With it looking like Joe Panik will make the Blue Jays’ roster, Brandon Drury really needed to earn his job this spring. So far he hasn’t done himself any favours.
The Blue Jays have been facing a bit of a roster crunch since even before the Grapefruit League schedule got underway, mostly in terms of what to do with the 40-man roster.
For that reason, guys like Derek Fisher and Anthony Alford have been talked about a lot so far this spring, especially because they’re out of minor league options and will have to make the team out of spring training in order to remain protected. It’s a complicating factor that’s been expected to give them a leg up on other outfielders competing for a bench job, and it’s possible the battle for a spot on the 26-man roster could extend further. And if it does, one of the players that could be effected is Brandon Drury.
I feel like it’s been well known that Drury needs to have a good spring in order to earn his place on the Blue Jays’ roster this year, and we’ve certainly talked about it here at Jays Journal. Even with the extra spot on the MLB roster, Drury was facing other factors working against him like the Blue Jays’ need for a true back-up shortstop, and the desire to protect Fisher, Alford, and more from having to be designated for assignment.
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There’s also the fact that Joe Panik has emerged as the pretty clear frontrunner for the back-up infielder job in Toronto this season. The former San Francisco Giant has impressed on defence, shown that he’s capable at handling shortstop, and has produced a slash line of .368/.458/.789, including two home runs, five RBI, a triple, and four walks over just 19 at-bats. It’s an extremely small sample size, but he’s been playing well and will likely earn the job.
Unfortunately for Drury, and possibly others like Alford or even Fisher, Panik signed a MiLB contract and will need to be added to the 40-man roster to play in the big leagues. That means someone will have to come off, and Drury could realistically become a candidate to lose his spot. And what makes matters worse is that the 27-year-old has been ice-cold so far this spring, slashing just .143/.217/.190 over 21 at-bats. Again, it’s a small sample size and spring stats aren’t usually that important, but this is a different situation.
Even with a four-man bench, the Blue Jays will need a back-up catcher (Reese McGuire), an infielder (likely Panik), and an outfielder (Fisher?), before deciding on that last spot. It could still end up going to Drury, and it helps his case that Alford has badly struggled during Grapefruit League play as well, as he’s just just .167/.167/.250 over 24 at-bats, including 14 strikeouts. It may come down to a decision between those two, or the Blue Jays could also go another route, such as Santiago Espinal, who has been playing very well this spring and can play several different positions.
Add it all up and Drury may really need to step up his performance over the next week or two or his roster spot could really be in trouble. That could mean the Blue Jays put him on the trade block, or use his last minor league option to send him to Triple-A, but that would also mean his spot on the 40-man roster would likely go to Panik.
We’ll see how the veteran infielder will respond before Opening Day rolls around on April 26th, but unfortunately, so far he hasn’t been doing himself any favours.