We all know that up until all of the Blue Jays players got injured they had the best offence in the league (1st to score 500 runs in 2012), and we all know that only 5 or 6 players provide that offence when healthy. The Jays have good players at 1B in Edwin Encarnacion, SS in Yunel Escobar (although he has had a horrendous year this season),3B in the young phenom Brett Lawrie, CF in Colby Rasmus (once he becomes consistent),RF in Jose Bautista(no explanation needed), and for catchers, I guess you can say J.P. Arencibia is serviceable, or a little more than that. That leaves holes at DH, 2B, and LF. I want to take a look at second base today, and maybe I’ll talk about the other two positions at a later date.
The Blue Jays current starting second baseman is a strikeout machine, and making matters even worse for the Jays is that his defense is sub par as well. K’ing at a new personal high of 27% of all of his AB’s he has looked sub replacement at times this year when batting, and ever since his great April, has been hard to watch. He has a negative WPA for the Jays this season to go along with a 88 wRC+ and a .301 wOBA. All those this combined as well as his $6MM+ 2012 salary make it tough to believe he will be wearing blue once again when it comes to April 1st next year. Because he is viewed as the #1 Second Baseman on the market this free agency, his salary is likely to stay the same, or even go up, which further adds on to the doubt that he will be back in Toronto next season. If Johnson ends the season on a strong foot, or doesn’t attract so much interest in the off-season (which would drive his salary down), I could see him returning, but otherwise, he is likely to be headed back south of the border. If one of Yunel Escobar or Adeiny Hechavarria is traded, I could also see him as a 1 year stop gap for Alex Anthopolous’ Jays in 2013.
There are many things the casual baseball fan will enjoy when watching the current Blue Jays play. One of them is he ball bouncing off of Edwin Encarnacion’s bat and into the LF bleachers, another is watching opposing batters flail awkwardly at an attempt to make contact with Steve Delabar’s splitter. The one piece of the Blue Jays game though that will even make non-baseball fans’ jaw drop is Hech’s defense. His smooth stride towards the ball which he makes look easy even when the ball is so far away that Derek Jeter wouldn’t even dream about getting to the ball is unbelievable, and his rocket arm that dispenses balls with the precision and accuracy of a tank shooting rockets is something we just stare at in amazement. So, if you couldn’t tell from my description of his fielding, it is a waste to put this guy at 2nd base. His offense has shown life in the majors that nobody would have expected over his past 13 games (batting .295 with an OBP of .326 in 48 PA/44 Ab), and if he continues putting up decent numbers until the end of the regular season, I find it hard to believe that this guy won’t be a starter with the Jays next season. The only question is where. I would put his chances of starting with the Jays at SS next year at 50 percent, because a trade to Arizona (?) seems very possible. Then again, if both Yunel and Hech are retained, the odds of Yunel moving to 2nd are much slimmer than Hech, so if both are on the Jays next year, Hech will have to play second.
Yunel has had a very un-Escobar type season this year when it comes to offense, but his defense, something that has remained a constant throughout his career, has stayed the same. Yunel has always had good range and a great arm, but it was his baseball IQ that caused him to rack up so many errors. Ill-advised throws are always a huge factor when it comes to Yunel, and he has not been able to strengthen that aspect of his game this season. As mentioned above, Yunel’s offense has not been what it usually is, as his slash line has dropped from a .289/.366/.401 mark until this season, to a .253/.299/.350 line in 2012. The offense isn’t much of a concern for Yunel because of his past, so his job should be safe in Toronto as a SS in 2013. The only thing that could stand in his way from starting at SS for the Jays next season would be a trade, and he is definitely a candidate because of his history, and his club friendly contract ($5 MM in 2013, $5MM Club Options in 2014 and 2015).If he is traded, I suspect Kelly Johnson will not be back, and AA will have to go fishing in the Free Agency market for his next 2nd baseman.
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As always, leave your comment below on who you think will get the starting 2nd baseman job in Toronto next season.