Jays From the Couch breaks down the remaining candidates in the battle for the Toronto Blue Jays’ 4th outfielder spot.
There is always a section of baseball fans who say that Spring Training does not really matter; that it is exhibition baseball. Try telling that to the Toronto Blue Jays who are using the “pre-season” to decide just who will round out the outfield talent when the club opens up the 2016 season. There are several players competing for that final spot, but only one can make it. The decisions that will follow the selection of the 4th outfielder will certainly be tough, which makes the battle that much more meaningful.
Here is a look at how the competition is shaping up with mere days remaining in the tryout period.
Most expected that Carrera would return to the Blue Jays as the 4th outfielder as the winter progressed. Manager, John Gibbons, seems to be enamored with the 28 year old from Venezuela. But with the additions of Lake and Brown combined with the presence of Pompey, Carrera was not just going to be handed the job. He would have to earn it. Has he?
Carrera has been given an opportunity to impress this spring. Though the club likely knows what they’re getting and does not really expect any kind of progression. Rather, if they are watching him, they’re looking to be sure there isn’t a sign of regression. Has he earned the 4th outfield spot? His .143 average doesn’t suggest so. His lefty bat might tip the scales a bit in this right heavy lineup. Carrera is out of options and will have to be exposed to waivers should he not make the team out of the gate. This might be an acceptable risk given his spring performance.
Brown came to the Blue Jays on a minor league deal, so they won’t be pressured into making a decision. Even if they feel that he has not earned the 4th spot outright, they can tuck away his potential power in AAA without concern.
The club has been giving Brown opportunities, though. They have been allowing him to showcase what he could bring to the club. The problem is that he isn’t really showing that what he brings is much more than the owner of “former” impact. The minor league deal is a sign of a team hoping that he can return to his 2013 form. The former top prospect hasn’t done so since and shows no signs of it this spring. The power potential is there, but will the club be willing to risk losing other outfielders in the hopes that he can come off the bench and perform? Likely not.
Claimed on waivers back in December, the Blue Jays have to keep Lake on their roster or risk exposing him to waivers as well, as he’s out of options. So, essentially, the Blue Jays may have to choose between one of Lake or Carrera. Perhaps, they are banking on being able to sneak either (or both) through waivers at this stage of the season.
Since the club needs to make a decision on Lake, they’re giving him the opportunity to show his value. 13 bases off 9 hits is encouraging. As are 4 stolen bases. His average and OBP are also not disappointing. Could this give him the edge in the competition? He is another right handed batter, which the club has enough of already. But, his OF versatility may prove to be useful.
One of the more interesting options available to the Blue Jays that doesn’t get much air time is former the Met. It is surprising how little we are hearing about Ceciliani given the spring he’s having. The left handed 25 year old came to Toronto in a trade with the Mets before the spring began. He was traded for a player to be named later, which could prove to be a shrewd move by the Blue Jays.
As of right now, Ceciliani just might be the odds on favorite to join the big league club as the 4th outfielder. His power, average and OBP are all at the head of this class. Is that enough to bring him North? Well, his left handedness helps his case. So too does his ability to play all outfield spots. The only issue with bringing Cecilianni with them is the that the Blue Jays will be forced into risk losing the previously mentioned others. If this spring is not a mirage, it is an acceptable risk. In looking at his minor league numbers, he has shown an ability to hit for average and get on base. He has some power, which is about all you need. The question will be: to what degree to the Blue Jays trust the spring showing? According to Steve Buffery, (via National Post) it appears to be quite a bit.
An “out of the box” candidate could be someone that we weren’t even thinking about this winter. The Blue Jays seem to be in the process of creating a bit of a ‘super’ utility player in Andy Burns. They’re trying him out in several positions, including the outfield. While they appear to have settled on him as an infielder, the option exists to use him to fill in the outfield here and there. If something more long term is needed, Burns may not be the right way to go, but his versatility could be a very appealing option.
Of all the candidates above, Burns seems to be getting more of a look from the club. He might be the least known commodity of all and the club could be using this time to gauge his ceiling, etc. Of the players listed here, Burns has offered more with the bat (Ceciliani not included). His 1.144 OPS would certainly be welcome. Despite his apparent usefulness and success, it is more likely that Burns heads to AAA Buffalo and waits for an infield opportunity. The Blue Jays certainly won’t risk losing other players to bring Burns North at this point.
If we were to take this whole competition on its face, it would appear that Ceciliani is in a position to win the job. He has had a good spring thus far and offers a lefty bat that can play more than one position. This will result in some difficult decisions for the Blue Jays, who could very well see one of the others on this list depart. The club will hope they’re making the right decision and taking the right risks.
Also from JFtC: Almost Traded: Michael Saunders is on a Mission!
*Featured Image Credit: wyliepoon UNDER: CC BY-SA 2.0
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