DINGERS FROM THE 6IX
As the offseason develops without any major Blue Jays developments, I am left without an alternative to writing part two of my analysis of players who may not be on the roster full time next season, but should at least be up and down between the big leagues and AAA. For part two, I am analyzing position players, having previously analyzed potential relief pitchers in a previous article http://dingersfromthe6ix.weebly.com/home/which-players-deserve-a-bigger-role-next-season-pitcher-edition. For this article, I am determining which position players who were confined to bench roles in recent seasons should become more important pieces of next years ball club.
As the roster is currently constructed, It's is all but certain that Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki, Devon Travis, Russell Martin and Kendreys Morales (I know he's listed as a DH but I anticipate him playing far more 1B than any of us should be comfortable with), with Darwin Barney and Justin Smoak locking up two bench spots. The rest of the infield bench could be filled up by several players currently on the 40-man roster so I thought it would be good to see which ones are worthy.
Though Jimenez has never appeared in a Blue Jays uniform, he has been in the organization since being drafted in 2008. Since 2013, he has shuttled between AA and AAA but he has struggled to put up solid numbers with the bat. As a result, Jimenez has not yet reached the big leagues. Despite this, I believe that he has enough skills to at least back up Russell Martin. He has a reputation for being an excellent defender, a skill which is far more important than hitting for a backup catcher. In addition, he was not terrible (though not good either) as a hitter in AAA, with a WRC+ of 89 (100 is average) and a triple slash of .241/.290/.377. Because of this I think Jimenez is worthy of at the very least getting a chance to win the backup catcher role in spring training, but if the team picks up a better option, I is all but certain that Jimenez will not be on the Jays roster for most of 2016.
Andy Burns is an interesting player since he has the ability to play across the diamond and also demonstrated some ability to hit with a 112 WRC+ and a .293/.351/.377 triple slash for the 2015 season in AAA. Despite this, he generally struggled in last season, despite making his big league debut. He failed to record a hit in 7 big league appearances and also struggled to repeat his performance in AAA, with just a 81 WRC+ in 2016 as well as a 5% increase in strikeout rate. If Burns can somehow return to a reasonable performance, than I think he could make a really good addition to the Jays roster as a result of his versatility. If he can't than he will likely spend most of next season stuck in AAA.
With all due respect to Chris Colabello, there is almost zero chance he ever plays for the Blue Jays again. The only reason he's still on the 40-Man roster, is the fact that the Jays haven't needed to add anyone since the offseason began. The fact that Colabello wasn't even called up in September, where there was little risk in doing so is a sign that he has fallen well out of favor with the organization and the front office. Despite proving to be a crucial part of the lineup in 2015, Colabello struggled to hit anything last season with a WRC+ of -39 and 51 in the majors and AAA respectively. Combine this with his PED suspension last season, and I expect Colabello will be as far away from the Jays roster as possible once next season starts.
The final infielder on this list, Ryan Goins struggled immensely last season. Despite playing decently well enough in 2015 to justify keeping his bat in the lineup, Goins struggled to keep up the decent numbers last season. Instead, he returned to doing what Ryan Goins does; play great middle infield defense while hitting incredibly poorly. Overall, Goins hit just .186 in almost 200 plate appearances, and recorded a total WRC+ of just 38. For Goins to spend significant time on the Blue Jays roster next season, he has to return to hitting at around the same level as he did in 2014 - WRC+ of 84 - and let the defense make up for the rest. If he cannot do this, then I speculate that he will spend a lot of time shuttling between AAA and the majors.
As currently constructed, there are currently two players who will surely be on the Jays to start 2016. These are Kevin Pillar and Melvin Upton Jr. Thanks to a pair of vacancies, there will likely be an opportunity for at least 2 more players to start the season on the big league roster.
During the postseason I asked the question "How good is Ezequiel Carrera?" (http://dingersfromthe6ix.weebly.com/home/how-good-is-ezequiel-carrera). In this, I determined that he is at least deserving of a chance to be a forth outfielder. Though Carrera is not that strong of a hitter (WRC+ of 83 for his MLB career), his ability to get hot for whatever reason has persuaded me that he should be given a chance at at least being part of a outfield platoon with Upton Jr. His decent defense at all the outfield positions, and an ability to occasionally steal a base should be enough for the Jays to keep him on the roster. If he struggles, I would expect him to be shuttled back and forth between AAA and the big leagues similarly to last year.
Although Ceciliani has shown to be capable of hitting the ball in AAA, and has a baseball name which is among the best I can think of, there is very little real chance that Ceciliani actually starts on the roster next season, or contributes regularly to the Jays at all. Without the reputation of being a top prospect, or the familiarity of being known among the front office like Carrera, Ceciliani should not expect to spend significant time on the Jays roster. Like Colabello, i see him as one of the first players off the 40-Man if the Jays make a move. Plus, he would likely be picked up be someone else ion waivers. Because of this, it's unlikely that Ceciliani is a Jay for significant time next season. If he is, it means that something has gone horribly wrong and I will be writing about how awful the team is.
I know that Alex Anthopoulos was probably too high on the young outfielder and probably rushed him to the majors. I know that Pompey has not demonstrate an ability to consistently hit at the major league level. I know he has not shown he can stay healthy in recent seasons and yet, I think Pompey should be a starting outfielder unless the team can acquire two deserving players. Pompey has the reputation as a top prospect, and should at least be given the chance to perform at the big league level in 2017. It's not about the numbers with Pompey. It's about giving a young player with serious potential upside a chance to show his skills instead of giving a spot to a mediocre veteran like Melvin Upton Jr. It's about finding out if the club has a talented piece it can build around. Who cares if he doesn't pan out? Players fail every year. It's part of the game. If he can't succeed next year than he never will. Because of this, I believe that there is little harm in giving a role to Pompey next season. If he fails, that you just turn to Upton Jr. or Carrera and cut your loses but if he succeeds, it could be a difference maker for a club hoping to make a run at the world series.
If I could decide, Pompey would surely be given a major role next season, Burns and Jimenez would be given a chance, and Goins and Carrera would shuttle across many roles. But, since I am not the GM, all I can due is speculate and hope for the best for the team next season.