Checking in on Blue Jays players playing in the Dominican Winter League

The great thing about baseball is that it’s a year round sport, even if Major League Baseball ends in a week.

The Dominican Winter League (LIDOM) and Mexican Pacific Winter League are in full swing now, so how are Jays players doing for their respective teams? Let’s look at a former top 100 prospect to begin.
Nate Pearson:
After pitching in the big leagues in 2020 and 2021, Nate Pearson missed all of the 2022 season. First by contracting mononucleosis, then suffering a lat strain in a rehab game. The story of his career thus far has been injuries, but unlucky injuries. No better example of this than getting hit with a comebacker at the start of the 2018 minor league season, which broke his ulna (forearm).
To get innings, Pearson headed to the Dominican Republic to play for the Tigres de Licey. In his five innings, he hasn’t allowed an earned run, while owning a 25 K% and a 6.25 BB%. Pearson has been used mainly as a high-leverage reliever which is a good sign.
I think as the years go by, his ceiling leans more toward a high-leverage reliever, rather than a starter or a bulk reliever. Although some may argue that Pearson becoming a reliever may “lessen” his value, having a guy throwing 100 mph out of the bullpen is super important.
It will be interesting to see the organization’s plan for the 26-year-old righty heading into his eighth season with the team.
Rainer Nunez:
Rainer Nunez is the only other Blue …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

The Leafs need to improve their mentality to become tough by committee

The Leafs need to improve their mentality to become tough by committee

When it comes to the playstyle of the Leafs, one thing that consistently gets brought up in terms of an area of weakness is the lack of the team being tough to play against.
Meaning that players on the Leafs can be cross-checked, high-sticked, or slashed and their teammates will not put up much resistance to let the opposition know that they won’t get off scot-free.
It is true that the Leafs are among the leaders in hits to begin the 2022-23 season as they currently sit third with 149 behind only the Predators and Capitals. Much of that has to do with new additions like Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Zach Aston-Reese, and some of the mainstays like Rasmus Sandin and Auston Matthews.
It’s a good place to start, but dishing out hits is not the only thing that defines team toughness. A big part is sticking up for your guys when one of them gets hit or standing up for yourself. This is something that the Leafs have struggled with on a consistent basis for years and do not have enough players that instinctively stand up for themselves, support their teammates, and protect the crease to prevent the screen.
It is for this reason that you hear a significant portion of the fanbase complain about how the Leafs do not hav …

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Author: Michael Mazzei / The Leafs Nation

Can a stronger post-pandemic NHL open a wider window for the Leafs?

The thing most people don’t want to talk about when it comes to the Leafs is just how much the shifting of the league due to the pandemic absolutely wreaked havoc on their plans to contend. It doesn’t make for an interesting story to just throw up our hands and say “The flat cap is the problem”, but like, it sort of is. The nuked revenue due to the near-shutdown of the league since 2020 did damage to a lot of cap teams, but none quite like the Leafs. 
Management in Toronto thought they had a strong long term plan worked out when they signed Matthews and Marner to monster second deals on top of the Tavares money in the same calendar year of 2019. They did so banking on new television deals, more expansion money, and a forecasted salary cap number that should be in the range of 92-95 million right now. With everything that’s happened since, it sits at 82.5 million. Catastrophic for a team that wanted to get the most of a 5-6 year window before another re-up was needed. 
I guess the question now becomes, with what seems to be the most normal season to get going since the pandemic started about to start, can the league, and with it the Leafs, get back on track with their long term …

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Author: Ryan Fancey / The Leafs Nation

Best guesses at what the Rasmus Sandin contract could look like

It seems like the last thing standing between Kyle Dubas and vacation is the Rasmus Sandin contract. That’s not entirely true, but it could be what’s standing between Brandon Pridham and vacation. The Leafs very much established what they were looking for when Timothy Liljegren was signed to a 2-year $1.4M AAV deal, but it doesn’t seem to be what Rasmus Sandin has in mind. From the 32 Thoughts podcast, Elliotte Friedman suggested that Sandin would be looking for a deal similar to Adam Boqvist’s 3-year $2.6M AAV deal.
The truth could lie somewhere between the Liljegren deal and the Boqvist deal, or we could be looking at something completely different. Sandin is represented by Lewis Gross, who you will best remember from the William Nylander contract saga. So whatever it is Sandin wants, there is the potential that his agent will advise him to wait until December to get it.
Up until now, we’ve largely focused on what 2-3 year contracts would look like for Sandin, and when it comes to defensemen under the age of 24, the 2 or 3-year contracts are by far the most popular option. That shouldn’t exclude the possibility of a one-year, let’s come back to this next year when the Leafs have a money deal or the fact that Sandin could be looking for a locked-in long-term contract now. All three present different pro …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Leaflets: Teams with money to burn, the Marlies factor, and the case for keeping Holl

Optimism is a dangerous thing when it comes to the Leafs. I went into the playoffs optimistic, after all, how much a fight would Tampa put up when they’ve played more hockey than anyone else in the past three years? Similarly, I went into this offseason optimistic, sure I was a bit realistic too knowing that great goaltenders wouldn’t be available and Kyle Dubas would be running back the majority of the lineup, but admittedly I expected a noteworthy draft and something resembling an impact skater once free agency opened, and that optimism hasn’t been rewarded. In fact for all the criticism, the goaltending related moves are what stands out as the success story for Kyle Dubas this summer. Of course, I mean the summer so far. Free agency hasn’t even been open for a week, and while I’d expect Kyle Dubas to be on vacation as soon as the Leafs development camp wraps up, there is still some time to wow those of us who want to be wowed. Maybe that’s still optimism. I really need to learn.
The remaining big spenders
When it comes to teams with money to burn in the NHL, there are few of them who still have that money left. Teams like the Coyo …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation