TORONTO - A rival scout, in town to see the Blue Jays play the Orioles last weekend, was captivated after taking one look at Moises Sierra's offensive numbers.
He was particularly interested in the number of extra base hits per at bats. Entering play Thursday, Sierra was 23-for-75 (.307) since his recall from Triple-A Buffalo on August 21. Of those 23 hits, 15 have gone for extra bases (13 doubles, one triple, one home run).
Break it down further and Sierra has reached at least second base in 20 per cent of his at bats.
When the scout was presented with the small sample size argument, he quickly retorted, "The guy can hit a baseball. He's a natural talent."
This is what makes Sierra such an interesting ballplayer at this point in his career. He can wow you with his power. His right field arm can best be described as cannon-like.
The natural attributes are so apparent. So too, however, are the gaffes.
Sierra's baserunning, to be diplomatic, leaves something to be desired. He gets caught wandering. There was one occasion, last weekend, when it appeared he had lost track of the number of outs in the inning while at third base.
That cannon-like arm, while powerful, isn't always accurate. Cutoff men get missed. A throw ends up in the seats. On occasion, he's taken strange routes to fly balls which fall as a result.
It all lends itself to the feeling that you're on a wild adventure with Sierra. A good thing will happen at some turns and bad things will happen at others. It will never be boring, quite the opposite, and the result is always unpredictable.
"A work in progress," said one Blue Jays executive.
The Jays have a decision to make on Sierra. He's out of options, which means the club cannot demote him to the minor leagues next season without first exposing him to irrevocable waivers.
Again, with that natural talent, Sierra would likely be claimed.
Maybe he's trade bait, a guy who could be made part of a package deal to acquire a player who would address one of the Jays many needs.
He does not appear to be, at this time, a suitable replacement in right field should general manager Alex Anthopoulos stun the fan base and ship Jose Bautista out of town.
Still, Sierra believes he's ready to be a full-time major leaguer.
"I feel comfortable right now," he said. "When I came up, the first couple of at bats I didn't feel comfortable but I've worked in the cage with the hitting coach and now I feel better."
Prior to Edwin Encarnacion's season-ending wrist injury, Sierra was working with the star hitter on his swing and on pitch recognition. Unlike Encarnacion's work with Brett Lawrie, which featured a lot of video, Sierra spent time with Encarnacion in the cage and, simply, just talking.
Sierra is making adjustments as he grows more comfortable.
"He's getting in a better position to hit," said hitting coach Chad Mottola. "He gets so anxious sometimes, kind of the way he plays the game hitting, it gets him out of position to hit the fastball. But I think, in time, Eddie's kind of talked about approach to certain pitchers and just experience."
Manager John Gibbons has often referred to the larger stadia, the effect of the third deck, when discussing the adjustment from Triple-A to the big leagues. It can be a lot to absorb, the atmosphere, and add the fact Sierra isn't used to the fake grass at Rogers Centre makes for some getting used to.
"I think he's played solid," said first base coach Dwayne Murphy, who also coaches the outfielders. "This is a big, huge difference between the minor leagues and big leagues. The ball travels faster, it gets out there faster and he's just making the adjustment, catching up to game speed. I think he's done very well. He's made great catches, ran balls down."
The final word goes to the hitting coach.
You've got to understand, the more we throw them out there, the more they get experience and the game teaches them just as much as we do," said Mottola. "It's one of those things. It's getting better so that's the good thing."
ENCARNACION UNDERGOES SURGERY
Edwin Encarnacion underwent successful surgery on his left wrist on Wednesday and will need approximately two months of recovery time.
Encarnacion played in 142 games this season. With a slash line of .272/.370/.534, he enjoyed a second-straight season with an OPS above .900 (.904). Encarnacion hit 36 home runs, had 104 RBI, walked more times (82) than he struck out (62) and participated in the first All-Star Game of his career.
GIBBONS CONFIDENT OF BULLPEN BOUNCEBACK
Casey Janssen has reached the 30-save plateau for the first time in his career; Sergio Santos is healthy for the first time since arriving in Toronto; Steve Delabar and Brett Cecil had terrific first halves before being derailed by injury; Aaron Loup is consistent; Dustin McGowan and Neil Wagner are throwing the ball hard.
Despite leading the majors in innings pitched for most of the season (now ranked third), manager John Gibbons is confident his bullpen will continue to perform to the standard it has set.
"I don't see why there should be any drop off," said manager John Gibbons. "You know, it does happen a lot in baseball - it's usually that odd year because when guys are really good they get used a lot, let's say this year, and that usually leads to drop off the following year and a lot of times they regroup and they're that much better the next year. Most of that's because of the workload. We're conscious of that and I don't think there's been too much excess that should affect them next year."
Cecil experienced shoulder fatigue in July and believes the nerve problem he is currently experiencing in his elbow is linked. Steve Delabar is tired, even if he won't come right out and say it. Casey Janssen has grinded through most of the year at less than 100 per cent.
It's the nature of the beast.
"If you're ever going to win and you're going to get through September and play in October, I mean that's a long season and you've got to figure it out," said Gibbons. "You're not always going to be good, you're not always going to have your best stuff, whatever it is and you've got to find a way to survive. That's what the good ones do and that's what the teams that win, their relievers, they get used a lot but they're effective through most of the year."