Ryan Goins struggled at the major league level in 2014. We know this. What wasn’t so clear was whether the Blue Jays recognized this enough to move on from having him start at second base in 2015. All winter they’d been making strides to address this concern. During the winter, Goins’ name was one being debated as a starter. Now, well into Spring Training, we are starting to get a more clear picture of where his name will actually slot in.
Among the names that fill out the 2B conversation are returning infielder, Maicer Izturis, newly acquired (for Anthony Gose) Devon Travis and free agent signing (MiLB deal) Ramon Santiago. Each of these options carries its own pros and cons. Izturis is the only one all but guaranteed a spot on the big league roster. His ability to fill in multiple positions and add a career .331 OBP make him a lock. Santiago is another veteran who will be able to bring experience and versatility to fill in if the need arises. However, he won’t be expected to get the lion’s share of the playing time.
No, these guys will be looked to as a bridge to when Devon Travis is ready to make the leap to the big league level. The fact that he’s not played above AA (in the Tigers system) is reason to pause and to justify having the above options on hand. While he is the future of the position, he will be given time to adjust and grow into the role. How much time that entails remains to be seen. But, we can make a bit of an educated guess as to the organizations plans based on what we’ve seen thus far in Spring Training.
Toronto Blue Jays
Devon Travis is getting a long look thus far. To date, he’s seen time in 10 games for 24 plate appearances. All at second base. He’s hitting .261 with an OBP of .292. Being that it is early in the spring, the level of competition he is facing is not exactly big league caliber. In fact, BaseballReference.com lists the competition just above AAA (a score of 8.2- 10 being the highest). As the season gets closer and closer, rosters will begin to take shape and the competition level will go up. It would appear that the Blue Jays really want to give Travis the opportunity to show what he can do. In fact, among all 2B “options” (including Steve Tolleson, Munenori Kawasaki et al) Devon Travis has the most at bats this spring. Those at bats are coming in different spots in the lineup. It appears he’s being put to the test.
Ryan Goins? Well, his story is different. Saturday’s contest against the Yankees saw Goins get the start at SS. He went 1-3 and is hitting .316 on the Spring. Many would be surprised to see Goins’ name next to an average of .316. But, he’s had a good showing thus far in the time he’s been given. The key, though, is in looking at what that time entails. A quick look back through the box scores and we see that Goins is getting the bulk of his playing time at short stop. Now, this should all come with the caveat that it is Spring Training and early in it, but it looks as though the Blue Jays are settling on a vision for Ryan Goins.
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Now that they have a potential viable option in Devon Travis, the club seems to be shifting its plans for Goins. They seem to be leaning toward his natural short stop skill set. His defensive abilities are his calling card. The Blue Jays know this. And, so far this spring, they are playing to those strengths. They are putting him in the more defensively important short stop position while giving Travis time to grow and prove himself.
Another interesting note to this discussion is the level of competition that Goins has faced thus far. Baseball Reference gives us a score of 7.9, which would indicate that he is facing less challenging competition than Travis. Knowing what we do about Spring Training that could mean that he’s seeing time later in games when clubs reach lower into their system and he’s been put in AFTER Travis as a defensive substitute at 2B. Obviously, this is by no means a definitive piece of evidence to indicate the future of Goins.
However, what we do see is that the Blue Jays clearly are shifting their thinking about Ryan Goins. No longer do they appear to be forcing the issue with him at 2B. Rather, they appear to be leaning toward using him at his natural position. Whether that means as a full time SS in AAA, a late inning defensive substitute or some combination thereof remains to be seen. While everyone knows not to read too much into Spring Training, it is rather difficult not to when the Toronto Blue Jays seem to have a clear vision of the future of Ryan Goins.