2016 Canadian draft list
Letters of Intent
Second base depth, it’s neither here nor there
By Eric Elliott
It’s 2015, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at second base on the Toronto Blue Jays depth chart. With the exception of new addition Devon Travis, the Jays are experiencing the exact same problem they did a year ago; who is going to play second base?
Really, this is anyone’s guess. It will be hotly debated on blogs, chat-rooms and wherever else conversations occur on the web until the Jays brass make a decision about it.
Currently, no apparent option stands out. The depth chart is filled with players who can either provide serviceable defence but lack a bat or can do both at a pedestrian level.
The Jays cycled through a flurry of options last season, allowing seven players to take reps at the position with four receiving over 150 innings.
Munenori Kawasaki led the group, playing 444 2/3 innings and registering a .258/.327.296 slash. All things considered, he may not be the worst option going into this season, but given his immaturity as a big leaguer, he may be a bit of a wild card over a full season.
Another viable option the Jays will have to look at this spring will be Steve Tolleson. Tolleson is out of options so if the Jays elect to pass on him, he will have to clear waivers before being demoted to the likely destination in Triple-A Buffalo.
Similarly to Kawasaki, Tolleson was rather unremarkable last season at second, hitting to the tune of a .253/.308/.371 slash. He does manifest more power than Kawasaki with similar level defence so it’s conceivable the Jays may give him a chance at earning the position this spring.
The leading candidates however are the aforementioned Travis and 2014 starter Maicer Izturis.
Travis recently became a Jay in the trade with the Detroit Tigers for the late-Blue Jay Anthony Gose. Travis was the top prospect in a weak Tigers’ farm system and has all the tools to become a stable every day major leaguer if he can fulfill his ceiling. In 100 games at Double-A last season, Travis put up a .298/.358/.400 slash with scouts projecting his defence to be at least major league average.
Travis struggled in his initial 13 at-bats in spring, before collecting two hits in Lakeland Monday, including a double off the wall at Joker Marchant Stadium. It’s likely he will be reassigned to Triple-A to season into what the Jays hope he can be later in 2015.
Consequently, the job should be Izturis’ to lose. Izturis started last season in ideal like fashion but was hampered by torn ligament in his knee stemming from a freak accident tripping on the dugout steps at Camden Yards in Baltimire. In the 11 games he managed to fit in, he hit .286 and was regarded as a plus defender with one defensive run saved (DRS).
Izturis won’t have to hit .286 for the entire season to be considered an upgrade from last season. The only thing the Jays need from Izturis is to be his career self. What that is, is a .245-.265 hitter who plays average defence for around 110 games per season.
Although the 2013 Izturis is still engrained in Jays’ fans minds, it was essentially a statistical anomaly. In 2013 Izturis hit a shameful .236/.288/.310 with a 62 wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created). Weighted runs created are a metric, attempting to quantify a player’s total offensive value in runs. The league average for a player is 100. His next worse season occurred in his 2004 with the Montreal Expos where he played only a fraction of the season.
It’s likely Izturis will revert to the career player he has been, for the Jays this season. That should provide the Jays an above replacement level player for a good portion of the season with the remainder to be filled by the rest of his earlier mentioned colleagues.
With that said, the Jays second base core shouldn’t dazzle you with Robinson Cano like potential. If anything, they’ll be just good enough to get the job done.