Santiago Espinal’s unexpected breakout in 2021 has him on the radar for more playing time in the future

After making his major league debut in 2020, the Toronto Blue Jays likely weren’t expecting much from infielder Santiago Espinal heading into this past season, however, the 26-year-old has quickly emerged into a reliable piece for this organization as the 2021-22 off-season nears.
Looking back on his breakout performance from the 2021 season, there’s no question Espinal’s campaign didn’t begin on an encouraging note as he was positioned behind veteran Joe Panik on the team’s depth chart when Opening Day rolled around. As a result, the young infielder’s playing time was limited out of the gate, preventing him from making much of an impact.
Whereas for Panik, the 30-year-old opened the regular season as Toronto’s primary backup infielder, and with Cavan Biggio underperforming along with battling through a neck injury, the 2014 World Series champion occupied a regular role on the diamond early on.
But at this stage of his career, the former San Francisco Giant couldn’t provide much upside, particularly from an offensive standpoint, resulting in some very troubling metrics through the first month of the season – even for his suboptimal hitting standards.
Proving to be largely ineffective at the plate over his first 42 …

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Author: Thomas Hall / Blue Jays Nation

Dan Shulman predicts Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien will leave and that the Blue Jays will try to trade for Jose Ramirez

The Blue Jays have the likely American League Cy Young winner along with a guy who’s going to finish towards the top of Most Valuable Player voting headed to free agency at the same time.

Can they re-sign both of them? If they could only pick one, which would it be, Robbie Ray or Marcus Semien? Dan Shulman’s guess? It’s going to be neither of them.
Shulman appeared on the Baseball Tonight podcast with Buster Olney on Monday and he spoke about the Blue Jays’ upcoming off-season (the segment starts at about 43 minutes). He figures that the Blue Jays have the financial ability to sign both players, but it would impede their ability to make improvements elsewhere…
OLNEY: Before you go, I wanted to ask you about the Blue Jays. Give me the lay of the land on Marcus Semien and Robbie Ray, who are both hitting the free agent market and what the chances are the Blue Jays keep one or both of these guys.
SHULMAN: The fanbase by in large wants both of these guys re-signed, and how could you not with the kinds of seasons they had? I think they financially could re-sign both …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

TLN Predicts what the season will look like for Leafs players

Yesterday we gave you some team and league wide predictions, now as we inch closer to the start of the season I feel you can properly handle our predictions for the Leafs players.

Thought we’d start the group off with an easy one, and while Matthews expectedly did numbers here, it’s hard to argue that the other four couldn’t push for their chance at the title as well. Well maybe Brodie’s a stretch, but he’s also one hell of a defenseman and it’s nice to see the blueline get some love here.

Good chance that we were filling out the prediction questionnaire while watching a preseason game. And for full disclosure, yours truly forgot to put Kase on the drop down list, so those were two write-ins for Kase. Maybe he could have pushed Bunting harder if I was on my game. It’s the preseason for all of us.

Unlucky Pierre didn’t receive a lot of love here. Mikheyev and his rumoured trade request probably helped his case as well, and as for Liljegren, I want the TLN crew to know it wasn’t me this time who suggested Liljegren be traded, …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is peaking at the perfect time of the season

Since making his Major League debut in 2018, generating consistent offensive results has been one of the biggest areas of concern for outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr., however, that certainly hasn’t been the case for him recently.
While the 27-year-old displayed flashes of his potential throughout the first half of this season, maintaining his offensive production over an extended period remained a key issue, which largely prevented the bottom third of the Toronto Blue Jays’ lineup from making a significant impact. As a result, the offence struggled to turn over the batting order at times, limiting the number of scoring opportunities for the top half of the lineup.
Though this offence experienced its worst slump of the season during the middle of August, they’ve done an excellent job at recovering since then, and while accomplishing this feat has been a group effort, Gurriel Jr. has been one of the main forces behind this team’s recent hot streak.
Sure, almost every player on the 28-man roster has served a critical role in helping the Blue Jays win 15 of their last 17 games, but from an offensive standpoint, no one has enjoyed a stronger resurgence than the 6’4″ left fielder. Despite still …

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Author: Thomas Hall / Blue Jays Nation

Should the NHL abolish the dress code?

