Earlier today, esteemed Jays Journal Editor Kyle Franzoni warned us to approach Ryan Goins early success with caution. As a 25-year old rookie, it makes sense that we shouldn’t get our hopes too high just yet.
But sometimes the fan in me just wants to buy into a feel good story. So I’m all aboard the “Goins Express” bandwagon.
One excellent point in Kyle’s article (that was initially brought up by Jay Blue) is that Goins has very strange splits when he’s ahead or behind in the count. To quote Mr. Blue his approach seems almost “counter-intuitive”. Goins rarely brings much to the plate when he’s ahead in the count (evidenced by his triple slash of .150/.324/.230 in Buffalo and .200/.333/.200 in Toronto) but improves his approach drastically when he’s behind (.282/.288/.405 in Buffalo and .500/.500/.500 in Toronto).
I actually don’t mind this split. I’d rather Goins be overly patient while he’s ahead and have the ability to bear down with two strikes than become completely lost while behind. In this age of closely monitored pitch counts and increased strikeouts the ability to hit with two-strikes is a definite plus. And I like to think that as he continues to get more experience and trust his swing Goins has potential to increase his effectiveness early in the count.
As Kyle states in his article, Goins early line of .455/.478/.545 is certainly bound for some very real regression but the question becomes what type of hitter should we expect out of this (until recently) career minor-leaguer?
There’s not a huge amount of data on Goins thus far but I’m very encouraged looking at his early plate discipline numbers. He’s chasing 31% of the time, which is about league average (30.8%) and not bad at all for a player with only six MLB games under his belt. He’s also been able to make contact on a fair amount of the pitches that he has chased, with a 66.7% contact rate out of the zone that is well above the MLB average of 61.5%. He’s also made very impressive contact in the zone at 94.7%, which is way above the league average of 87.1% and has only swung through 6.4% of pitches. Obviously you can throw the “small sample size” card at any of this based on the fact he has a grand total of 23 plate appearances but I’m encouraged by his quick start against MLB pitching.
One area that I’m not encouraged by is his strikeout and walk rates this year at Triple-A. He struck out 20.3% of the time and walked only 6.9% in Buffalo, which isn’t good. He made strides to improve his contact in Double-A during the 2012 season and he had a career low strikeout rate of 12.6% for New Hampshire. And this year even with a slugging percentage of .575 his ISO sits at only .091 with 8 singles and 2 doubles making up his 10 hits.
Goins looks to be a line-drive/ground-ball hitter as he has only two fly ball outs (one infield fly) in his short MLB career. Kyle mentioned his .500 BABIP and his 68.2% ground-ball rate troubles me. It’s tough to make a projection on what to realistically expect but if he is able to produce at a reasonable clip it at the very least creates competition with Maicer Izturis for the starting second base spot next season or maybe even opens the door for the Blue Jays to trade Izturis and the next two remaining years of his contract.
What I have been sold on about Goins is his fielding ability. He was the Buffalo Bisons regular shortstop most of this season and has been smooth as silk so far at second base for the Blue Jays. Many people search depth charts looking for a Blue Jays second baseman in the minor league system but many times it’s actually a converted SS that plays the position for the big-league club.
What the Blue Jays need from Goins is to avoid becoming a black-hole at second base, which has been a vacuum of production this year. If he is able to fill the void at second it frees up the Jays to focus on upgrading the top-end of the rotation and/or finding a more reliable catcher. Somehow the Blue Jays managed to win all those games with Munenori Kawasaki filling in at short. And I’m sure there’s not a single member of Toronto’s pitching staff who would mind if the Jays added a reliable middle infielder to this fairly below-average defensive team. So it’s my opinion that the Toronto Blue Jays should strongly consider going with Goins at second base next season.