Toronto Blue Jays season preview: Ezequiel Carrera


With only a few players remaining, the next Blue Jay we’re previewing here at Jays Journal is Ezequiel Carrera, the journeyman outfielder who joined Toronto prior to last season.

Past Entries:  Marco Estrada   Justin Smoak    Brett Cecil   Devon Travis
Darwin Barney    R.A. Dickey   J.A. Happ   Josh Donaldson   Ryan Goins
Michael Saunders   Aaron Sanchez   Ryan Tepera   Drew Hutchison   Drew Storen
Jesse Chavez   Roberto Osuna   Josh Thole   Junior Lake   Bo Schultz  Russell Martin
Marcus Stroman   Jose Bautista

Any team looking to contend for a World Series title needs a solid bench with a few players that, need be, can come into a game for either an inning or an extended period of time and hold their ground in the field and at the plate.

These sort of players need to be guys that are able to deliver a clutch hit, steal a base, or provide stellar defensive help. Often unsung heroes, these players rarely get the credit they deserve and often face an uphill battle every day to remain on an MLB roster.

For the 2016 Toronto Blue Jays, outfield Ezequiel Carrera likely won’t  receive too much playing time, but coming of the bench he could be placed in a situation where he can change the momentum of a game. He hasn’t seen too much playing time in his career, but for a man who stole 43 bases just two years ago in AAA ball, that sparkplug potential is always there.

2015 Performance Recap

Carrera split time between the Blue Jays and Buffalo Bisons last season, ultimately logging 192 plate appearances in 92 games for the big club. In limited action he was able to hit for a slash line of .273/.321/.372, all three numbers being new career highs. However, for a player whose main skill is his speed (as mentioned, he stole 43 bases in the minor leagues two seasons ago), two stolen bases is not all that impressive. Carrera was also a below average fielder. He always has been, so this comes as no surprise, but given his speed one would think he would be a better defender.

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The second game of the Jays’ September 12th double-header against the Yankees (also known as the return of Marcus Stroman) may have been Carrera’s best game of the season. He was the catalyst in a six run second inning, doubling to left with one out and scoring the first run of the inning one batter later on a Ryan Goins single.

Carrera notched another single in the 7th, scoring yet again en route to a 10-7 victory. This win added another game to the Jays division lead. As we all know, they didn’t look back, finishing six games ahead of their rivals from New York at the end of the season.

2016 Steamer Projections

It’s always tough to judge the upcoming production for a player who will be spending much of his time on the bench or in AAA, as there may be points in the season where at-bats are hard to come by.

He likely won’t be getting as much playing time on what figures to be a deeper Blue Jays team, but Steamer still says his stolen base total will climb to seven. It also says that Carrera’s batting average will regress down to .254.  This would fit much more in line with his career average of .259. While Steamer is generally conservative on its predictions, it appears as if Carrera’s 2015 slash line will prove to be an albatross, and it’s unlikely he will be able to touch those numbers again.

What Could Go Wrong?

If Carrera sees more than 250 plate appearances this season, then something will have gone really wrong. He isn’t a guy that you want in the lineup more than as a pinch runner, and the only reason he should start is if a regular is in need of a day off. Outside of a significant amount of playing time, the worst thing that could happen to Carrera is for his speed to suddenly evaporate. Weak hitting, poor defensive outfielders aren’t all that hard to find. Without his speed, Carrera turns into a player who’s easily replaceable and even more of a fringe MLBer than he already is.

Neither of these scenarios are likely to happen, though. In the event of an injury, the Jays have enough organizational depth to avoid playing Carrera regularly. Carrera is also only 28, so he isn’t yet at the age where one’s speed starts to deteriorate.

Next: Interview: Maese prepared to break through for Jays in 2016

What Could Go Right?

Remember Dave Roberts? The former outfielder-turned-manager may have saved the 2004 Boston Red Sox season, and given the opportunity, Carrera could play a similar role for Toronto. Down three games to zero in the ALCS against the New York Yankees, Roberts was put in the game as a pinch runner in the bottom of the ninth. He promptly stole second base, kick starting a rally which lead to a Red Sox win. The team went on to win their next eight games and capped it all off with a World Series title.

It isn’t hard to picture Carrera making a similar play. He has the type of speed that can change the complexion of a ballgame, and in postseason baseball, games are often won or lost on a key stolen base or a good piece of base running. Imagine, bottom of the ninth in game seven of the World Series, Carrera is put in the game on third base to pinch run. Bautista hits a shallow fly ball, Carrera uses his speed to tag up and score, and the Blue Jays win… Dare to dream.

The Bottom Line

Carrera will be nothing more than an average backup for Toronto this season. Fortunately for the Jays, it’s a role that he can excel in, and his speed gives him a defining characteristic that makes it worthwhile for the team to keep him around. Until the Jays find a better bench bat, Carrera will likely see action every so often, and given his role he won’t lose any games for the team. However, if used correctly, Carrera could prove to be the difference in a number of contests, or even provide a defining play for the 2016 season.