Puzzle Pieces – The Toronto Blue Jays’ Outfield

 

The Toronto Blue Jays have several outfield pieces and Jays From the Couch tries to fit them together

 

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Last trade deadline Blue Jays’ General Manager, Ross Atkins preached that the team wanted to acquire younger and more controllable assets. Well, since then they’ve added Teoscar Hernandez, Aledmys Diaz, Yangervis Solarte, and now Randall Grichuk. Of course, it came at the cost of a few prospects, but I’ve liked each deal so far. Grichuk is 26 years old and has three seasons of control left at a very affordable price tag. But how does he fit into the Jays’ already crowded outfield and lineup?

 

The Jays’ congested outfield opens the possibility of making a trade. Maybe to acquire someone to help fill the hole left by Dominic Leone in the bullpen. Or it just means the Jays will go into 2018 with a lot of depth, which isn’t the worst thing. Grichuk may not be the Lorenzo Cain type player we were looking for, but I believe he may be the part that ties things together. Let’s think of each player like a puzzle piece. Individually, they’re not very appealing, but together they paint a picture that might just get the job done.

 

Randall Grichuk – RF

Grichuk is a decent hitter and an even better defender. He has a career slash line of .249/.297/.488 for a .785 OPS and 108 wRC+, so don’t be too discouraged by his low OBP. The right-handed hitter is slightly better against RHP, but the splits aren’t too extreme or concerning to consider a platoon. Also, Grichuk ranks 32nd among outfielders since 2015 with 6.8 fWAR.

Handedness PA BA OBP SLG OPS wRC+
RHP 963 .253 .300 .497 .797 110
LHP 423 .239 .289 .467 .756 102

 

The thing that stands out about Grichuk as a hitter is his raw power. If we compare him to his peers using the sabermetric for Isolated power or ISO, we can see that he ranks among the best the last three seasons.

 

 

Grichuk spent most of his time in CF with the Cardinals but can play all three-outfield position quite well. It’s doubtful Grichuk will dethrone Kevin Pillar in CF, so that’s why I think he will serve as the everyday RF. Grichuk ranked 36th among OF in outs above average last season with two and a sprint speed of 27.8 feet/second, which is very similar to Pillar’s 27.9. Grichuk also ranks 18th among outfielders since 2014 in Defensive Runs Saved with 25 and 16th in UZR/150 with 7.2 (minimum 2000 innings). Grichuk is a great defender that will bring stability to a position that has otherwise been an issue for the Jays the last few years.

 

Kevin Pillar – CF

Pillar get his fair share of criticism from fans for having a low OBP and showing signs of regression, but I believe he still has more to give. He got off to a hot start in early 2017 and carried a .333 OBP till the end of May. But he ultimately resorted back to his free-swinging habits as his OBP dropped to just .282 for the rest of the season. Over the past three seasons, he ranks 22nd among all outfielder with 9.5 fWAR. The former 32nd round pick of the Jays back in 2011 is no stranger to overcoming the odds and hard work. Maybe 2018 will be the year Superman cracks 20 home runs and 50 walks?

 

 

Curtis Granderson – LF (Platoon)

The former Tiger and Yankee will be 37 years old by the time the 2018 season gets underway. His days of being a 40 HR hitter have passed him, but age is merely a number, and this old timer still has a lot to give. Granderson’s time with the Dodgers last year was underwhelming, but I don’t think that it’s indicative of much. It’s no secret that this lefty struggles against LHP, but that doesn’t bother me, and it shouldn’t bother you either. I am only interested in Granderson for his ability to hit RHP, and I hope the Blue Jays share the same sentiment.

 

Over the last two seasons, Granderson has slashed .228/.342/.474 for an OPS of .817 and a wRC+ of 118 against RHP. At this point in his career, I think he would be best suited for LF. His foot speed and throwing arm aren’t what they used to be, but being a good defender in my mind is half skill and half knowledge. Knowing how the ball will take its first hop, bounce off the wall, and ring around the corners, or how much room there is to put yourself in position can make all the difference. Maybe I’m grabbing at straws, but Granderson’s time in the AL East should benefit him. We’ll have to wait and see, but I believe he can be one of the better free agent bargains at just five million dollars for one year.

 

Steve Pearce – LF (Platoon)

Steve Pearce is excellent at taking curtain calls and hitting walk-off grand slams, but not much else. He’s not fast, he can’t play defence, and he makes six million dollars next year. Some have suggested trying to shed his salary via trade, but that may be next to impossible considering he gets injured a lot. Alright, I’m going to stop hating on Pearce because I hear he’s a nice guy. I like to approach situations open-minded, objectively and with optimism, so maybe there’s this one other thing that Pearce can do. Pearce for his career has a slash line of .262/.345/.492 for an OPS of .837 and wRC+ of 126 against LHP. He and Granderson would be a great platoon to run out in LF. Like I mentioned before, Pearce is not very good defensively, but he can play first base and a little of second as well LF.

 

Ezequiel Carrera – Fired into the Sun

Of course, I’m borrowing a joke used by Shaun Doyle. We can’t legally fire someone into the sun (yet), so let’s try to be as objective as possible when it comes to Carrera. The Blue Jays kept raving that they had magic stats that suggest Carrera is a superhuman amazingly good at baseball person. To their credit and his, he’s done a respectable job being the fourth outfielder since coming to Toronto. Last season he batted .282/.356/.408 for an OPS of .764 and 107 wRC+. But the problem with those numbers lies in the splits.

Handedness PA BA OBP SLG OPS wRC+
RHP 283 .310 .376 .448 .825 123
LHP 42 .086 .220 .114 .334 -3

 

Even if Carrera were to maintain those crazy splits somehow, Granderson makes him redundant. There’s no point having two players on your roster that are equally good at the same thing while having similar weaknesses. Plus, I don’t think any of us can stand to watch him attempt to do whatever you want to call he does in the outfield. Just like Pearce, maybe someone would be willing to take a flyer on Zeke in a trade. With a few years of control left he could be a decent trade chip that could fetch the Jays another bullpen arm.

 

Everybody else

There’s something to be said about the kind of talent that the Blue Jays will have on their AAA affiliate team, the Buffalo Bisons. Patrolling their outfield will be players Anthony Alford, Dalton Pompey and Teoscar Hernandez. I think if the Jays can help it, they’d rather have these guys start the year in Buffalo and get consistent playing time while not worrying about making mistakes. Of course, this could change if one of them decides to have an overly impressive spring training, though. I wouldn’t worry about them too much, we’ll see them up with the big club for sure at some point next season. Having this kind of depth will pay dividends when we approach the dog days of the season.

 

Conclusion 

Overall, I am very optimistic about what the outfield could be this season. I think it is better than last year both defensively and offensively. Only time will tell, though, but hopefully, I am right.

 

 

 

*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.

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