The NHL is a dress code league, but it’s time for a change.
Hockey has always been a sport where you dress nice walking into the rink. It started at the NHL level and has trended all the way down to children’s rep teams. Many people believe that if you show up to the rink donning a slick suit, you will have more success on the ice.
It’s similar to the rule that Lou Lamoriello has regarding beards — if you wake up and shave every day, it means you’re ready to work. While I agree with that, there’s a fine line between thinking that’s true and having that work mentality already.
Don’t get me wrong, the now-Islanders GM is a Stanley Cup Champion and you’ve got to give credit where credit is due. However, times are changing, people are changing — hockey is evolving.
Many players within the NHL are known to not show much personality, whether that’s in the way they dress, how they talk to the media or how they carry themselves on the ice. If the league wants to grow in areas that the NFL and NBA do, they …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Raptors: 2 positive and 2 negative takeaways from Summer League

Raptors: 2 positive and 2 negative takeaways from Summer League

The Toronto Raptors’ Summer League journey has officially concluded. A time usually reserved for a team to give their rookie and sophomore players more minutes, the Raptors had an especially impactful Vegas roster this year, as they were testing out three new rookies. One of those rookies was No. 4 overall pick Scottie Barnes, who […]
Raptors: 2 positive and 2 negative takeaways from Summer League – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Avishai Sol / Raptors HQ

Toronto Raptors: Handing out Summer League superlatives

Toronto Raptors: Handing out Summer League superlatives

The Toronto Raptors performed so well in Summer League play that they made it to the postseason, as their 3-1 record is indicative of a team that had the perfect blend of youth, aggression, and intensity on the defensive end. Having both blown teams out and come from behind, Toronto has looked very sharp. The […]
Toronto Raptors: Handing out Summer League superlatives – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

A Fortnight On The Farm: Volume Seven

As we are all rightly enthralled with the surging major league club, the hottest in the AL over the last 42 games. the farm system continues to churn along adopting to promotions and departures and seeing who holds up during the “dog days of August.”

Complex Teams
The sample size has come up enough that we can begin to somewhat identify trends, surprises, slow starts, and so forth. The DSL team has played 17 games so far which, in the big picture, is still a pretty tiny sample but the best performers here are worth noticing. At the top of the list is 2B Francisco Fajardo. The slender switch-hitter is 21, which is old for the DSL (though that’s harder to gauge after the lost season). But he’s hitting .447 and has five walks and only two strikeouts. It’s mostly a team of names you wouldn’t know, as usual, the one consensus top 20 player here is SS Manuel Beltre who got off to a really slow start but is hitting .500 in August. Among the pitchers here, the best indicator is usually the strikeout ratios and there are four players here with about 16 IP, and 19 or more strikeouts who have walked …

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Author: Tammy Rainey / Blue Jays Nation

Toronto Raptors: Grading Scottie Barnes in his first NBA action

Toronto Raptors: Grading Scottie Barnes in his first NBA action

The beginning of NBA Summer League play means that Toronto Raptors fans were able to get their first glimpse of Scottie Barnes in red and black. The first opponent Barnes locked horns with was the rival New York Knicks, who brought in a solid haul of talent in the 2021 NBA Draft. The Raptors took […]
Toronto Raptors: Grading Scottie Barnes in his first NBA action – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

A Fortnight On The Farm: Volume Six

This is a sort of fascinating time for a minor league check in, particularly with the major league squad considering themselves contenders. Five days remain in which there may be a flurry of trades which will potentially shuffle the situation of some of these teams. Those left standing a week from now may find that promotions are about to ensue (we’ve already seen a few) and the organization will be looking to see who needs a fresh challenge down the stretch.

Buffalo via Trenton (for the last time)
More and more Jays fans, quite rightly, are banging the drum for SS Kevin Smith to be promoted and while you have to give props to Santiago Espinal for his work at 3B, if the Jays are looking to add a bat (Ramirez, if I’m dreaming, or Bryant, Escobar, some such) and fail then a guy who can supplement 3B and had 18 homers in his 66 AAA games on the record already is hard to ignore. I’m assuming he won’t be added to the 40 before the trade deadline (if at all) but if he’s not part of a deal, there will be every reason to get him up …

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Author: Tammy Rainey / Blue Jays Nation