The Blue Jays only have so much playing time to go around and Brandon Drury may not see much of it
The Toronto Blue Jays are about to re-enter our lives after a long break. I am so excited for their return, I even went with a punny title. I was going to use “Brandon Drury is redundant”, but I decided light is best…maybe I’m just giddy. Regardless, here we are getting ready for one of the oddest seasons of baseball ever. Teams will have a 60 player pool from which to draw and the Blue Jays have some interesting names swimming around, some of whom may give Drury an uneasy feeling.
I mean, that feeling is akin to what fans get when they take a gander at Drury’s recent past performance. He saw action in 120 games in a rebuilding 2019, games that resulted in 15 home runs, but not much else to be happy about. He slashed .218/.262/.380, put up a Ryan Goins-esque wRC+ mark of 66 and if it weren’t for his -3.9 Def rating (per Fangraphs) bringing his value UP, his -0.6 fWAR would have been even lower.
I don’t want this to be all about bashing Drury – I’ve done that enough HERE and, most recently, on Ep226 of the JFtC Podcast: HERE. Instead, this is more about how shaky his role is with the Blue Jays is this season and probably beyond. Before contiuing, I will acknowledge that a) there is way more to worry about with the Blue Jays than Drury. Take their outfield for example. b) the 2020 season was all about young guys taking a step forward and bridging the gap to some competitive seasons. That really hasn’t changed much. In fact, it is more accurate now with such a short season; it;s about giving guys reps, gaining experience and all that. So, how Drury performs is less important than I may be making it out to be.
However, the fact that it is a bridging year and a shortened one at that means that Drury has to really show he’s capable of holding his roster spot. Assuming things go back to normal in 2021, his performance this summer could dictate whether he returns. And, he’ll have lots of competition.
The Blue Jays will bring 12 infielders with them, including their young studs. But, after them is where it gets interesting for Drury. He’ll be joined by Joe Panik, who signed in the offseason. Panik is a defensive upgrade who has a history of more consistent offensive production. He has shown the ability to get on base at a much better clip. He’s seen that decline a bit since his early big league days, but even his declining OBP is better than Drury’s. When he was first signed, one had to think that perhaps Panik spelled the end of Drury. Not that Panik is the second coming, but he is an upgrade.
But, Panik is not the only threat to playing time in Toronto’s infield. The context of this 2020 season may provide the opportunity for the Blue Jays to test Santiago Espinal. The 25 year old middle infielder is coming off a 2019 season (split between AA and AAA) where he hit .287/.347/.393 with 7 HR and 12 stolen bases. He was caught 13 times, which makes his running game somewhat questionable. However, if the youngster is looking to prove himself, he’ll get the chance this season.
Kevin Smith will also join the pool after coming off a poor offensive season in AA last year. That said, it was well below what we’ve seen from him over the previous couple of seasons. It would behoove the Blue Jays to give him some playing time to see if there’s a job for him moving forward as opposed to being just ‘a guy’. He turns 24 soon, so there’s time, but this could be the chance for the club to get a good look at him.
Ruben Tejada is also set to see some playing time, albeit with little to no expectations. With the potential of players getting sick with Covid-19, his signing is the definition of a depth move. While he may not be much of a threat to Drury, you can expect that he’ll get some reps. And, the more others play, the less opportunity Drury has to prove himself.
With Andy Burns, Rowdy Tellez and Jordan Groshans all being made available to play, Drury will have to work this season. Assuming no one gets sick or hurt, he will have a short amount of time that is threatened by a number of other players, which makes it that much more pressing that he show himself to be a big leaguer.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.