The 25 Man Roster Challenge Is Back Once Again!

It's just about that time of year when we all start to think about what the Opening Day lineup for your Toronto Blue Jays will look like. Well, it should be that time of year. No matter. The 6th (!) annual 25 Man Roster Challenge is a go once again. It's ridiculously easy to play and you can win cool Blue Jays stuff.

If you do decide to play, you have 3 options on how to get your ballot in: 

1: Send us an email: 1bluejaysway(at)gmail.com
2: Make a post on your blog, if you have one and send us a link
3: Add your ballot to the comments section of this post or the reminder post(s) we will do

All ballots should have a team name and a tiebreaker. 

In the event of a tie, and it's pretty much a given at this point there will be a tie, we ask that you also give us a prediction on what you think the spring training record will be. From what we can see, it appears as though the boys of summer will attempt to play a whopping 38 spring training games this year. That total includes the 2 exhibition games against the Reds in the Big O, but not the split-squad game against the Canadian Junior National Team on March 15th. 

Try not to forget that sometimes it rains in Florida-we are too cheap to get a dome down there and the games don`t generally get made up. There is also a chance that if one of those games goes to extra innings and one team runs out of pitchers, both teams agree to say "Fuck it, let's go play some golf" and the game ends in tie.

It is not a requirement that you select a tie breaker, and all ballots containing 25 names will be considered valid, but it is a really good idea that you choose one. Two years ago we had a stupid close finish and we actually had to break it right down to winning percentage.

It should be noted that no one has ever gone 25 for 25 in all the years we have been running this challenge; it would be really swell if that streak was broken.

Some Things To Consider:

Your Toronto Blue Jays currently have 10 players who are out of options on the 40-man roster and would therefore have to make the team or be sent through waivers before they could be demoted to the Minor Leagues. A few of these players are not in jeopardy at all, but there will be some spring training battles to keep your eyes on here for sure.

RHP Kyle Drabek 
RHP Liam Hendriks 
RHP Todd Redmond 
LHP Scott Barnes 
1B Justin Smoak 
INF Steve Tolleson 
INF Danny Valencia 

Josh Donaldson, Brett Cecil and R.A. Dickey are also out of options. These players should be on all ballots unless you think there is a chance they get injured during camp. Note to the training staff, keep Cecil away from the damn blender, please.

For a very detailed look on the out-of-option situation, check out this article.

The starting rotation looks far from settled after Dickey, Marcus Stroman, Mark Buehrle, Drew Hutchison take their turns. Between Aaron Sanchez, newcomer Marco Estrada and top prospect Daniel Norris, any one of them could emerge and grab that spot. The trickle down effect of who gets that job has some implications for the bullpen too.

Regarding the bullpen: Realistically, this is the most likely area where the winning ballot will distinguish itself from the others. We don't have a closer, unless you've had the idea that it will be Sanchez's role on the team rammed down your throat by the MSM long enough that you actually believe it. Drabek is an interesting name to think about here as well. Does the braintrust pull a Jeremy Jeffress (he's good enough. Oh, no, wait a minute, let's send him down a week into the season) type deal on us here?

And how about the clusterfuck behind the plate? No chance the team can break camp with three catchers while trying to convince us that "We're going to take the best team North." Dioner Navarro doesn't have a role on this team, especially if the plan is to get EE lots of DH at bats while rolling the dice with bounce-back candidate Justin Smoak at 1B. If Navarro is dealt, what, if any, MLB-ready return does he bring back?

The second base situation has long been a soft spot in this lineup and it appears as though that trend will continue, at least in the short term, until recently acquired Devon Travis lays claim to the spot. This should be the wide open race in camp. There is a chance that some passed-over free agent is looking for a minor league contract after spring training opens and comes in to win the job.

As always, there are a few intriguing names on the spring training invite list that could factor in on your ballot. Click here for that.

At the end of the day, to be the champion all you have to do is put forth a ballot with 25 names on it. Who wins what job is irrelevant in this game, but it can't be played without taking it into consideration.


The winner of this year's roster challenge will receive a Upper Deck Cecil Fielder baseball card, an autographed Rawlings baseball signed by former Blue Jay greats Brandon League/Gregg Zaun, AND a vote Jose button.

All prizes are yours to keep if you are proven to be victorious.


The field in last year's edition of The 25 Man Roster Challenge was jam-packed with all-star calibre participants. We were able to get ballots from the president of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, the MLB beat writer for the Blue Jays, a finalist from the MLB Fan Cave, the beat writer for the biggest newspaper in the country and a writer who is in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, just to name a few.

The deadline for ballots will be February 22nd at midnight. Late ballots will not be considered.

We wish you all good luck.

Interview With Derrick Chung

In the interests of emptying out what is left in the interview clip from last season, here is the final instalment for your enjoyment.

In 95 games behind the dish this year he threw out 40 of a possible 98 base stealers, which is good for a shiny 41% caught stealing percentage.

With the stick he slashed:


In fairness, that line was fuelled by his strong play in the Florida State League. In the Eastern League, he put up a somewhat troubling .240/.275/.275 performance in 171 at bats. Perhaps he wore down a little bit after only ever catching 64 games in the previous year, his first year as a catcher.

