Blue Jays Spring Training Surprise: Caleb Gindl


Spring Training is funny, isn’t it? On the one hand, we say that it doesn’t mean anything and players are just getting into shape for the upcoming season. On the other, we say that there are very important battles happening that will help sort out decisions about who will play where. This year Blue Jays Spring Training is no exception to this duality. While we can often over analyze every detail (partly because we’ve been without baseball for months) of the spring, there are some situations that do give us reason to stop and think. One such situation is the performance of OF, Caleb Gindl.

When the Blue Jays signed Gindl to a minor league contract this winter, it went without much fanfare. Really, our eyes were looking for bigger, more expensive, more impactful fish. Yet, as Spring Training is unfolding, we’re being forced to take notice of the 26 year old lefty.

Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto Blue Jays /

Toronto Blue Jays

Thus far in the spring, Gindl is opening some eyes with a .435 average including 6 RBI, 6 doubles, a triple and an OBP of .481. Some will dismiss this as a small sample size against lesser pitching as if his numbers are inflated. While, there may be some element of truth to that, we have to remember that it’s not like he’s facing little leaguers. lists his level of competition as essentially AAAA. So, he’s up against some quality pitching.

With the question marks surrounding the return of Michael Saunders (who looks like he’s dead set on returning by Opening Day) and Kevin Pillar (Sneezy), all of a sudden the importance of Gindl is amplified a little bit. As we noted on our most recent podcast, there are guys who are on the depth chart in the outfield. Chris Dickerson, Ezequiel Carrera and Dayan Viciedo all present some form of depth. But, the way the spring is shaking out, Gindl is putting himself at the forefront of this list.

Could he be an option if the need arises? He just might be. He may not possess the raw power that, say, Viciedo brings. But, he may actually be a more all around bat to plug into the lineup should the need arise. A quick look at his numbers at show us a career walk percentage of 13.5% and a K % of just 16.9%. And, as Michael Wray pointed out on our podcast, his swinging strike rate of 3.3% is miniscule. With a career OBP of .335, he very well could be a valuable bench option. 

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The real issue comes when transferring his bat to the big league level. When he was with the Brewers organization, his AAA numbers were quite good. His MiLB career line of .285/.360/.449 is quite impressive.  It goes right along with his performance this spring. But, when you look at his (albeit brief) ML line of .232/.335/.404 you see a bit of a different story. His ability to get on base is only slightly impacted, but his average takes a hit thanks to a BABIP of .262 in 2013 and .214 in 2014. Long story short, when he has been given the opportunity to hit at the big league level, he has been met with tougher results. It should be noted that his ML time has been a fraction of his MiLB time.

The bigger knock against Gindl is his defense. At 5’9″, 210lbs, he’s not exactly built for speed to run around the outfield. In his brief time in the majors, he’s put up a UZR/150 of -10.5 and -1 DRS. He’s not a guy who comes with a total package that will make the Blue Jays comfortable with giving him a bench spot as the team’s 4th outfielder.

However, Caleb Gindl is a player who is taking advantage of the injuries and playing time he’s reaping as a result. Yes, it is Spring Training and yes, we have to be cautious of reading too much into such a small, almost irrelevant sample size. But, if Gindl can keep up this performance, he’ll put himself on the map. He’ll imprint himself on the memories of Blue Jays brass. Should the need arise throughout the season, Gindl could be called upon to fill in as an outfield bat.

Saunders and Pillar should be good to go when the season begins. Gindl will likely be heading to AAA Buffalo. But, thanks to a strong performance in a meaningless environment, he could be getting a very meaningful call up at some point this season.

Next: Looking Ahead to AA New Hampshire Rotation