Blue Jays Ryan Goins: More than meets the eye
Ryan Goins’ role as a player with the Blue Jays is evolving as he does, and even after Devon Travis’ return, his infield ability should keep him prominent
Second base has historically been a defensive position in the MLB, often foregoing offence in place of sublime glove work.
Ryan Goins will surely bring the latter element to the table this upcoming season, but as his bat continues to grow, so will his role for the 2016 Blue Jays.
Goins has always been seen as a glove-first player, and while that hasn’t changed dramatically, he did show he was at least capable of holding his own at the plate over extended action this past season. While achieving a career high with 428 plate appearances, he managed to hit for 5 home runs (the majority of which were surprising moonshots) to go with a .250 average and 45 RBI’s. The left-handed hitter also managed a 9.1% walk rate, up from his career average of 6.2%, which helped him to a comfortable on-base percentage of .318.
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This all added up to a wRC+ of 84, and while that is below league average by 16%, it is definitely more than acceptable for a player of his position with the past offensive struggles of Goins.
While these stats may stand out to fans (and his defence is often taken for granted), it is worth looking a bit deeper into his defensive numbers to truly appreciate him for the player he is.
When many people think of Goins, they think of a second basemen (which is fine seeing as he had 4 DRS in 537 innings at the position). But in my eyes, his defensive versatility is often overlooked. He did come up through the Jays system as a shortstop, and in fact, some of his defensive metrics were even better there than at second. He ended the 2015 season with more DRS in fewer innings played at shortstop than at second base (8 DRS at SS in 445.1 innings).
Goins’ UZR/150 of 7.8 at shortstop also topped his 3.0 from second in 2015, largely due to a difference in his RngR between the two positions (0.5 at 2B, 2.0 at SS). This showed as Goins made 36 Out Of Zone plays at shortstop compared to 27 in a longer sample at second base.
It may wind up that no matter how well Goins plays, he will ultimately lose his hold on second to Devon Travis upon his expected mid-season return.
This could be where his defensive versatility may help him keep up his playing time. With both of their middle infielders, Travis and Tulowitzki, sporting injury concerns of their own, he will be relied on to spell the both of them for rest days. Even if Travis re-takes the lead job, Goins would be much more than the backup second baseman.
Beyond the middle infield there are also concerns with injuries in the outfield (Saunders and Bautista), which could help him see career highs in outfield appearances. Goins did see 17.0 innings in left field and 3.0 in right field this past season.
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What Goins can do with the glove is already known. But if he can continue his modest growth with the bat from last season, chipping in with the odd clutch hit (like his walk-off home run on September 1st), or going off for a 5 hit night even once a season (like he did on September 30th), then he will afford the Jays the luxury of giving Travis the needed time to return to the form he is capable of (in my eyes a ~.300 hitter with 15-20 homers).
It is far too early to speculate how this situation might shake out given the variables at play, of course. We could see Travis return and dominate, or even the two platooning once Travis returns. And it’s even possible (heaven forbid) Travis isn’t able to return as planned, or struggles mightily upon his return.
But with Goins developing into quite a solid second basemen, while also being very proficient at other positions, the Blue Jays at least have options around the diamond. And in Major League Baseball, this is not a luxury all teams have.