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You're a Stranger Now Unto Me: The Dangling Conversation, Part X - Ongoing Offseason Jays Conversation

Hey, banterers. Yesterday's dangling conversation focused on Travis Snider. Today we will look at another young Jay hitter, Adam Lind. 

Rincewind:  So is Adam Lind ready to step up and be a good everyday player?

Hugo:  That is a very interesting question. After a disappointing 2007 season, Lind was somewhat infamously brought up and then sent back down to the minors after just 20 plate appearances. When Lind was recalled, he soon caught fire for the Jays, hitting .379/.396/.644 in July. However, pitchers then adjusted to Lind and he OPS’ed only a pedestrian .739 in August and then a terrible .606 in September. So, was Lind an up-and-coming hitter who slumped late in the season but will be fine this year, or did he enjoy a flukey July and come back to earth when pitchers took advantage of his lack of plate discipline?

Well, Lind’s BABIP in those last two months remained high (though not as high as his unsustainable .405 mark in July), so one can’t simply chalk his poor finish up to bad luck. Lind really needs to recognize pitches better. He swung at 34% of out-of-strike-zone pitches and walked in less than 5% of his plate appearances. In contrast, Lyle Overbay, who some fans advocate replacing with Lind, swung at 19% of pitches outside the zone and walked in twelve percent of his plate appearances. Vernon Wells and Alex Rios, who no one accuses of being overly patient, swung at 27.7 and 27.2% of out-of-zone pitches, respectively.

I don’t intend to be overly pessimistic about Lind, who, by the way, James and Marcel don’t agree on – James expects Lind to be the best Jays hitter with an .843 OPS (.300/.349/.494 and 23 HRs) while Marcel thinks he will be more or less exactly the same as he was this season (.273/.319/.436 and just 12 dingers).  Chone is in between with a .275/.328/.447 line and 16 HR, representing a very modest improvement over this season.  Lind has been a good hitter throughout his minor league career (.318/.379/.509), who I think pitchers just adjusted to. Now it’s up to Lind to make the next adjustment, as all young hitters have to if they want to succeed.  This season will be a big one for him.  After being recalled following the 20-plate appearance stint, Lind batted .296/.328/.463/.792.  I think it's reasonable to think he will be right there this season, with what I am hoping is a modest power increase as he progresses towards his prime. 

By the way, something to keep an eye on - after a surprisingly excellent 2007 in the field, Lind regressed last season to a -9.2/150 UZR. Cito thinks Lind is more likely to be used at DH this season, and that was not a role he did well in last season. He OPSed only .627 last season as the DH, though in a small sample size of 66 plate appearances as compared to .781 as a leftfielder. He walked just once as the DH, suggesting either nothing (small sample size) or perhaps that he was overly jumpy as a hitter when used in that role, which makes sense in a way - coming off the bench to hit a few times a day can't be an easy adjustment for a young player used to playing both sides of the ball and a little overeagerness makes sense.  If he is struggling at DH it might be a good idea to see what he can do in the field, though Cito has used young hitters at DH before with some success – he has had Olreud, Fielder, McGriff, and Delgado in that role as hitting coach or manager. He may be thinking that since Lind isn’t a great defensive player, the best thing for him to do right now is focus on his hitting full-time.

Rincewind:  Short answer….he damn well better be. Let’s face it; if he flames out, we are screwed big time. Right now I don’t know what plan b is? I guess Snyder with who knows as DH. I think he’ll do well, while I think .300 might be a bit hopeful, but I’d be expecting 20+ homers. I am hoping that he’ll be able to relax and play like he knows he belongs. And I guess I’m expecting some Cito magic with his bat.

I’d like him to play in the field some because I think he is too young to give up on the glove, but I would think by the end of this season we ought to know if he is going to be a left fielder or first baseman or DH. I keep thinking he should be ok in left, but you would think he has played it enough by now that he would be better. He never seems to take a straight line to a ball.

I still think he has power potential, even if it dried up at the end of the year but I’m sure no matter what he will be better than Stewart and all were last year. The odd walk wouldn’t hurt though..

Hugo:  It is true - Lind is a big part of the Jays' offense this season.  I say that because as a mid-20s player who was competent last season and with a relatively high ceiling, Lind has a decent chance to improve substantially.   We know we are going to need an improved offense, and while we can hope for better production from the positions manned by veterans because of more or healthier playing time or better distribution of playing time, etc., the biggest improvements are likely to come from our younger hitters. 

Here are our past installments:

Part 1: Good and Bad of 2008
Part 2: Jays Priorities for the Offseason
Part 3: Should the Jays Rebuild?
Part 4: Who Should Lead Off For the Jays?
Part 5: How Should the Jays Fill Out Their Rotation
Part 6: Can the Jays Complete with Barajas catching and Scutaro at Short?
Part 7: Should the Jays Trade From Their Bullpen?
Part 8: What Should Be Done About the DH Spot?
Part 9: What Should Snider's Role Be?