Encarnacion Looks Healthy and 1B Jays Issues

The Jays bench looks like it’s taking shape now, with the 4 spots all but assured to the favorites (John McDonald, Mike McCoy, Randy Ruiz, Jose Molina). Edwin Encarnacion played in yesterday’s game, getting 1 hit, 1 walk, and 1 K in 3 ABs. He looked great and even stole a base to add to his “I’m ready to play” line. If the bench does turn out to be as stated above, and Encarnacion is healthy, how will Cito find enough time for Randy Ruiz’s bat? If you saw the game yesterday, you saw how intimidating Ruiz can be at 1B, and also how Johnny Mac‘s D has not subsided at all as he made a brilliant play deep in the hole at SS. Sure, Ruiz can pinch hit here and there, but getting time at 1B to spell Lyle Overbay as often as possible and getting him at least some DH time will be necessary if he’s to have as big an impact as some of us imagine he can. Unfortunately for Randy, players like McDonald who are loved by the fans and the Jays, are going to get lots of ABs which can hurt his chances. Add Mike McCoy who plays all over, and it seems like he may remain a pinch hitter for the majority of the time, or at least until injuries or trades open some spots up.

All this brings me to my next point about Jose Julio Ruiz, who set up yet another “meet and greet” with scouts in the Dominican Republic. Let’s say the Jays bench is as set above. Lyle Overbay is the starting 1B, Randy Ruiz is the backup 1B, Brian Dopriak is the 1B in AAA, David Cooper is the 1B in AA, and Michael McDade – who is still in spring training with the Jays and getting more ABs than I would have thought – should begin the year in HiA Dunedin. Where would the Jays fit someone like Jose Julio Ruiz in? I have no idea, and I still have no idea why Lyle Overbay is still with the Jays either, but the 1B position is crowded as can be – and that’s all without the inclusion of Brett Wallace, who is supposedly the 1B of the future for the Jays……something just isn’t adding up.

I believe that the Jays are still very hopeful that Brett Wallace will stick at 3B, because if he does, it allows them to maintain their much better options at 1B in the future than what they have as 3B options. It’s much easier to envision an infield with Wallace at 3B and McDade at 1B than one with Wallace at 1B and _____ at 3B. Something’s got to give, that’s all I’m saying. The Jays can’t keep Brian Dopirak in the minors forever and he clearly deserves a shot to prove himself in the majors. But who’s going to trade much for an unproven commodity? Alright, rewind, let’s start from the beginning….what would you do if you were Alex Anthopolous in his current situation?

1 – Hope Lyle Overbay has a quick start and that a team is willing to pick him up along with his entire salary, and that the Jays can also get 1 decent prospect for him. By all indications, he should be traded by the deadline. Atlanta is my favorite landing spot since Troy Glaus is a walking first aid sign. Now that they’ve committed to keeping Heyward around to begin the year, we know it’s an “all-in” season for the Braves. Scott Downs and Lyle Overbay for…..?

2 – Keep Michael McDade in spring training as long as possible in order to get a real indication as to what you have in the lower minors. If he’s as good as he seems to be, maybe David Cooper becomes a trade chip as some teams will still believe in his overall potential. McDade can then skip HiA and go right to AA.

3 – Once Overbay is dealt, Alex can bring up Brian Dopirak and hope he takes off like a rocket. If he does, that gives him yet another trade chip to use in future dealings. Dopirak and Ruiz can split time at 1B. If he falters, Alex can release Dopirak at a low cost or send him back to AAA and release him thereafter. Either way, it’s a low risk proposition. In the faltering case, the Jays can bring up Brett Wallace in his place and all is well.

4 – The Jays can also decide to keep Dopirak at 1B if he does well. Why not? He’s cheap and can provide more than enough power at the position. In this case, Wallace would get a shot at 3B for 2010. If it’s obvious that Wallace at 3B is not an option for 2011, then Alex can make a deal with Dopirak included in the off season – with his value being much higher due to proving himself in 2010 – and Wallace slides into 1B to start 2011.

Altogether, everything breaks down to the following: Overbay needs to be dealt before the deadline, Dopirak should get the first shot to prove his value on the trade market or to allow Wallace to prove himself as a 3B, Wallace should be tried at 3B before being sent to 1B to allow for others to prove their values as 1B, and Cooper and McDade need room to grow in the minors very soon – so all of this needs to get sorted out pronto if the Jays want to max out the situation. In any of these cases, I can’t see the Jays paying the reported $2 million for Jose Julio Ruiz who is reportedly out of shape and has a chip on his shoulder already. I’d rather see them make a play for Reidier Roibal, another Cuban prospect – a pitcher this time, who is supposed to have a huge upside and is only 20 years old. I hope I’m right in assuming all of this. Does anyone see it differently? Does Ruiz actually seem like he’d fit in the OF instead of at 1B? Why not stay with Jeremy Reed at a much cheaper rate?

The 1B Jays issues are confusing to say the least. Hopefully Alex can clear them up by May and land a good 3B prospect in the process.

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Tags: Brian Dopirak David Cooper Edwin Encarnacion Lyle Overbay Michael McDade Mike McCoy Randy Ruiz

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