pitcher Casey Lawrence to a minor league deal.

#BlueJays have re-signed RHP Casey Lawrence to a minor league contract.
— MiLB-Transactions (@tombaseball29) January 3, 2023

 
The 35-year-old was one of the best pitchers in Triple-A last season, registering a 2.79 ERA and 4.16 FIP in 126 innings pitched. While his 21.9 K% wasn’t incredibly high, he has one of the lowest BB%s in the Jays organization at 3.5%. Lawrence was the only full-time starter with the Bisons throughout the 2022 season.

Here’s Casey Lawrence (@caseylawrence)’s strikeout thread from the 21st.
Curveball I think.#BlueJays #NextLevel pic.twitter.com/tgAjlPlzkM
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) September 26, 2022

His MLB tenure in 2022 wasn’t as great though. He posted a 7.50 ERA and a 6.33 FIP in 18 innings, which also saw a 13.9 K% and 5.1 BB%. It just seems as if he can’t figure it out at the major league level, as he has a career 6.80 ERA and 5.31 FIP in 96.2 innings. However, he was fairly unlucky with the Jays last season, as you can see in the clip below.

ahh yes, the ol’ alley-oop pic.twitter.com/q2uXP8PWuE
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) July 8, 2022

In early November, Lawrence had previously been outrighted off the 40-man roster where he chose free agency. The plan for Lawrence is likely to use him as a mentor, as there will be quite young pitchers heading to Triple-A to start the 2023 season. Worst case, Lawrence may get another shot at the big leagues, where he’ll hopefully have more luck.
It’s never a bad thing to have more depth, so I like this signing! Hopefully, the Jays will add more starters to minor-league deals soon.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Brennan_L_D.
POINTSBET IS LIVE IN ONTARIO


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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Blue Jays Nation’s 2023 Preseason Top 50: Prospects #50-46

It’s that time of the season when top prospect lists come out, and Blue Jays Nation is no different.

I ran a poll on Twitter, allowing followers to decide if I do a Top 30 or Top 50, with significant interest in both options. While the Top 30 won, we’ve decided a Top 50 in 30 articles would be best.
So for the first five articles in January (better known as #BJNProspectSZN) we’ll be doing five prospects per article, starting with prospects ranking 50–46.
There are many factors that determine a top prospect. The eye test is the biggest driver in determining a top prospect, but proximity to the majors, ceiling, and floor are also important. Moreover, statistics are another key ingredient, as it is everything working together to give you numbers.
As for the grades, it’s important to remember that they are relative to the league in which they play. A kid from Dunedin is not going to have a 50-grade hit tool if he were placed in the big leagues. But relative to the league in which he plays, a .300 hitter is eligible to have that grade.
For these prospects, I’ll be going over their background, numbers in the minors, pitch mix (if they’re a pitcher), and giving a scouting report (if feasible, rookie league guys are difficult).
Without further ado, here are the five prospects in this article.
#50 Yondrei Rojas:
The 20-year-old righty wa …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

News and Notes: Kevin Kiermaier speaks for the first time as a Blue Jay, the Jays have interest in Johnny Cueto, and more!

It’s time for a News and Notes; this time, it’s more Blue Jays-centric!

We finally have the details of Kevin Kiermaier’s contract and some spicy sound bites. It also seems that the Jays aren’t finished signing starting pitchers either.
Let’s hop right into it!
Kevin Kiermaier:
It had nearly been a week since it was announced that the Jays were signing Kiermaier, but on Wednesday it was announced that Kiermaier signed a one-year, $9,000,000 contract.

Former #Rays CF Kevin Kiermaier’s deal with #BlueJays is for 1 year, $9M
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) December 14, 2022

For his career, Kiermaier has slashed .248/.308/.407 with 82 homers in 3351 plate appearances for a 97 wRC+. He struggled offensively in his 221 plate appearances but had a 101 wRC+ in 122 games in 2021.
While there’s a little bit to be desired with the bat, Kiermaier excels defensively. For his career, he has a 134 Defensive Runs Saved and a 64 Outs Above Average, with the latter being created a season after his fantastic 38 DRS season in 2015.
Kiermaier press conference:
Apparently, Kiermaier will be the Jays’ everyday centre fielder.

#BlueJays have told Kevin Kiermaier he’s the everyday CF in 2023, adding there’s been no talks of platooning.”It’s my job to lose.”Career OPS/wRC+ vs LHP and RHP: .662/84 and .735/102.
— Scott Mitchell (@ScottyMitchTSN) December 15, 2022

 
I’ve seen many, many people misconstrue this as “Kiermaier is Teoscar Hernández’s replacement”, which isn’t true in the slightest.
Kiermaier may very well push George Springer to right field, but that doesn’t mean that the Jays won’t be in the market to add another left-handed batting corner outfielder. It wouldn’t be surprising if they still want to use Springer as a designated hitter, meaning the signing of Joey Gallo, Michael Conforto, Michael Brantley, or Andrew Benintendi makes sense.
Not just that, but I’m sure that the Jays are aware of Kiermaier’s injury pa …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation