End of season comparison: Yusei Kikuchi to Steven Matz, a tale of change and qualifying offers

We’ve run through all the good comparisons, and now we’re left with Yusei Kikuchi and Steven Matz. Yay.

So yeah, getting this out of the way quickly, neither of these guys had a good season… sort of. It took a change mid-season to help them perform better.
Unlike the other three articles in the series, there are no prospects in this article. However, there should have been, but we’ll get to that. Here’s the background.
Background:
The Blue Jays traded three prospects, Sean Reid-Foley, Yennsy Diaz, and Josh Winckowski for Steven Matz on January 28th, 2021. The lefty had a solid season in 2021 with the Blue Jays and cashed in during the 2021-22 off-season, signing a four-year, $44 million contract with the St.Louis Cardinals.
Yusei Kikuchi spent three seasons with the Mariners, positing “meh” statistics with the team, before signing a three-year deal with the Blue Jays worth $36 million.
Steven Matz’s 2021:
Looking at Matz’s 2021 first, he finished the season with a 3.82 ERA and 3.79 FIP in 150.2 innings pitched. While his 22.3 K% was about average, he had a solid 6.6 BB% which meant he let runners get a free pass.
It was a fairly streaky season for the then 30-year-old lefty. At some point, he looked like it could be his best year, while he got lit up at other points. Overall, it was a solid season where he posted pretty good numbers for a guy who was penciled in as the fifth starter.
Unlike the other two free agents we’ve covered, Mat …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

TLN Prospect Rankings: Which “no vote” player could surprise us?

When I look back on all the years we’ve been doing prospect rankings at TLN, the name that sticks out the most as a player we were consistently wrong on was Pierre Engvall. The first four years Engvall was with the Leafs organization he didn’t crack our top 20 before finally jumping straight to #9 on the rankings in 2018 after a strong debut with the Marlies and an impressive year in the SHL. Some players are late bloomers, projects, or simply are being developed towards a niche role that might not show up well in their early days.
So it’s in that spirit I’ve asked the group which of the players that went unranked by all of us this year do we have some excitement about? Who could be a sleeper for the top 20 next year?
Nick Barden: Pavel Gogolev
I’m going to have to say Pavel Gogolev. He began his tenure in the organization back in February of 2021 and really burst onto the scene. Scoring 12 points in 13 games during his first …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

2022 TLN Prospect Rankings: The Goaltenders

The TLN prospect rankings are well underway, we’ve already knocked off our no votes, honourable mentions, and the first five prospects on our list. The thing you might remember from when we began this series is that we have purposely kept goaltenders out of it, as they are clearly their own thing. Rather than all of us trying to debate the value of a potential 20 game backup vs. potential bottom pairing defenseman vs. defensive specialist forward, we’re going to admit that it’s hard enough to compare goaltenders to each other let alone skaters.
So instead here are our top five affiliated goaltenders within the Leafs organization that aren’t established NHL goaltenders. So if you are looking for Matt Murray vs. Ilya Samsonov takes, you’ll have to check back likely in September. We do have goaltenders under contract with the Marlies on our list so, there’s that.
The one that thing really needs to be considered by everyone is that we have no idea what impact a goaltending coach change will make. With the exception of Dennis Hildeby, most of these goaltenders were brought in to work with Steve Briere and whether they are a fit for Curtis Sanford will be an interesting transition …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation