Blue Jays 2015 Year End Awards: Most Improved Player

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Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Runner-Up Most Improved: Ryan Goins

Last season, Ryan Goins was supposed to be the answer at second base for the Toronto Blue Jays. Instead he just raised further questions. The bat that showed signs of promise in 2013 turned into a toothpick in the following April. He didn’t even last the month, sent down after the game on April 26th with a .150 batter average. It was so bad, Munenori Kawasaki was an OFFENSIVE upgrade when he took the role over in June following the failed Brett Lawrie experiment. Goins was back up with the club for a mid-summer stint and again with the September call-ups but the results were not good. Goins finished with a .188/.209/.271 slash line, and was just above replacement level with his 0.1 WAR.

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With the acquisition of Devon Travis in the offseason, Goins was expected to shift into Steve Tolleson’s utility role, becoming a glove that could be deployed where necessary. Injuries would prevent that plan from taking full shape though. Jose Reyes‘ cracked rib allowed Goins to play everyday at his natural shortstop position, and perhaps with the pressure off, his bat came back to life…relatively speaking. He hit .240 during his stint at short, and when shoulder issues popped up with Travis, Goins slid over with ease, continuing to provide above-average defense. Travis’ return sent him back to the bench, but when it became clear the shoulder was going to be too much, Goins took the opportunity and ran with it. His average rose 30 points in the final two months of the season and he finished with respectable averages of .250/.318/.354 with five home runs.

Goins still has some work to do as a hitter. His inability to get a bunt down in Game 6 against Kansas City was evidence of that. But his glove is phenomenal, the main reason his WAR rose to 1.5 in 2015. Is he good enough to justify trading Troy Tulowitzki and installing him as the everyday shortstop? Absolutely not. He has earned the right to compete with Travis for the everyday starting position at second base in 2016 though. Given both Travis and Tulowitzki’s history with injuries, even if he starts the season on the bench, he will likely have his chance to build on 2015’s success.

Next: Runner-Up: A Spare Arm Boomerangs to Fortify the Bullpen