Credit: Keith Allison-flickr-CreativeCommons

Toronto Blue Jays Spring Competitions: Bench Infielders

 

Jays From the Couch looks at the Toronto Blue Jays infield battle that could play out during Spring Training

 

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Throughout the winter (just end, already!), we here at Jays From the Couch will be looking into the Spring Training battles worth paying attention to as the rain clouds of Central Florida chase the team around through February and March. Today, we’ll be looking at the role of bench infielders.

 

The Blue Jays starting infield, barring any unforeseen injuries, trades or additional signings, is set. The Jays are anchored by perennial MVP-contender Josh Donaldson at third, aging but reliable Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop, emerging second baseman Devon Travis and a platoon of Justin Smoak and Steve Pearce at first base. Ignoring that Justin Smoak will earn entirely too many starts at first base this season, Toronto can be considered one of the better infields in the American League, providing excellent defense and plenty of clout in the lineup. It may be one of the lesser-discussed battles going into Spring Training, but with the addition of Gregorio Petit on a minor-league deal last week, the Blue Jays middle infield depth and infield bench roles became a bit cloudier.

 

There’s little argument that the No. 1 depth option for the infield is this decade’s answer to John McDonald: Darwin Barney. Barney was acquired at the 2015 trade deadline and has remained in Toronto ever since, despite being designated for assignment that October. Barney has put together a solid career for a bench guy despite a duration as a full-time second baseman with the Cubs, showing flashes of on-base skill and the ability to swipe bags, with 22 successful attempts out of 29.

 

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2010 24 CHC NL 30 85 79 12 19 4 0 0 2 0 0 6 12 .241 .294 .291 .585 57
2011 25 CHC NL 143 571 529 66 146 23 6 2 43 9 2 22 67 .276 .313 .353 .666 83
2012 26 CHC NL 156 588 548 73 139 26 4 7 44 6 1 33 58 .254 .299 .354 .653 76
2013 27 CHC NL 141 555 501 49 104 25 1 7 41 4 2 36 64 .208 .266 .303 .569 57
2014 28 TOT NL 94 262 237 24 57 11 2 3 23 1 0 17 34 .241 .300 .342 .642 79
2015 29 TOT MLB 17 30 27 4 7 1 0 2 4 0 0 1 2 .259 .286 .519 .804 114
2016 30 TOR AL 104 306 279 35 75 13 2 4 19 2 2 22 48 .269 .322 .373 .695 86
7 Yrs 685 2397 2200 263 547 103 15 25 176 22 7 137 285 .249 .297 .343 .641 75
162 Game Avg. 162 567 520 62 129 24 4 6 42 5 2 32 67 .249 .297 .343 .641 75
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/26/2017.

 

So, Barney is likely the first to be called on in games as a late defensive replacement or if the need for an injury replacement arises – which it almost certainly will. But where will the Jays go beyond Barney? There have been times as recently as 2015 in which Ryan Goins has been treated as a starting middle infielder based on defense alone. This seemed like a foregone conclusion entering Spring Training, that is until the Blue Jays nabbed Gregorio Petit as a minor-league free agent. And if it comes down to a competition between the two, how do they match up?

 

Ryan Goins versus Gregorio Petit

To be completely honest, there isn’t much of a competition at all. Goins is not insignificantly younger, 28 to Petit’s 32 years. While both have been fringe players their whole careers, Goins has the upper hand in, well, just about everything. Take a look for yourself:

Goins Stats

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2013 25 TOR 34 121 119 11 30 5 0 2 8 0 0 2 28 .252 .264 .345 .609 66
2014 26 TOR 67 193 181 14 34 6 3 1 15 0 1 5 42 .188 .209 .271 .479 35
2015 27 TOR 128 428 376 52 94 16 4 5 45 2 1 39 83 .250 .318 .354 .672 83
2016 28 TOR 77 196 183 13 34 9 2 3 12 1 1 9 48 .186 .228 .306 .534 41
4 Yrs 306 938 859 90 192 36 9 11 80 3 3 55 201 .224 .270 .325 .595 62
162 Game Avg. 162 497 455 48 102 19 5 6 42 2 2 29 106 .224 .270 .325 .595 62
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/26/2017.

 

Petit Stats

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2008 23 OAK 14 25 23 4 8 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 9 .348 .400 .435 .835 128
2009 24 OAK 11 31 31 2 7 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 6 .226 .226 .258 .484 28
2014 29 HOU 37 100 97 14 27 8 0 2 9 0 1 1 25 .278 .300 .423 .723 103
2015 30 NYY 20 47 42 7 7 3 0 0 5 0 0 3 16 .167 .217 .238 .455 25
2016 31 LAA 89 223 204 21 50 13 1 2 17 1 1 15 51 .245 .299 .348 .647 80
5 Yrs 171 426 397 48 99 27 1 4 32 1 2 21 107 .249 .291 .353 .643 78
162 Game Avg. 162 404 376 45 94 26 1 4 30 1 2 20 101 .249 .291 .353 .643 78
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/26/2017.

 

Goins has nearly twice the amount of games played in much less elapsed time, he’s swiped a few more bags, cleared the outfield wall twice as much and obviously, provides elite defense at any infield position he’s asked to play. While h should never be looked upon as an offensive asset, his left-handed bat provides a bit of lineup flexibility and gives John Gibbons the opportunity to play the matchup late in games. It’s not much, but it’s certainly more than what the Jays would get from the light-hitting, mediocre-fielding Gregorio Petit.

 

Minor League Depth

What’s Petit’s role, then? Well, with the exodus of minor-league depth such as Andy Burns this offseason, he’s likely roaming with The Herd (Triple-A Buffalo) in 2017. There, he will likely split time throughout the infield with guys like Jonathan Berti, and hopefully stay out of the way of legitimate prospects such as Richard Urena, Lourdes Gurriel and others. The infield depth in the Blue Jays organization is undesirable at best,  with almost all of the top names filling out the lower levels.

 

So, it remains unlikely we’ll be seeing much of Gegorio Petit beyond this Spring, and that’s okay. In fact, the Jays could probably use another similar move to the Petit signing before breaking camp with such a thin stock of infielders at the upper levels of the minor leagues.

 

 

 

 

*Featured Image Credit: Keith Allison UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0 CROPPED FROM ORIGINAL

 

 

 

 

 

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Roy’s earliest memories all involve baseball from the early 90’s and the Blue Jays dream teams. He became a Blue Jays fan while watching Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green evolve in Syracuse, NY at the run-down confines of MacArthur Stadium, nestled between highway and swamp. A lifelong baseball player, Roy still plays (P, C, 2B, 3B) in the 25+ Syracuse MSBL for the Liverpool Mets. He watches almost all games with his best buddy Sebastian, a five year old Pug, who could care less.

Roy-Z

Roy’s earliest memories all involve baseball from the early 90’s and the Blue Jays dream teams. He became a Blue Jays fan while watching Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green evolve in Syracuse, NY at the run-down confines of MacArthur Stadium, nestled between highway and swamp. A lifelong baseball player, Roy still plays (P, C, 2B, 3B) in the 25+ Syracuse MSBL for the Liverpool Mets. He watches almost all games with his best buddy Sebastian, a five year old Pug, who could care less.