February 2017

Interview with Blue Jays Prospect Christopher Smith

During this day and age, it is things like Twitter that can not only get us close to our family and friends, but also people that we look up to. In my case, those people consist of baseball players!

A few weeks ago I messaged Toronto Blue Jays prospect Christopher (Chris) Smith, and asked him all things Blue Jays and Baseball related.

If you are unaware with who Chris Smith is, let me refresh your memory! Christopher Smith was unchosen in the Major League draft, but was instead selected in the Independent Frontier League’s draft by the Lake Erie Crushers. He played for a handful of teams, and in 13 appearances he pitched to a 4-2 win-loss record. In 2013, Smith signed a minor league contract with the New York Yankees, but did not play that year due to a stress fracture in his forearm. In 2014, he was assigned to their Class-A affiliate, the Charleston RiverDogs. He was later promoted to the Advanced-A Tampa Yankees, and in 32 total relief appearances, posted a 1–2 record, 2.98 ERA, and 49 strikeouts in 5 1⁄3 innings. Smith began the 2015 season with Tampa, and in May earned a promotion to the Double-A Trenton Thunder. At the end of May he was sent back to Tampa, and in late July Smith was released by the Yankees organization.

Smith signed a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays and played with the Advanced-A Dunedin Blue Jays and Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Smith made 31 total relief appearances in 2015, and pitched to a 4–2 record, 2.05 ERA, and 57 strikeouts in 5 2⁄3 innings. In the offseason, he played for the Gigantes de Carolina of the Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente. Smith was assigned to New Hampshire to open the 2016 minor league season, and earned a late-season promotion to the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons. He recorded a stellar campaign, making 47 appearances and posting a 1–3 record, 1.93 ERA, 76 strikeouts, and 15 saves in 60 2⁄3 innings.

Smith is currently thought to be fighting for a spot on the 25-man roster for our Blue Jays, as last September he was called up for the 40-man roster and is currently a permanent member of it.

I had the opportunity to interview him thanks to twitter (you can follow myself here, and him here)! Here it goes!


Who are some of your closest friends within the Blue Jays organization?

“I like to think I have all kinds of friends within the organization. I’m surrounded by nothing but good guys so it’s really tough to single out a select few. I’m pretty close with Matt Dermody, and Wil Browning and guys I played with last year throughout the minor leagues, but I’ve also learned a lot already from guys like Jason Grilli, Gavin Floyd, and Aaron Sanchez.”

How did you know you wanted to be a baseball player?

“Well I guess baseball started for me when I was about 4 years old playing tee ball. My older brother got a head start on me and I always wanted to do what he was doing so I think I started playing then and just fell in love with the game and I’ve been playing ever since.”

What is your best pitch and how did you learn to throw it?

“Best pitch or my strikeout pitch is probably my slider. Learned to throw it in college but have been refining and tuning it since then to get better. I’m also really starting to enjoy throwing my fastball. Nothing like punching a guy out with your fastball.”

After watching the Jays within the past two seasons, does that motivate you to work your hardest and try to come up to the Major League team?

“The success the team has had the last few seasons is definitely motivating. I’m just looking forward to getting the opportunity to help the team any way I can. Another playoff run and a chance to win the World Series is the ultimate goal and it would be pretty awesome to be apart of that.”

What do you think of the city of Toronto and all of the fans?

“Wow, what an incredible fan base and beautiful city. I don’t know if there’s a better place to play in all of baseball. Last year I was fortunate to have a little taste of Toronto and it was very eye opening to see how much everyone comes together there and also how amazing the city is structurally and culturally. They don’t just call us Canada’s team for no reason eh? Haha that’s the best Canadian impersonation I can give LOL!”

So… 2017 Blue Jays World Series… what do you think?!

“And last but not least Blue Jays World Series Champs in 2017? Sure does have a nice “ring” to it. But in all seriousness like I said it’s the ultimate goal and I know this organization is all in to compete for a World Series Championship which makes it that much better to be a Blue Jay right now. It’s going to be a fun year!”


Thanks so much to Mr. Christopher Smith for doing this interview for me! I really appreciate what you do for this team, and hope to see you pitching on the mound in a Jays uniform very soon!

Alyssa Cohen

Real Fake Games, Or Fake Real Games?: Toronto Blue Jays 2017 Spring Training Guide

Have you started seeing your favourite Blue Jays tweeters or Sportsnet journalists in a sunny place without snow? Well friends, that can only mean one thing… they are in Dunedin for Spring Training!

With Spring Training starting, means updates on players (and now rules) throughout the entire MLB.

These past few weeks have been quite eventful in Blue Jays land, and I’m going to recap the ins and outs for you right now.


Pitching

  • Casey Lawrence will be starting on Saturday (today) against the Atlanta Braves in Disney(!).
  • Joe Biagini starts on Sunday (tomorrow) for the Jays Spring Training home opener against the Philadelphia Phillies.
  • Marcus Stroman starts on Monday against the Pittsburgh Pirates at 1:07pm.
  • Mat Latos was scheduled to start on Monday, but since Gibbons has given Stroman the go ahead, I assume Latos would start on Tuesday.

Position Players

  • Tulowitkzki is getting an extra week of training and will not be playing until next week.
  • Russel Martins’ plan for Spring Training is limited catching (giving the other guys some chance to get familiar with all of the pitchers) and he will be playing a lot of DH. I am not exactly sure how that factors into Kendrys Morales, though.

As of right now, those are all of the Spring Training updates. This post will be updated when new things come up. Just like during the regular season, I will be live tweeting all of the televised Spring Training games (at least the ones that are on during the weekend)! Follow me here to live tweet along with me!

Alyssa Cohen

Jays Sign Mat Latos (and Cat Latos) + Joe Biagini Being “Stretched”

Last night, tweets were coming out sharing the possibility of the Toronto Blue Jays signing RHP Mat Latos to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training camp. Those rumours have been confirmed and a deal has been signed according to the Toronto Blue Jays (who are the #1 reliable source in Jays land!).

If you are not aware of who Latos is, last season he played for the Chicago White Sox and Washington Nationals as both a starter and reliever. In his early career with the San Diego Padres, Latos was an excellent pitcher and finished eighth in Cy-Young voting in 2010. He had been with four Major League franchises before selecting a one year contract with the Chicago White Sox in 2016. While starting with the White Sox, he had an amazing start, but a not so great ending. He signed a contract with the White Sox in the beginning of 2016 (in the offseason), and was thought of as their 5th starter. In his first four starts he pitched to an ERA of 0.74, but then allowed 29 earned runs in his next 36 innings pitched. Around the end of May (2016), the Chicago White Sox picked up   James Shields (a starter essentially picked up to replace Latos) and was designated for assignment. He was then released. A few weeks later, Latos signed a minor league contract with the Washington Nationals, with whom he stayed with until just recently (recently as in today) signing with the Toronto Blue Jays. The route to pitching with the major league team was very slow, as he was assigned to their Rookie-level Gulf Field Coast League. After months of work in the minors to help improve him, he finally made his Nationals debut on September 4, 2016 against the New York Mets.

Today the deal was officially signed and announced (plus 30 minutes after it became official he walked onto the field wearing Jays Spring Training gear (it escalated very quickly needless today!). At this point, the deal seems to be a minor league deal with no word of how much it is worth or for how long. In short, this will give the Jays some potential pitching depth in both the bullpen and potential starting rotation (more to that in a moment).

Making it official this morning meant that over the course of today many Jays tweeters would think of some great puns about the guy (and his cat… Cat Latos). Trust me when I say they do not disappoint! Here are some of my favourites (to see all of my favourite tweets as soon as I see them, follow me on twitter here):

If you have been following the Jays closely throughout this long (and stress enduring) off season, you have probably seen talks somewhere about stretching out Joe Biagini to become a starter, or at least have a significant roll in the starting rotation (Joe has his own opinions on this subject matter, which I encourage you to watch here). If you recall, whenever a starting pitcher or a pitcher with a significant roll in the club became injured, the Jays would always call up Drew Hutchison. It is times like these that we forget the heavy roll that Hutchison played in the organization, although he spent most of his time with the Buffalo Bisons (the Toronto Blue Jays Triple-A affiliate team). With the signing of Mat Latos, the Jays can feel a bit more comfortable with the issue of not nessicarily having a back up pitcher to fill in the rotation.

Does the signing of Mat Latos affect Joe Biagini? The future is quite unclear with the answer to that question. If anything, it will leave the Jays with a tough decision (if Mat Latos shows real potential). If by chance Joe Biagini wins a fifth spot in the rotation, Mat Latos could fill the loss of Biagini in the bullpen, but I think that is a big risk as Biagini was one of the most effective players of the Jays bullpen last season. He was one of the star pitchers of last season thought the league, and being a rule 5 draft pick by the Jays made his story that much more interesting! Since the Jays have shared that they will not be limiting Aaron Sanchez like they did last year, the Jays need for a fifth starter is less significant than it was last year, but it’s reassuring to know that there are two guys that could fill the void, and do it successfully.

Alyssa Cohen

P.S. Here’s a picture of Mat Latos incredibly cute cat, “Cat Latos” which I expect to be a subject of discussion during some media interviews this Spring Training!

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The Final 2017 Blue Jays Free Agent Updates

Can you believe that today is the last day without baseball for about 200 days?! This offseason has gone by quite fast, although looking back it was a long and stressful one. As you could probably tell, I took a short break from writing blog posts, since new ones will be coming out weekly from this point forward. Whether it may be truck day or seeing the newest workout videos from Marcus Stroman, Russel Martin or Josh Donaldson, and I think we can all agree that even the little things about Spring Training are making us more and more excited for baseball season!

I have done two posts about the 2017 free agent market, and everything revolving the Jays around it. You can read the original one here, and the first update here.

Since most of the free agents have been signed (minus Dioner Navarro, but I’m sure he will sign something soon since pitchers and catchers literally report tomorrow), I thought now would be the right time to see where everyone wound up after this crazy offseason.

NOTE: I will only be writing about free agents that signed after the last free agent post was made, therefore players such as Edwin Encarnacion and R.A. Dickey will not be talked about here.


  • Jose Bautista
    • I would say that the biggest stress of this offseason for all Jays fans (whether you may be a lifelong fan or a bandwagon fan) was in the fate of where Jose Bautista would wind up. Of course every Jays fan (or at least most) wanted Bautista back, and I cannot say that my opinion was different from this. To make things short, Bautista re-signed with the Blue Jays to a one year, $18 mil offer with – long and complicated – options for both 2018 and 2019. To read more about this (which I recommend), you can click here.
  • Scott Feldman
    • Just a few weeks ago, Scott Feldman signed with the Cincinnati Reds to a one year deal, $2.3 million.
  • Dioner Navarro
    • Navarro is still a free agent, and the only one left from the free agents on the 2016 Blue Jays roster.
  • Michael Saunders
    • Saunders signed a one year, $9 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.
  • Gavin Floyd
    • The Toronto Blue Jays signed Floyd to a one year minor league deal. He will once again be fighting for a spot on the 25-man roster to be a part of the bullpen.
  • Josh Thole
    • Thole signed a minor league contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

And that concludes the final Toronto Blue Jays 2017 Free Agent blog post series! Whenever Navarro signs, I will let you know via twitter.

I am incredibly excited for Spring Training to begin and to start seeing all of the boys back together playing baseball!

Alyssa Cohen