Bob Elliott wrote a nice piece about him in camp this year. Check it out.

The fine folks at MILB.com had some positive things to say about him. Check it out too.

In the interview found below our man in the trenches, Mr. Jay Floyd, caught up with Derrick in late August. They discuss:
  • The strike zone and quality of umpiring differences between MILB levels
  • The area of his game he is looking to improve
  • A few words on catching LHP Daniel Norris
  • His position change from SS to catcher 


Interview With Andy Burns

If you listen closely to the really smart baseball people out there, they will all say the same thing: the biggest jump in minor league ball is from High A to AA.

We respectfully submit exhibit A for your reference: Infielder Andy Burns. In the 2013 season he played the exact same number of games in the Florida State League and the Eastern League: 64. That allows for a rather straight forward comparison.

High A:                                 AA:   
248 AB                                265 AB
45 runs                                40 runs
81 hits                                  67 hits
15 2B                                    19 2B
5 3B                                      2 3B
8 HR                                     7 HR
53 RBI                                 32 RBI
21 SB                                   12 SB
9 CS                                     5 CS
25 BB                                  23 BB
38 K                                    55 K
.327/.383/.524            .253/.309/.419

A few notes:
Batting average and OBP dropped almost 75 points
Slugging percentage was down over 100 points
The only increases were doubles and strikeouts

Stats taken from here. If they aren't fucking nerdy enough for you, go ahead and click here.

He does have roughly the equivalent of a full season of experience in AA now so let’s take a look at those numbers, which are current as of July 10.

570 AB
83 runs
140 hits
34 2B
4 3B
16 HR
69 RBI
26 SB
11 CS
56 BB
123 K

That’s not too shabby, all things considered. With his position flexibility – 83 games at SS, 212 at 3B, 13 at 2B and 3 at 1B – he has an intriguing skill set that could potentially help a major league team, perhaps right away.

If you read that sentence again you’ll see that we didn’t say anything definitive, which is kinda neat!

Our amazing interviewer, Jay Floyd, caught up with Andy Burns last month and had a nice chat about the following topics and more:

Playing in the northeastern U.S. to start a season
The minor league life in general
Hobbies, and who the video game champion on the team is
The college baseball experience
His thoughts on a possible tobacco ban in baseball
What it’s like to hang out with some Blue Jays legends


Interview With Tyler Ybarra

Tyler doing work

Tyler Ybarra was a late-round pick (43rd round, 1299 overall, to be precise) in the 2008 draft. He has made steady progress up the minor league ladder, being challenged with a new level at the start of each year, and he was given the chance to pitch in the star-studded Arizona Fall League after a dominant 2013 season in the FSL.

This year, he has appeared in 29 games for the Fishercats, and only 12 of those appearances have not been of the multiple-inning type—so he’s not just a LOOGY. In fact, he has some reverse splits going on, meaning he has been tougher on right-handed hitters than lefties—this year, anyways.

If you’re as tired as I am of watching guys like Rob Rasmussen get their head kicked in at the big league level, then keep an eye out for this guy as he might be in line for a shot sooner rather than later—we all know Gibby loves having three LHP in the pen whenever possible.

Our man on the ground, Jay Floyd, caught up with Tyler Ybarra and was able to impressively dodge both a possessed vacuum cleaner AND a pesky air conditioner to get some insight into the following topics:

Having higher expectations
Skipping a season after rookie ball
Scouting report on himself
Pitch repertoire
Following in his father’s footsteps
Being a late round pick
Good luck charms

Follow Tyler Ybarra @TYbar23
Follow Jay Floyd @Phoulballz
Follow Us @1BJW


Interview With Mike Crouse

Outfielder Mike Crouse was drafted at 17 years old in the 16th round of the 2008 draft. He hails from British Columbia, stands 6’4 and weighs in at a svelte 215 lbs. We have heard him described as "looking quite good in the uniform," so to speak.

Mike had a breakout season in 2011 for the Lansing Lugnuts, where he slugged 14 bombs, grabbed 38 bags and slashed .261/.352/.475 in 101 games playing RF beside uber prospect Jake Marisnick. Mike’s production at the dish was comparable to Jake’s and had many prospect hounds drooling.

Fast forward a couple of injury plagued seasons and the chatter has pretty much died down. For the 2014 season, he has been plugging away in AA with the New Hampshire Fishercats as a 23 year-old player--which is still 1.7 years younger than the median age in the Eastern League, according to Baseball Reference.

In his complete minor league career to date he has played 199 games in RF, 163 in CF and 70 in LF, which seems a little light in terms of reps considering he is entering his 7th year of professional baseball. Hopefully he can stay on the field for 400+ at bats and the chatter will start up again. If our math is correct, he must be added to the 40-man roster before next season or he could be lost via the Rule 5 draft.

Our minor league interviewer extraordinaire, Mr. Jay Floyd, caught up with Mike Crouse and discussed many interesting topics:

If there is any extra pride/drive/desire to play in the Blue Jays system
When baseball became the game of choice for him in this hockey crazed nation
A brief scouting report on himself
Favourite player growing up (spoiler alert: YUCK)
The experience of playing winter ball in the ABL

Follow Mike Crouse: @_crouse_
Follow Jay Floyd @Phoulballz
Follow Us @1BJW