Prospect Profile: Samad Taylor

If there’s one player in the Jays organization that I think could immediately help the Blue Jays this season, it’d be Samad Taylor.

The 23-year-old position player is quite an intriguing prospect. He blends speed, power, hitting with versatility to boot. The Jays could definitely use him on their team.
The basics:
This season, Taylor is slashing .262/.344/.421 with five homers in 248 plate appearances for a wRC+ over 100. He’s followed up an impressive 2021 (which I wrote about here) with another impressive season against more advanced pitchers. He also leads the Bisons with 43 RBIs.

@SamadTaylor7 AGAIN. The @BuffaloBisons have the lead!!!!!!!#BlueJays #NextLevel #CallHimUp pic.twitter.com/GrNTkSoOfS
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) June 22, 2022

Taylor hit 16 homers in 374 plate appearances last season, but his seven homers rank tops for the Bisons. It’s also notable that the jump between Double A and Triple A is one of the toughest jumps in the minors. He’s also hit for a solid average, as that’s sitting at .262 (down from .294).
Most impressively however, is what he does once he reaches base. This season, he has attempted 27 steals and has been successful 23 times. In fact, that number leads the International League and would be second in all of Triple A once you include the Pacific Coast League.
How has Taylor improved:
Although his home run totals and average have dropped, there are signs that the 23-year-old speedster has certainly improved. Here’s a quote from Fangraphs’ preseason bio regarding Taylor:
“[Taylor] isn’t strong enough at present to replicate his 2021 [home run] numbers. In that context, his swing decisions loom as a big concern. He’s both passive and prone to swinging and missing.”
That begs the question, why was Fangraphs so harsh on Taylor?
Last season with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, he posted a .294/.385/.503 slash line with 16 homers for a wRC+ of 141. Pretty great, right? However, Fangraphs was hinting at Taylor’s rather high K% of 29.4%. Even in 2019, it was still at a rather high 27.9%.

Just a daily reminder that the #BlueJays need to: CALL. TAYLOR. UP.
8-6 @BuffaloBisons #NextLevel pic.twitter.com/nYsW9HSyjb
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) April 30, 2022

While his offensive stats have taken a little bit of a dip, his K% has dropped to 20.97%. This is a huge drop against much tougher opponents, some of which have MLB experience.

Wrote an article about @SamadT …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

It’s officially Trade Speculation Season. What should the Blue Jays be looking for?

There’s a famous baseball quote that states that the season is split into three parts: You have two months to figure out what you’ve got, two months to figure out how to get what you need, and then two months to win.

The calendar has flipped from May to June, so that means that it’s officially Trade Speculation Season. What should the Blue Jays be looking for in order to improve the team?
The Blue Jays are currently riding a six-game winning streak, their longest of the season, after Tuesday night’s 6-5 win over the Chicago White Sox. Kevin Gausman tossed five innings and scattered three runs. When he left the game, the Blue Jays had just put together a four-run rally in the bottom of the fifth inning and led 6-3.
While Gausman wound up with the win, it was a very shaky ride after he was pulled. Trevor Richards came in and couldn’t get anybody out and Adam Cimber had to come in and clean up the mess. If not for an incredible throw by Lourdes Gurriel and some hilariously dumb baserunning by the White Sox, the game would have been tied in the sixth. After that, Yimi Garcia tossed a scoreless frame, and then Julian Merryweather and Jordan Romano danced around two hits each in the eighth in ninth innings to finish things off.
All told, the bullpen tossed four fram …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Finding hope for the Leafs in the Oilers playoff run

There’s not often a lot of positive things said on this site about the Oilers. I mean, they are the Oilers, there are plenty of reasons not to like them, not limited to the fact that they are using up McDavid’s prime before he can return to Toronto and they took our Hyman from us. Still, this post is about bygones being bygones and appreciating their playoff run for what it is, a lesson to the Leafs and their fans that sometimes things can break your way.
The Oilers certainly have a more significant opportunity to have things break their way while playing in the Pacific Division. The Atlantic Division is stocked with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin, and CCR. The Pacific Division is like a battle of Eagles tribute bands. It’s not exactly stiff competition, and Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl being able to take it over on a moment’s notice shouldn’t be a surprise.
What was a surprise was Mike Smith not only not being terrible, but being dominant at times throughout the first two rounds. If Jack Campbell’s November wasn’t already a lesson in that for the Leafs, Mike Smith is a masters level education in how any NHL goaltender can …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

So much for a scheduled loss! Excellent relief pitching and homers from the bottom of the order help the Blue Jays pull off a comeback win in Houston

It’s starting to become evident that there’s no such thing as an easy win over the Blue Jays.

