The 2011 Jays Infield - Third Base and Jose Bautista

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All eyes pearing in on this post will be questioning my reasoning in applying Jose Bautista as the incumbent 3B for the Jays in 2011. Well, with the information we have thus far, he’s the guy, plain and simple. He has over 2800 innings played at 3B and only over 1600 in RF, so until they acquire a new 3B or season begins and they place him in RF, I will assume that he will man 3B in 2011.

I also know that many people will attempt to point to his assists from RF as the reason he should remain there. I don’t buy it one bit. The truth is that he’ll be 30 in 2011, getting older, and already had a -13 Rtot .

Rtot – the Total Zone Total Fielding Runs Above Average – or, the number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made.

That was his worst Rtot result of his career, despite all of the assists, so imagine what happens when they stop running on him! In fact, many others have said that he is a well below average outfielder because he lacks the range needed to get to balls. Andy at “The Daily Sport Report” gives a great article of why Jose Bautista may need to return to 3B if the Jays want to be a better overall team and provides some support for the argument that had Jose going through his worst defensive season ever in 2010 – despite it being helped out trumendously with his greatest offensive output ever.

The other reason for Jose going to 3B, after the Jays settle the arbitration issue and get him under contract, is that the FA group currently available only has 1 star option in Adrian Beltre. That means he can demand a little more than he’s worth, both in money and year commitment, and also that he’ll demand a lot more than the Jays are willing to pay, which is why Alex Anthopolous mentioned the trade route being more attractive recently. The only other real option is Jorge Cantu, and I believe he showed everyone while in Texas that he really belongs in the National League, as he looked lost against most AL pitchers.

So, if FA isn’t a real option, what about a trade?

Looking throughout the league, there are not many options available that would make a real impact in the Jays lineup. The Nationals are not trading Ryan Zimmerman and the NY Mets are not trading David Wright for obvious reasons. Evan Longoria is also a non attainable player. Guys like Neil Walker from PIT and Pablo Sandoval in SF may be made available in trade, but are they upgrades over what Bautista would do at 3B? Definitely not. The only real options at this point are Mark Reynolds in ARI and Aramis Ramirez in CHC, who have both stated they are happy where they are and Ramirez is too expensive for the Jays to afford comfortably anyhow.

That brings us to the many internal options.

Aaron Hill and Brad Emaus are the first  players I think of when internal options for 3B – aside from impending FA Edwin Encarnacion – come to mind. Another option would be waiting for Adeiny Hechavarria to arrive and shifting Yunel Escobar to 3B. Yunel already has over 150 innings played at 3B and definitely has the arm to play the position well. Whether the Jays are happy with his offensive output from that position is the bigger question to be answered, but if they were content with Lyle Overbay at 1B, I see no problem with Yunel manning 3B.

So, if I can safely assume that there is a really good chance that the Jays will return Jose Bautista to a full time 3B position, we can all safely assume that the Jays will have one of the top 4 offensive minded 3B in all of MLB. It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to say that, or is it the very first time? I do believe it’s the first, which is more than enough to get us a little more excited about the look of the infield in 2011. Just to review, here’s what we can expect in 2011 from our infield based on what we know at this time.

1B – Adam Lind: 25+ HRs, 40+ doubles, 70+ RBIs, 27 years old

2B – Aaron Hill: 25+ HRs, high average (2010 hopefully an anomally), 65+ RBIs, 29 years old

SS – Yunel Escobar: 10-15 HRs, above average OBP, 28 years old

3B – Jose Bautista: career year in 2010, above average OBP/SLG/OPS, 40+ HRs, 100+ RBI, 30 years old

With Adam Lind hitting his prime hitter years and he and Aaron Hill expected to rebound from a horrendous 2010, the Jays infield looks to be a potent one with lots of pop and lots of run driving potential. All are still young enough to continue to improve and will have more experience working together than they did in 2010, meaning that the defensive side of things may improve a little as well. All-in-all, I like the look of this infield.

Could it look better? Sure, if the Jays could find a replacement for Adam Lind at 1B so that it becomes a position of strength defensively, it would go a long way to strengthening the infield as a whole – so long as it doesn’t take away from the offensive side of the game. A player like Adam Dunn is what I have in mind here. Someone who is potent at the plate and still plays good D.

I still expect to see Jose Bautista at 3B in 2011. He’ll do less running around, will have less chance of hurting his arm trying to get another OF assist, and will be back to where he has the most experience.

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Tags: Aaron Hill Adam Lind Adeiny Hechavarria Edwin Encarnacion Jose Bautista Lyle Overbay Yunel Escobar

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