Blue Jays: Who Follows José Bautista onto the Level of Excellence?
Recently the Toronto Blue Jays announced that José Bautista’s name would be added to the Level of Excellence this upcoming season on August 12, 2023. He is to become the first name since Roy Halladay was honored in 2018 and the first position player since Carlos Delgado in 2013.
Currently there are 10 names recognized on the fifth level of Rogers Centre, only six of them being players. Even before Bautista’s name is lifted, there are discussions about who could be the next person and does another player deserve to be go on the Level of Excellence? Here are three more names that are deserving.
The Blue Jays acquired Edwin Encarnación at the 2009 trade deadline as part of a package for Scott Rolen and he had a bit of interesting start to his Blue Jays tenure. Because he had such a strong time at first base, many forget he started his time with the Blue Jays as a third baseman but he had a lot of struggles on the defensive side of the game. After his acquisition and all throughout the 2010 season, Encarnación started 137 games at the hot corner and made 25 errors which earned him the mocking nickname “E5”.
The 2011 season was the first season with John Farrell as manager of the Blue Jays and he would decide to slide Encarnación over to first base occasionally and utilize him as one of the primary designated hitters. He would start 30 more games at third base that season, however Farrell would make the power hitter a permanent DH and first baseman going forward after that season.
The change would be life altering for Encarnación as he would become a three-time All-Star and averaged 39 home runs, 110 RBI and a slash line of .272/.368/.544 with an OPS of .912 for five seasons between 2012-2016. He would be just as dominant in the postseason for the Blue Jays, as he played in 20 playoff games collecting four home runs, 14 RBI while batting .280.
Many talk about José Bautista’s bat flip in the seventh inning of the 2015 ALDS, but the following season Encarnación hit a home run that was just as important but does not get enough credit as one of the bigger home runs in franchise history. During the AL Wild Card Game, with the contest tied 2-2 in the eleventh inning, Encarnación took the first pitch he saw from Ubaldo Jiménez over the wall for a walk-off three run home run to send the team to the American League Divisional Series
Encarnación played eight seasons in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform and sits 12th all-time in games played, while trailing just Delgado and Bautista in home runs (239).