Blue Jays Nation’s 2023 Preseason Top 50: #5 Yosver Zulueta

We’re approaching the upper-echelon of Blue Jays prospects, as today we’re looking at 25-year-old flamethrower, Yosver Zulueta.

Did you know, that this was his first real season in the Blue Jays organization? Not only that, but he had a quick rise, playing in all “A” levels, ending his season with the Buffalo Bisons. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that before!
But before we look into his season, let’s look at the criteria.
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 to have that grade.
For these prospects, I’ll be reviewing their background, numbers in the minors, pitch mi …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Former Blue Jay Scott Rolen has been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame

Cooperstown will be welcoming two Blue Jays to the Hall of Fame this year.

The Veterans Committee voted Fred McGriff into the Hall earlier this winter and now Scott Rolen has been voted in by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Rolen received 76.3 percent of votes, narrowly getting over the 75 percent needed to be elected…

Rolen: 76.3Helton: 72.2Wagner: 68.1Jones: 58.1Sheffield: 55Beltran: 46.5Kent: 46.5A-Rod: 35.7Manny: 33.2Vizquel: 19.5Pettitte: 17Abreu: 15.4Rollins: 12.9Buehrle: 10.8K-Rod: 10.8Hunter: 6.9
— Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs) January 24, 2023

Rolen, an eight-time Gold Glove winner and seven-time All-Star, obviously isn’t at all remembered for his brief stint in Toronto, which came late in his career.
He came up with the Philadelphia Phillies in the mid-90s and won the National League Rookie of the Year in 1997. After seven seasons with the Phillies, he was dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals, where he’d spend six seasons and win the 2006 World Series.
In January of 2008, the Blue Jays acquired Rolen from the Cardinals in exchange for Troy Glaus. Over a season-and-a-half in Toronto, Rolen slashed a .288/.358/.452 line with 19 home runs while playing excellent defence at the hot corner. With the Blue Jays firmly out of contention in July of 2009, he was moved to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Roenicke, and Zach Stewart.
Rolen is a prime example of how baseball’s perception of player value has changed over the years. In his first go-around on the ballot back in 2018, Rolen received just 10.8 percent of votes and was nowhere near being elected to the Hall of Fame. But over the past few years, the sabermetrics community has pushed hard in favour of Rolen, who put up a 70.1 bWAR over his career in the big leagues.
Elsew …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Speaking with Paxton Schultz on Utah Valley University, being traded to the Blue Jays, and the 2023 season

Born in Orem, Utah, Blue Jays prospect Paxton Schultz didn’t have to look too far when considering his post-secondary options to continue his baseball career, “I was born and raised in Orem and I had a close connection with the coach (Eric Madsen) and I got to know him and the rest of the staff very well and that made the decision very easy. My college choices pretty much boiled down to the University of Utah or Utah Valley but that connection with the staff and being close to home, Utah Valley was a great pick for me.”

With the Wolverines, Schultz posted a 4.61 ERA through 46 appearances (30 starts) and posted an 8.9 K/9 through 209.0 innings, earning Academic ALL-WAC honours all three years at Utah Valley University.
In his first appearance with the Wolverines, Schultz struck out four batters, three of which came in the eighth inning with all three sent down looking. “I remember my first weekend as a freshman, we were playing Wichita State and I came in as a reliever, and I went three innings, nine up, nine down, and I faced some talented players like Alec Bohm and Greyson Jenista. To have success at the next level early gave me a lot of confidence that season.”
After his Junior season in 2019, Schultz was drafted by the Milwauk …

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Author: Tyson Shushkewich / Blue Jays Nation

Blue Jays prospect Damiano Palmegiani talks about Vauxhall, his junior college playing days, and the 2023 season

Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Blue Jays prospect Damiano Palmegiani has a unique Canadian-inspired backstory.

Although he was born in South America, Palmegiani’s early baseball career began in Surrey, British Columbia with programs such as Cloverdale Minor Baseball. The righty batter would eventually take his talents to southern Alberta and joined the Vauxhall Jets at their academy to finish his high school playing days.
“When I was in grade nine, baseball was already a priority for me and something I wanted to do through high school, college and beyond. One of the Vauxhall coaches, Joel Blake, and his dad Tim had been coaching me in British Columbia (Cloverdale Minor Baseball) and offered this (Vauxhall) as an option. When I was given the low down of the program and looking at the alumni and where they ended up, it was a no-brainer and sealed the deal.”
Vauxhall, Alberta, deemed the Potato Capital of the West, sits roughly 20 minutes north of Taber, Alberta and two and a half hours southeast of Calgary.
“I used to have to negotiate with one of my teammates who had a car to drive us down to Taber so we could go to McDonald’s or one of the other restaurants Vauxhall didn’t have,” Palmegiani said.
Prospect Damiano Palmegiani speaks to Blue Jays Nation about his time in Vauxhall, being drafted twice by the Jays, and his goals for the 2023 season…
Palmegiani faced a tough decision in his grade 12 year, as he had a commitment to California State University, Northridge for the 2019 season but was also draft …

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Author: Tyson Shushkewich / Blue Jays Nation

Bo Bichette going to arbitration isn’t necessarily a cause for panic

The Toronto Blue Jays reached deals with 11 of their 12 arbitration-eligible players on Friday, with the one exception being Bo Bichette.

This inevitably has caused a stir among those who follow the Blue Jays, as the term arbitration is generally synonymous with drama and fractured relationships between teams and players. The concern here is that an arbitration hearing will ultimately result in Bichette not wanting to stick around with the Blue Jays long-term because he’d feel slighted by what’s said about him during the process.
For those who aren’t familiar with the arbitration process, what happens is the two sides get one hour to present a case as to why the player should be paid a certain salary figure for the upcoming season in front of a panel of independent arbitrators. This is generally based on how a player performed in their most recent season, how the player has performed over their career, individual accolades, team success, and what other comparable players at the same position are paid. Both then get a break to prepare counterarguments, and they then present their rebuttals.
After all that, the arbitrators have a few days to pick which side is the winner. They have to eit …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Taking a deep dive on the newest Blue Jay Zach Thompson, along with a farewell to Chavez Young

As you may know, the Blue Jays have acquired a pitcher who may fill in the fifth starting spot in the rotation.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Blue Jays acquired right-handed pitcher Zach Thompson, who had been designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Toronto could have claimed him off waivers, but they instead traded outfielder Chavez Young for the 29-year-old pitcher so no other team could claim him.
Let’s dive into what the Blue Jays are gaining in Thompson and what they’ve lost in Young.
Zach Thompson, a deep dive:
The first thing that jumps out to me about Thompson is his size. Per Fangraphs, he’s listed at 6’7, 250 pounds. Despite the huge frame, the righty only sits at 92.4 mph with his fastball, with a maximum velocity of 94 mph, which came on his debut.
It’s also worth mentioning that Thompson has options, meaning that he can be sent down up to five times without the Jays worrying about losing him to the waiver wire.
His tenure with the Pirates wasn’t great, as he had a 5.18 ERA and a 4.87 FIP in 121.1 innings pitched. His K% sat at a pretty low 16.6%, while he had an 8.6 BB%, which is about average. Thompson was used mainly in a starter role, as he started 22 of 29 games that he appeared in.

Zach Thompson strikes out 11 batters in his 4th MLB Career start. pic.twitter.com/ZQGJZcvhud
— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) June 27, 2021

In 2021, …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

BJN Radio – Ep. 126: Brandon Belt is here! Julian Merryweather is gone!

We’ve got transactions to talk about!

The Blue Jays had a flurry of moves this week, as they added two-time World Series winner Brandon Belt, traded for depth starter Zach Thompson, and designated Julian Merryweather for assignment to make room.
We talked about the addition of Belt and how his presence further helps make the team’s lineup a little less predictable. We also talked about the departure of Merryweather and those amazing two saves he had in April of 2021 that made us all believe. After that, we took a look around the league and talked about the most recent Boston Red Sox disaster along with the Carlos Correa saga coming to an end.
You can listen to the episode here…
POINTSBET IS LIVE IN ONTARIO

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Blue Jays designate RHP Julian Merryweather for assignment

The Toronto Blue Jays made a few moves earlier today, acquiring RHP Zach Thompson from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for prospect outfielder Chavez Young while also making the Brandon Belt signing official, inking the veteran first baseman to a one-year deal.
With a full 40-man roster, the Blue Jays’ front office had to make some room for Belt and designated right-handed reliever Julian Merryweather for assignment. 
Merryweather was acquired back in 2018 as the “player to be named later” of the Josh Donaldson trade that saw the third baseman head to Cleveland. At the time of the deal, Merryweather was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and wouldn’t make his debut with the Blue Jays organization until mid-June of 2019, making two starts before finishing the year on the IL once again.
The Toronto Blue Jays have designated reliever Julian Merryweather for assignment
In 2020, Merryweather had converted to a bullpen arm and made his MLB debut for the Jays, appearing in 1.1 innings on August 20th against the Philadelphia Phillies. He would finish the season with a 4.15 ERA through 13.0 innings, racking up 15 strikeouts in the process with an IL stint mixed in between.
The California product followed that introduction with a stellar opening to the 2021 campaign, striking out seven batters through four relief appearances while amassing two saves in the process, both of which came against the New York Yankees. This hot start had Jays fans thinking of big things for the 6’4″ …

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Author: Tyson Shushkewich / Blue Jays Nation

The Blue Jays are expected to sign first baseman Brandon Belt

Well, the Blue Jays have reportedly added another left-handed batter.

According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the long-time San Francisco Giant will be signing a deal with the Blue Jays on Tuesday.

Brandon Belt will be signing a one year deal with Toronto, I’m told. Deal will be announced tomorrow.
— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) January 10, 2023

Per The Athletic’s Kaitlyn McGrath, the contract is a one-year deal worth $9.3 million, a sizeable chunk.

The deal is for one year, $9.3 million, per a source https://t.co/J9vDSFZoxc
— Kaitlyn McGrath (@kaitlyncmcgrath) January 10, 2023

The 34-year-old has mainly played first base since the plague starter, but he’s definitely a bat first player. He struggled a bit last season, slashing .213/.326/.350 with eight homers in 298 plate appearances, with a 12.4 BB% and a 27.2 K%. This led to a slightly below average 96 wRC+.
However, Belt is not too far removed from a fantastic season, as he slashed .274/.378/.597 with 29 homers in 381 plate appearances (a bonkers number). From the start of the COVID season until the end of the 2021 season, he slashed .285/.393/.595 with 38 homers in just 560 plate appearances for a 162 wRC+.
So while he struggled in 2022, it’s a low-risk signing for a guy who was good just a year ago. What’s more, he was injured for a significant portion of 2022, so the drop in numbers makes sense.

Brandon Belt – 06/18/2021 pic.twitter.com/dydW6odgR6
— Random Homers (@randomhomers) December 28, 2022

Belt’s role on the team is to likely be a backup first baseman who can designate hit and come off the bench to pinch hit. While he used to play in the outfield, he hasn’t done that since 2019.
The 34-year-old was a part of two World Series-winning teams, as he was part of the Giants teams that won the 2012 and 2014 titles.
If he could hit anything as he did in 2020 and 2021, this is a fantastic signing. Even if last year was who he is (his knee is fully healthy now, so I find tha …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

The Drew Hutchison trade has come full circle: Digging into the best trade tree in Blue Jays history

With the announcement that the Blue Jays were signing Drew Hutchison to a minor league deal, it’s once again time to look at the best trade tree in Blue Jays’ history.

Drew Hutchison was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 15th round of the 2009 draft and was a serviceable starter for Toronto for several years. On August 1st, 2016, the Jays sent him to the Pittsburgh Pirates to kick off the insanely beneficial trade tree.
The Blue Jays receive Francisco Liriano, Reese McGuire, and Harold Ramírez for Drew Hutchison:
Prior to the trade, Hutchison was rocking a 4.97 ERA and a 6.54 FIP in 12.2 innings pitched, spending most of the season in Triple-A.

The @BlueJays acquire LHP Francisco Liriano, C Reese McGuire & OF Harold Ramirez from @Pirates for Drew Hutchison. pic.twitter.com/7AbBW7UfDp
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) August 1, 2016

To put it simply, I have no idea what the Pirates were thinking here. This will be the last time we’ll discuss Hutchison for a while.
Fransico Liriano:
Prior to the trade, Liriano was having a “meh” season, posting a 5.46 ERA and a 5.28 FIP in 113.2 innings pitched. He had a 22.2 K%, but an incredibly high 13.2 BB%, and didn’t look much better than Hutchison, right?
Wrong. To end the 2016 season, Liriano was crucial as he had a 2.92 ERA and a 3.98 FIP in 49.1 innings pitched with the Jays. His K% increased to 25%, while his BB% decreased drastically to 7.7%. For those 49.1 innings alone.
Interestingly, Liriano was invited to 2021 Spring Training and was a final cut, before retiring. Would’ve been cool for him to come back though.
The Blue Jays won this specific trade, but there’s more!
Reese McGuire:
Prior to the trade, Reese McGuire ranked as Pittsburgh’s 5th best prospect according to MLB Pipeline.
Obviously, he didn’t pan out, as most prospects don’t …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation