The Leafs aren’t in cap hell, but some creativity is still required if they want to improve

The phrase thrown around a lot is “run it back.” That’s not an entirely bad idea given the success the Leafs had in the regular season, and the first round was not the physical mismatch of past postseasons. You could probably play that Lightning and Leafs series 100 times and not be surprised to have both teams walk away with 50 wins. The Leafs weren’t bad and there isn’t a need for a complete overhaul.
Running it back becomes a fantasy versus reality when you look at the cap situation. Of the 23 roster regulars at the end of the season, 10 of the players need new contracts. Some players like Jason Spezza, Colin Blackwell, and Ondrej Kase aren’t going to break the bank. Others like Ilya Lyubushkin or arguably the three previously mentioned players are ones that you might be comfortable seeing the Leafs move on from, and in reality, the Leafs are going to find a way of unloading Petr Mrazek’s contract, we just don’t know how yet and a buyout keeps a bit of extra money hitting the cap, not to mention the fact that it opens up another pricier position to fill because it’s doubtful that even “Run it back” e …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Blue Jays Pitchers got Roughed up, but the Minor League Starters had a Great Day

Let’s be real, the game on Sunday sucked. That’s not to say that there weren’t some positives in the Blue Jays organization.

Pitching let the team down against the Rangers. However, there were five minor league pitchers, all but one a starter, who had fantastic days. 
In fact, at one point if you had combined the stat line of the three starters from Triple A, Double A and Low A, their line would have read 10 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 21 K

If you put all minor league starters together (so far)
10 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 21 K#NextLevel #BlueJays
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) April 10, 2022

Nick Allgeyer:
Starting with the highest level, Nick Allgeyer had himself a fine day with Buffalo. The 26-year-old had a line of 5 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB and 7 K. Allgeyer had a no-hitter heading into the fourth inning before a sharp single ended that bid.
In the fifth, he gave up a homer, the only hard contact he allowed all game. Although he pitched himself a nice game, he was given a no decision as the Bisons offense only scored two.
If there are injuries to pitchers in the starting rotation, there’s a good chance that Allgeyer or Bowden Francis (who pitched Saturday) would be the first minor league starters to be called up.
Allgeyer is a pitcher to keep an eye on, because he could be a back-end of the rotation starter. The leftie’s season ERA sits at 0.82.
Hayden Juenger:
Hayden Juenger is a 21-year-old right handed pitcher. There’s a chance you’ve never heard of him, as he was recently drafted in the 2021 MLB draft. In 2021, he pitched in relief in all 20 innings he pitched in. Juenger had a solid 2.70 ERA in 2021, but his 34 strikeouts to 4 walks was incredible.
Pitching for the Double A New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Juenger had a successful first outing, with a line of 3 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, which is a promising sign for a player that didn’t make my top 20 list. 
Out of his 121.2 innings pitched, or 72 gam …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Setting expectations for the remaining 10 Leafs games

The Leafs clinched their playoff spot. That’s pretty rad. They did it pretty early too, that’s a bit of a bonus. With ten games remaining on the Leafs schedule though, the question needs to be asked, why are we tuning in, what do we still need to see from the Leafs? And while the one answer seems pretty obvious, I was hoping to get a variety of responses from the tribunal of learned TLN contributors when I asked: With the Leafs clinching a playoff spot, what else do you want to see from the Leafs in the final regular season games?
Dylan Murphy:
Leaving aside the obvious things that are guaranteed to happen (Matthews getting to 60 goals, continuing to tinker with the defence pairings and the 4th line to find optimal combinations) I want to see the Leafs continue to put forward a strong effort and secure home-ice, if not steal the division from Florida.
Michael Mazzei:
The focus for the rest of the regular season, aside from securing home-ice advantage, is to try and experiment with the line combinations a bit to see if there is some that could work in case Sheldon Keefe needs to turn to them. The Leafs learned the hard way last year what happens if they aren’t prepared to handle the loss of a big piece for an extended period of time, so getting a head start on finding some other lines that could work will be a focus the rest of the way.
Towards the end of the regular season, the focus should then switch to making sure the team …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

There won’t be a Rule 5 Draft this year

One thing that’s pretty much been lost in the excitement of CBA Day is the fact that there won’t be a Rule 5 Draft this year.

The Rule 5 Draft was supposed to happen back on December 9 but that got postponed as Major League Baseball instituted a transaction freeze as the league went into a lockout at the beginning of the month.
So, according to Zach Buchanan of The Athletic, rather than re-scheduling it and shoving it in somewhere amidst all the chaos of free agency and spring training happening at the same time, there just won’t be a Rule 5 Draft for 2021.
This is a nice little win for the Blue Jays, as they had a few interesting prospects who were set to be eligible for the draft.
Back in November, the team added Hagen Danner, Bowden Francis, Zach Logue, and Leo Jimenez to the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 Draft deadline, leaving names such as Samad Taylor, Miguel Hiraldo, and Eric Pardinho available to other teams.
These are middle-of-the-pack prospects that nobody should lose sleep over, but, still, it’s a little extra ammunition for the Blue Jays if they want to trade for, say, Jose Ramirez. …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

The Blue Jays have signed reliever Yimi Garcia

A late Friday transaction! That’s what you love to see!

According to Jon Morosi, who cites former All-Star Carlos Baerga’s Instagram, the Blue Jays have signed relief pitcher Yimi Garcia. Baerga has been right about stuff in the past and I can’t possibly imagine anybody making up a fake transaction in regards to Yimi Garcia, so this seems legit.

Yimi García has agreed to a contract with #BlueJays, source confirms. Credit to Carlos Baerga, the 3-time All-Star infielder, for breaking the news on Instagram. @MLB @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 28, 2021

So, who’s Yimi Garcia?
He broke into the big leagues with the Dodgers in 2014, pitched a lot in 2015, got hurt in 2016, missed all of 2017, and came back as a pretty effective arm in 2019. The Dodgers cut Garcia loose after that and he signed with the Marlins, where he would toss 15 scoreless innings in the shortened 2020 season.
Garcia was again good for the Marlins in 2021, as he put up a 3.47 ERA over 39 outings, though he outperformed his peripherals, 8.7 strikeouts per nine and 3.3 walks per nine. He was flipped to the Houston Astros ahead of the trade deadline and had the opposite situation, an ugly 5.48 ERA with good …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

There’s some reason for optimism one month into the Leafs season

The season has now been going on for exactly a month and that’s given us a reason to be a bit reflective on what we’ve seen so far. Right now the Leafs are sitting in a relatively comfortable spot in the standings, things have gone fairly well after what we’ll understate as a rocky start, and now that people you want to see getting points are getting points, and the Leafs have established themselves as a team that wins more frequently than it loses, we’ve earned an optimism post on TLN. Criticizing the Leafs is easy, and honestly this site wouldn’t have grown to where it is today without the opportunity to criticize the Leafs, but that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the things they do right as well.
Here are some of contributors thoughts on what has been the most pleasant surprise of the season so far?
Mark Norman:
For me it’s Jack Campbell picking up where he left off last season. I was worried about him coming down to earth but he seems to prefer playing in the stratosphere. He has played brilliantly, and has given cover to a few …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Kurtis Gabriel brings new personality to Leafs

A goal and a fight, that’s what Kurtis Gabriel gave Toronto Maple Leafs fans in his debut with the hockey club.
There was a feeling of excitement in Scotiabank Arena on Saturday night. It was the first time the Leafs have had that many fans in the arena since before the pandemic.
“Honestly in warmup it was a little scary.” Said Gabriel to the media after a 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens. “We’re so used to how quiet it is and not having that energy, so I was a little hopped up. I was kind of like a deer in the headlights a little bit.“
The 28-year-old is living out his childhood dream, like many Leafs players right now. Born in Newmarket, Gabriel grew up idolizing the team, and now he has a chance to make it and prove he belongs in the NHL.
“It’s a crazy feeling being here.” Gabriel said on Saturday night. “The way my career’s worked out, to be a part of this, at this time, with the timing of where this team is at — I can’t really put it into words. It’s going to take a little bit …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

A Fortnight on the Farm: Tenth (and final) Edition

That’s another MiLB season in the books, apart from the 10 game “post-season-season” that the AAA level is about to commence.

I’ll make note of that in a couple of weeks when I attempt a season-review possibly “hot take” prospect list in a couple of weeks. None of the teams that are finished are playoff-bound, though the Bisons did score the division championship in the AAA-East. But these columns have always been more about individual prospects than team wins and losses anyway.
Buffalo
While his brief tour in the majors didn’t set the league on fire, Kevin Smith came back with hits in his first four games before going cold over the weekend. But he ended the regular season with a .916 OPS and there’s nothing to be disappointed with there.  Fellow top prospect Otto Lopez ended up with almost half as many at-bats at AAA as he had at New Hampshire. He wasn’t as dominant as he’d been at the lower level (naturally) but it’s worth noticing that manager Casey Candele took the brakes off on the bases. He stole 7 in 10 tries at AA, and 12 without being caught once in AAA. Good baserunning is …

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Author: Tammy Rainey / Blue Jays Nation

Establishing expectations for the new look Leafs heading into training camp

It’s election season, and maybe that’s why I’ve felt the need to poll the TLN Contributors so much lately. We’ve ranked prospects, we’ve ranked the roster, and at the same time we ranked the roster I managed to sneak in a few other questions about the Leafs roster for our crew to answer.

Not to spoil the rest of the rankings, but it’s interesting to see that Michael Bunting who is the first to appear on our rankings received more votes that Nick Ritchie or Alexander Kerfoot to appear on the left side of Auston Matthews. Ritchie seems to be the front runner based on draft pedigree and size, and Kerfoot seems to be viewed as Tavares line bound. Perhaps the feistiness of Bunting seems more of the Hyman characteristics that need replacing than the physical play. And of course since we’re talking about replacing Hyman it’s worth noting that one of our voters had a hard time accepting that he’s moved on.

As demonstrated by our rankings, we aren’t completely sold on the idea of David Kampf. What we’ve learned in the couple of weeks since we voted …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

BJN Radio – Ep. 40: Rock Bottom

Woooof, that’s about as bad as it gets.

We had these games against bad teams like the Detroit Tigers circled on the calendar for months as an opportunity for the Blue Jays to finally smack somebody around and hit their stride. That didn’t happen this weekend.
Despite getting three strong starts — an ace performance from Robbie Ray, a vintage Hyun Jin Ryu outing, and a strong showing from Steven Matz — the Blue Jays couldn’t hit anything the Tigers threw at them. Worst of all, they couldn’t hit Drew Hutchison, who none of us knew was still in the league just a few weeks ago.
We talked about that miserable series, the team’s lack of clutch and killer instinct, and tried to come up with some positives. It wasn’t easy!
You can listen to the episode here…

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation