FanPost

The Looming Centerfield Question

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via i.cbc.ca

On Wednesday night, Anthony Gose continued to defy the laws of bunting in the Blue Jays' walk-off win over the Rays. It was during this same game that Gose made a highlight-reel catch in centerfield which saved a run and gave the Jays a chance to win. Plays like these have not been uncommon for the 23-year old this season so far. As a result, some are starting to wonder if Gose has finally "arrived" at the major league level. With Colby Rasmus' status as an impending free agent, Gose finding his stride would certainly be a welcome revelation for the team going forward.

While a discussion about the future of the Jays CF position is inevitable, it is premature at this point in the season for two reasons. First, the numbers Gose has put up in 2014 are still within small-sample-size territory. Second, Colby Rasmus has had a rough start to the season, and as his .266 BABIP shows, his numbers are bound to improve.

However, just to get a feel for what we have now and what we can reasonably expect, here is a side-by-side comparison of Gose and Rasmus.

Colby Rasmus PA BB% K% BABIP AVG OBP SLG wRC+ UZR WAR
2012 625 7.5% 23.8% .259 .223 .289 .400 83 0.4 1.1
2013 458 8.1% 29.5% .356 .276 .338 .501 130 11.2 4.8
2014 143 4.9% 32.9% .266 .222 .266 .489 104 -6.7 -0.1
Anthony Gose PA BB% K% BABIP AVG OBP SLG wRC+ UZR WAR
2012 189 9.0% 31.2% .340 .223 .303 .319 71 5.5 0.5
2013 153 3.3% 24.2% .333 .259 .283 .408 85 -4.6 -0.3
2014 52 13.5% 19.2% .406 .310 .420 .381 132 2.6 0.9

The first thing you notice here is how both players have a nagging strikeout problem. Over his career, Colby has shown he is at his best when he is swinging hard and often. You might recall that in his 2010 Cardinals season, he hit for a 130 wRC+ while striking out 27.7% of the time. While he managed to pull out the same results in 2013 with the Jays, his approach has not done his numbers any favours outside of 2010 and 2013. It is also worth noting that his wRC+ has mostly been carried by a high SLG% over the last two seasons. The disparity between his slugging numbers and his OBP is concerning.

As for Anthony Gose, his K% has been trending in a more proper direction. He's striking out less and drawing significantly more walks than he has in years past. I was also surprised to notice that his OBP exceeds Rasmus' two seasons to one. However, that consistently high BABIP suggests his offensive totals should be lower than they are now. This year, Gose has demonstrated an ability to make even weak contact (such as ridiculously well-executed bunts) go for hits. This would explain that high BABIP to a certain degree, but even if so, I would discourage banking on that kind of approach moving forward. Make no mistake, Gose's Puig-like BABIP promises that his offensive numbers will regress hard, but hopefully that wRC+ can stay above water.

On defence, both players have demonstrated brilliance with the glove. Rasmus had an amazing season on the field in 2013, while Gose has been good to great both in 2012 and this season. I would give the edge to Gose in this contest, although statements like this might be pushing it a little:

Conclusion

The Blue Jays will have to make a decision at the end of this season regarding their starting centerfielder for 2015. Do they re-sign the one with tons of power but problems with strikeouts and getting on base? Or do they choose the 23-year old with upside who, despite his obvious over-achievement in 2014 so far, does show signs of actual development in his game? What I forsee ultimately happening is the Jays going with Gose over Rasmus for financial reasons over talent reasons. However, if Gose can continue to get on base at the expense of strikeouts and save runs with the glove, the investment will be a winner.

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