Blue Jays Spring Training: 4 Key Roster Battles

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Feb 25, 2015; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Maicer Izturis (13) works out during spring training at Bobby Mattick Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Second Base:

The front-runner:

Maicer Izturis: In 2015, Jays are looking for a second baseman who can adequately defend up the middle but also contribute offensively and Maicer Izturis may have the inside track. Over his long career, Izturis has proven to be a capable defender at second base, posting a 4.1 UZR and 2.2 UZR/150. Now, these numbers probably make Iztutris an average defensive second baseman at best, but it’s his bat that likely makes him the favourite to win the second base job.

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Izturis got off to a good start offensively in 2014 before suffering a freak injury that ended his season prematurely only 11 games in. Similar to his fielding statistics, Izturis is more or less an average offensive infielder. In his 11 year career, he’s posted a career .312 wOBA with a demonstrated ability to execute in situational hitting scenarios (probably a product of spending years under Mike Scosia in Anaheim). Although Izturis will never be major offensive threat, because the other competitors for the second base job are so offensively challenged, Izturis starts Spring Training off at the top of the depth chart.

The competition:

Ryan Goins: Well documented by Jays fans, Ryan Goins is a brilliant defender, but only is extremely one-dimensional. By virtue of posting very impressive defensive statistics, Goins only netted out as being a -0.6 WAR in 2014. To put how impressive Goins’ defensive skills are in context, his -0.6 WAR was achieved despite a pathetic offensive slash line of .188/.209/.271. Similar to the Josh Thole situation, the Jays don’t want a black hole in their everyday lineup, so Goins’ value to the Jays may be best as a reserve infielder used in late game scenarios when defence is at a premium.

Munenori Kawasaki: Although a fan favourite, Kawasaki can be summed up quickly as a replacement level player, posting a 0.4 WAR in 2014. In his career as a second basemen, he’s been slightly below average defensively with a -0.8 WAR/150 but does provide the flexibility to play both second base and shortstop for the Jays. Offensively, Kawasaki owns a .276 wOBA which is below average compared to the 2014 .306 league average for second basemen. Kawasaki does seem to often put up quality at bats, but the overall metrics are hard to ignore. Kawasaki’s best chance to make the team is probably as a utility player, a role that he has served quite adequately in the last two years.

Devon Travis: Traded to the Jays by the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Anthony Gose, Travis is likely the second basemen of the future. Travis has posted an impressive .323 batting average in three minor league seasons and by all accounts is an above average defender at the position. Though Travis is likely still a year away (he ended 2014 in AA), Jays fans should keep their eye on the young infielder during Spring Training as when he’s ready for the big leagues, he certainly will be filling a void left often since the departure of Aaron Hill.

Next: Blue Jays Minor League Depth: Second Base

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