Jays From the Couch brings you the player Highlights & Lowlights from the 2017 season. This time: The Bringer of Rain
Josh Donaldson has spoiled us. In 2017, his worst season as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, he was the 20th most valuable position player in all of baseball, producing 5.0 wins above replacement. Aside from Carlos Correa, each player in front of him had played in more games than he had. Josh is a very good player.
One of the most remarkable aspects of his performance as a Blue Jay is how consistently effective he has been when putting balls in play. His xwOBA on batted balls was exactly .442 in each of his three seasons as a Jay. While not quite as good as 2016, his plate discipline this past season (0.68 BB/K) was on par with his career norm and better than it was during his MVP season.
Putting this together, it becomes clear that the primary difference at the plate between 2017 JD and 2015 MVP JD was the 200 or so fewer plate appearances he had this season. Josh got on base more often this season (.385 OBP vs. .371) and had more pop (.289 ISO vs. .271). His batting average was down some relative to 2015, but that can be explained by his lower BABIP.
The one knock on Josh (if you can call it that) is that he may now only be a slightly above-average defensive third baseman, as opposed to the all-world third baseman he was from 2013 to 2015. This defensive drop-off is the main reason why his WAR dropped from 2015 to 2016.
LOOKING AHEAD to 2018
Josh Donaldson’s future represents the biggest question for the Blue Jays this coming season. The various possibilities have been discussed thoroughly: will he sign elsewhere after 2018, will he resign with the Jays after testing the market, will he be extended before the season starts or will he be traded (before or during the season)? There are no easy answers and my own preferred outcome seems to change every time I give it some thought.
What is fairly certain is that he will start the 2018 season as a Blue Jay and his performances as a Jay bode very well for himself and the team in the near future. Only JD, Mike Trout and Joey Votto have produced 149 wRC+ or better in 2015, 2016 and 2017. He continues to be an average (at worst) defender at an important position and his sprint speed is exactly league average. All signs point to another great season for JD in 2018.
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I’m an economics professor in the GTA whose lifelong love for the Jays was reignited by that magical August of 2015 and the amazing moments since.