Friday night’s series-opener in Houston really looked like a mismatch on paper. You have Justin Verlander and his 0.69 ERA looking for the third no-hitter against the Blue Jays of his career and, on the other side, you have long-reliever Ross Stripling making a spot start for the injured Hyun Jin Ryu. On top of that, the Blue Jays are also shorthanded, as Teoscar Hernandez and Danny Jansen are on the Injured List and George Springer wasn’t in the lineup because of that hit-by-pitch on Wednesday night in Boston.
All things considered, nobody would blame you for looking at Friday’s game and calling it a scheduled loss.
After a clean first two innings, the Astros finally got to Stripling in the third inning as the top of their order got their second at-bats in. Stripling held the Astros to three runs in what could have been an explosive inning and then had a three-up, three-down inning in the fourth after the Blue Jays scored to put the game at 3-1.
The bottom of Toronto’s lineup got to Verlander in the top of the fifth inning. Santiago Espinal drilled a homer to left field to bring the Blue Jays to within o …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

The Panthers could win the true test of merit, that should be enough

There’s something to be said for the President’s Trophy. It’s not an easy thing to win, and the Panthers 12 game win streak to pull ahead of the Colorado Avalanche in the race for it, is their commitment to winning the marathon that is the regular season. Whether they win it or lose it, they’ve had an impressive run, especially considering the additional challenge of playing in the Atlantic. The Panthers have the conference clinched and will get the lowest seeded wild card team and a lot of home ice advantage as their reward. It is now statistically impossible for the Leafs to be the lowest seeded wild card, and frankly it’s a bit of a stretch that they won’t be the second seed, so taking a look at the Panthers now is strictly a cart before the horse look to the second round (if our dreams come true.)
Florida by the numbers
GP
77
78
Pts
118
108
GF
322 (1st)
299 (2nd)
GA
218 (9th)
244 (20th)
PP%
24.2% (6th)
27.5% (1st)
PK%
79.8% (15th)
82.2% (7th)
CF%
56.67%
53.59%
xGF%
56.61%
55.02%
HDCF%
55.79%
55.31%
HDGF%
60.71%
50.47%
PDO
1.01
1.00
By the numbers, the Panthers are better than the Leafs in every way, with the exception of special teams, and perhaps that is something to note and cling to if these teams meet. It’s also interesting that for the most part, the teams are very similar in results, but the two most distinct advantages for the Panthers seem to come from the fact that they have received decent goaltending and didn’t have to deal with their starter going completely off the rails, and have some semblance of an NHL backup.
The other area of concern for the Leafs is the rate at which the Panthers have been scoring from the high danger areas of the ice. Considering that Leafs HDSV% has been abysmal, that is a pretty big window of oppo …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Three Marlies that could help the Maple Leafs in the playoffs

There’s no shortage of Maple Leafs prospects on the Marlies, but which ones can make a difference at the NHL level?
Both teams are in a playoff race of their own with the Leafs looking to secure home-ice advantage in the first round, and the Marlies are looking to secure a playoff spot in general.
As we creep closer and closer to NHL playoffs, there’s a question about who could come up from the Marlies and be used if needed. Now, with the Maple Leafs’ crowded defence core, it pretty much eliminates the chances of Joseph Duszak, Kristians Rubins, or any other defenceman coming up, unless an injury occurs.
It’s a different story with the forward group, though.
There are a number of combinations that you could use on the Maple Leafs’ fourth line and it might be normal to see players like Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds come in and out of the lineup. The only mainstay on that line right now is Colin Blackwell, in my opinion, just because of the consistency he brings every night.
Toronto also has Kyle Clifford, but at times, the only thing he brings to the lineup is toughness. And while you’d like that in some instances, you’re going to need goal-scoring too.
So, I thoug …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Pre-Series Notes: This trip to Boston begins arguably the most difficult stretch of the Blue Jays’ season

There’s an argument to be made that this is the most difficult part of the Toronto Blue Jays’ schedule over the entirety of the 2021 season.

They’ll start off in Boston with the Red Sox, they’ll then head to Houston for three with the Astros, and then they’re home to face those same Red Sox and Astros along with a series against the New York Yankees. It’s 16 games in 16 days against three of the top five teams from the American League East last season.
But if you’re going to be a good team, you have to beat the good teams. The Blue Jays went 2-4 against Houston, 9-10 against Boston, and 11-8 against New York last season. A better head-to-head against the Red Sox and the Blue Jays are in the playoffs last fall and Boston is watching from home.
We learned last year that there’s no such thing as It’s Early when it comes to life in the AL East. The Blue Jays need to go, at the very least, 8-8 in this stretch.
Worth mentioning…
The Red Sox are dealing with a COVID-19 issue, as both Christian Vasquez and Kevin Plawecki have been placed on the COVID list. Coming up …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Leafs sign a college player, just not the one you were expecting

There’s been plenty of buzz about whether or not Matthew Knies’ college career has come to an end and if he’s ready to go pro with the Leafs. Similarly there has been plenty of buzz around Ben Meyers, the linemate of Knies. And while the Leafs did sign a college free agent and the college teammate of one of their players, it wasn’t Meyers.

We’ve signed forward Max Ellis to a two-year, entry-level contract beginning in the 2022-23 season. #LeafsForever
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) April 8, 2022

The Leafs have signed the college teammate of Alex Steeves, Max Ellis to an entry level contract beginning next season with an $838k AAV. (Max was an honourable mention in Nick Richard’s free agent targets article.)
The Leafs press release:

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced today that the hockey club has signed forward Max Ellis to a two-year, entry-level contract beginning in the 2022-23 season. The average annual value of the contract is $838,750. Ellis will join the Toronto Marlies on a professional tryout for the remainder of the 2021-22 regular season and the Calder Cup playoffs.

Ellis, 22, has recorded 28 points (16G, 12A) through 39 games with the University of Notre Dame (NCAA) during the 2021-22 season. Ellis led the team in goals and points this season and was named a 2021-22 All-Big Ten Second Team selection. The Canton, MI product has posted 45 points (22G, 23A) in 71 career NCAA games with Notre Dame.

Max Ellis is undersized at 5’9″ and 165 pounds but he has some finishing ability and a willingness to battle around the front of the net where he does his best work. He broke out for 16 goals in 39 games with Notre Dame this season. #LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/mbSOwLOagJ
— Nick Richard (@_NickRichard) April 8, 2022

Now I don’t have a whole lot more to add to that. He’s 5’9, so he’s definitely on the smaller side, and the 22 year old junior shoots right, and this season was largely his breakout year after a fairly average sophomore campaign. He was named to the Big Ten Second All-Star team this year.
Of Ellis’ 28 points, 12 of his goals and 18 of his points came at even strength, and he the other 4 goals were a split of two powerplay and 2 shorthanded g …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

American League Preview: Expect the Tampa Bay Rays to outperform their middling projections

There’s a shadow looming over the Blue Jays.

The team is loaded with talent, both on offence and in the pitching staff, and they’re coming into the season with more hype than perhaps ever before. The biggest obstacle in the way, of course, is the goddamn Tampa Bay Rays, who, with a band of players who look like they were generated by an algorithm, just manage to win.
Tampa put up a 100-win season in 2021, winning the American League East for the second time in a row, as they went 40-20 in the 2020 sprint season and pumped the Blue Jays in the wild-card round en route to an appearance in the World Series.
While the Rays look worse on paper because of an injury to their ace and because of some cheap Rays-y moves over the offseason, we know better than to underestimate this team, especially considering the fact they finally have a superstar player who’s ready to break out.
Oct 10, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco (5) hits a solo home run against the Boston Red Sox during the eighth inning in game three of the 2021 ALDS at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY SportsWhat happened over the off-season…
There were two big wins this winter for the small collection of baseball fans in Tampa.
First, the team got phenom Wander Franco inked to a hilariously team-friendly contract worth $182 million over the course of 11 years. This deal ensures that Franco will never get paid more than $25,454,546 in a given season during his prime, as it goes until he’s 32.
Franco was baseball’s top prospect going into both 2020 and 2021 and he was excellent in his debut season in the Majors. Through 70 games with the Rays, Franco slashed a .288/.347/.463 line while providing good defence at short. That’s incredibly good for a 20-year-old. The sky is the limit here.
If there’s one player the cheap-ass-lost-and-found-bin Rays are going to keep around forever …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

It looks like the Blue Jays have signed Dexter Fowler to a minor-league deal

There’s a late addition to Blue Jays’ camp.

According to Keegan Matheson of MLB.com, Dexter Fowler has joined the team in Dunedin and it’s expected that the Blue Jays are going to sign him to a minor-league contract.

#BlueJays expected to sign OF Dexter Fowler to a Minor League deal with an invitation to MLB camp, per source.
— Keegan Matheson (@KeeganMatheson) March 30, 2022

Now 36 years old, Fowler last played with the Los Angeles Angels. He only appeared in seven games for L.A. in 2021, as his season was derailed early on when he fractured his leg sliding into second base in a game against the Blue Jays.
Fowler has played 1,460 games in the big leagues over the course of 14 seasons, but he’s probably best known for his time with the Chicago Cubs, as he helped the team end their 108-year World Series drought in 2016.
The Blue Jays actually tried to sign Fowler after that season, offering him a four-year, $64-million deal, but he wound up signing a five-year, $84 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals instead. The Cardinals dumped Fowler in 2021, the final year of that contract, on the Angels and paid $14.75 million of the $16.5 million owed in the deal’s final year.
Fowler is a switch hitter with experience in centre field, though he hasn’t played there since the 2019 season, so this addition makes sense for the Blue Jays from a depth perspective.
I would assume that Fowler heads to Triple-A Buffalo out of camp. The Blue Jays have two open 40-man roster spots which seem likely to be filled up by David Phelps and Greg Bird. Fowler could find himself in the mix for a call-up if somebody gets injured at the big league level. …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation