With a logjam in the middle infield, the Toronto Blue Jays are looking to diversify the role of Ryan Goins
Ryan Goins appears to be the odd man out in the Blue Jays infield now that Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis are enjoying simultaneous health. Add in Darwin Barney playing arguably the best baseball of his career, and there aren’t many opportunities for the defensively-gifted Goins to impact the team on a game-to-game basis.
To avoid having Goins catch dust on the bench, especially given the unlikelihood of him being involved as a pinch hitter, the Blue Jays are diversifying their Goins portfolio. John Gibbons told reporters prior to Saturday’s game in Baltimore that the 28-year-old will be used on more of a “super-utility” role going forward.
The “super” here will apply more to Goins (potential) ability to provide value at five-to-six spots on the diamond, not to be necessarily super at all of them like a Ben Zobrist. Along with Goins’ typical time at shortstop and second base in 2016, he’s also seen six innings in left field and three innings in right.
After a .250 average and .672 OPS from Goins in 2015, there was optimism that even a marginal step forward offensively – when paired with his elite glove – could turn him into a legitimate piece of depth value. Which Goins still is, without question, but he was unfortunately unable to take the starting second base job and run with it out of spring training.
Goins is hitting .178 over 152 at-bats this season, and at this point in his career, a plus bat doesn’t appear to be that “something else” alongside his glove. That’s completely fine, it’s the case for many players, but it does explain this slight shift in role for Goins.
If he is able to competently man the middle infield and corner outfield positions, not to mention third base where he’s surprisingly amassed just four MLB innings, it will offer the Jays some increased roster flexibility.
With Josh Thole secure in the role of backup catcher and Barney going nowhere, Goins and Darrell Ceciliani represent the bottom two spots in the positional pecking order currently. Ceciliani wasn’t exactly lighting it up in triple-A after a huge spring, so if Goins can prove he’s capable of doing his usual infield duties and being that fifth outfielder, there’s an edge for him to gain when the next decision comes (likely the return of Jose Bautista).
As the Danny Valencia and Chris Colabello experiments of 2015 showed us, however, there is a world of difference between versatility and useful versatility. A change in routine and extra time working with position coaches will certainly ease any transition for Goins, but especially when it comes to reaction time, angles, and reading the ball off the bat in the outfield, there’s an element of natural feel he’ll be battling against.
Given his excellent play at second and short, however, who’s to doubt that Goins cannot transfer that skill elsewhere on the diamond? Another challenge, of course, will be his throwing arm from the outfield, but Goins is a player that has been consistently praised for his work ethic and dedication to his craft.
The lane that Ryan Goins is in right now, as the fourth middle-infielder and potential late-game defensive replacement, does not have much of a ceiling under this exact roster construction. It remains to be seen how this slight diversification will help his standing on the 25-man roster, but by shifting into a new lane and taking on some new possibilities, Goins can only help his case.
Essentially, this a simple decision of “why not?”