Blue Jays: Top-five first basemen in franchise history

Evan Gignac
League Championship - Kansas City Royals v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Four
League Championship - Kansas City Royals v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Four / Tom Szczerbowski/GettyImages
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#3 Edwin Encarnación

Blue Jays career: .268/.355/.522, 999 games, 239 homeruns, 679 RBI, 25.2 bWAR

Blue Jays resume: 3x All-Star, four top-15 finishes in MVP voting

When you’re talking about out of nowhere success stories, Encarnación should be on your list. Acquired from the Reds in the Scott Rolen trade, he wasn't anything special in 2009 and 2010. He was even lost on waivers at one point, but eventually ended up back on the Blue Jays.

A move from third to first base in the second half of 2011 resulted in him starting to find a groove, finishing 2011 with an 111 OPS+ over 134 games. The following year in 2012, Encarnación took the league by storm. An offseason change to his swing and the starting spot at first base laid the groundwork for what would be one of the best breakout seasons in franchise history.

A slash line of .272/.368/.544 from 2012 to 2016 while splitting time between first and DH, Encarnación was one of the most dangerous sluggers of the 2010s. Despite these stats, he still found himself underappreciated. This was in large part due to his quiet nature, as you never saw many interviews or stories surrounding the Dominican-born slugger. It doesn't help his case that he also found himself in the middle of a lineup surrounded by a variety of other dangerous hitters.

Encarnación hit behind José Bautista throughout the majority of his Blue Jays tenure, typically paired next to the aforementioned Adam Lind. Later on Josh Donaldson would arrive and receive the lions share of media attention. All of these players would have impressive seasons, while Edwin would casually guarantee an .850 OPS and at least 30 home runs while looking solid at first base.

In addition to his quiet nature, Edwin had two other calling cards, hot streaks and big postseason moments. The former were often times almost too intense to believe. My personal favorite would have to be in May of 2014. Edwin’s batting average of .281 and OBP of .369 were on par for his talents, but the power numbers were god-like. Sixteen (!) homeruns in the month of May, after hitting only two the month prior, would put him in the franchise record books for most homers in a single month.

The postseason homers were also something to reminisce about. Bautista gets the credit for the biggest hit in game 5 of the 2015 ALDS, but many forget Edwin had just tied the game with a mammoth shot the inning prior off of Cole Hamels. And of course, we’ll never forget his walk-off tank off of Ubaldo Jiménez in the 2016 AL Wild Card game.

Encarnación would leave in free agency after that postseason, to the dismay of many, and sign with the Cleveland Indians. Edwin would play through the 2020 season, after stops in Seattle, New York, and Chicago. Now that all is said and done, Encarnación will go down as one of the best first basemen in franchise history, and possibly the most underrated player of the 2010s.

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