With Steve Pearce hitting the 10 day DL with a right calf strain, the Blue Jays will likely turn to Ezequiel Carrera to start full time in left field, giving him the chance to further claim the job as his.
The Blue Jays have had a lot of unexpected performances from their roster this season, holding down a much better record with half of their stars on the DL than when they were fully equipped. Baseball is funny that way sometimes.
One of the guys who has performed well this season is Ezequiel Carrera, who currently sits with a slash line of .314/.340/.441 with 3 home runs and 11 RBI over 102 at bats. He’s been quietly putting together a nice season, while having a bit of a job share in left field with Steve Pearce, as Justin Smoak has grabbed ahold of the first base job in the early going.
Throughout the offseason and even into the early part of the calendar, many baseball pundits and Blue Jays fans were calling for the club to have Pearce as the full-time first baseman, to cut Justin Smoak outright (seemed sensible at the time), and make an upgrade in left field. Thankfully, the front office ignored the pleas, which is paying off greatly thus far. Smoak has flourished, Pearce has struggled, and “Zeke”, the guy who many said couldn’t be a starter in the MLB, is quietly leading the team in batting average.
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The concern with Carrera leading into the regular season was his imperfect fit as a platoon option in the outfield. As a left-handed batter in a platoon he would be typically tasked with starting against right-handed pitching. The problem? Last season Carrera hit .218/.307/.320 in 232 plate apperances against righties. Against same-sided pitched, he put up a line of .329/.372/.452 over 78 plate appearances, a much smaller sample size, but obviously much better results.
With that in mind, Carrera’s fit on the roster seemed far from perfect, and there were legitimate questions about whether or not he would even make the team at one point in the offseason. The 29 year old outfielder has always had a fan in John Gibbons though, so he was going to get a shot at the job one way or another, and so far he’s reversed the negative trends against right-handed pitched. Check out his early splits from 2017:
Things are looking much better against right-handers, which is obviously where he’s received the bulk of his starts so far, and with Pearce’s ability to hit left-handers effectively it makes for a solid platoon.
Ignoring the 1-10 above, Carrera has proven he can hit lefties as well, as evidenced by his stats last year. With that in mind, Pearce’s DL stint could be the window of opportunity that Carrera needs to lock down the starting gig for good. We don’t know yet how long Pearce will be out, but calf issues can be nagging (see: Josh Donaldson), so it could be an extended audition for the Venezuelan, and a chance to show he deserves to be a full-time starter.
Of course, Carrera will have to make some smarter plays in the outfield as well, but overall he’s once again proving that he deserves the playing time bestowed on him by John Gibbons. If he can hit southpaws the way he did last year, Pearce may find himself on the bench even more when he returns from the DL.