Jays From the Couch looks at the Toronto Blue Jays infield battle that could play out during Spring Training
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.
|162 Game Avg.||162||567||520||62||129||24||4||6||42||5||2||32||67||.249||.297||.343||.641||75|
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:
|162 Game Avg.||162||497||455||48||102||19||5||6||42||2||2||29||106||.224||.270||.325||.595||62|
|162 Game Avg.||162||404||376||45||94||26||1||4||30||1||2||20||101||.249||.291||.353||.643||78|
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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