We took a look at how the Jays bullpen and outfield look, now it is time for the infield.
Edwin Encarnacion: Our MVP from last year. A pretty impressive season. .280/.384/.557 line, 42 home runs, 110 RBI, 84 walks, even 13 stolen bases. He set career highs in just about every offensive category. His slugging was over .500 every month of the season. He played 68 games at first base, 82 as DH, started 2 games in the outfield and 1 at third. Gibbons, please, do not play him in the outfield or third, unless there is some sort of emergency. In fact, not even then. Near the top of my list of things I use to judge a manager is how he uses his best players. You don't move your best players around to fill in spaces, you put your best players in their spot and move around other guys. That and 'thou shall not bunt in the early innings' should be part the manager's 10 commandments.When Farrell used Edwin in left and he almost hurt himself sliding for a popup. That should have been enough to cost Farrell his job.
Adam Lind: Adam had a pretty poor year again, hitting .255/.314/.414, with 11 home runs. But then he was ok against RHP, .276/.339/.457. I wouldn't be unhappy with him being part of a platoon at DH, playing some first. But then I'd also like DH let open for some of our guys to have some half days off. If Lind plays 100 games, mostly against RHP, leaving 60 games for other regulars to be 'rested' at the DH position, I can live with it. If he plays everyday, versus both RHP and LHP, I won't be so happy.
Emilio Bonifacio: We'll have some combination of Emilio and Maicer at second base, I doubt even Gibbons knows which will play more at the keystone position. Last year Bonifacio hit .258/.330/.316 with 30 stolen bases, 3 caught in 64 games (you have to like a 90% success rate). He missed time with a thumb injury, then a knee sprain. His numbers look a little better from 2011, .296/.360/.393 with 40 steals in 152 games. For his career, Emilio has a -6.4 UZR at second base. Emilio hit RHP (.288/.370/.356) much better than LHP (.210/.256/.247) last year, but that large split is a new thing, His career numbers are .258/.325/.332 vs. RHP and .290/.337/.370 vs. LHP.
Maicer Izturis: Izturis is the better defensive second baseman, with a 7.6 UZR for his career. Last year he hit .256/.320/.315 in 100 games, with 17 stolen bases, 2 times caught. His career numbers are .273/.337/.381. Last year he hit RHP (.265/.340/.341) much better than LHP (.231/.259.244), but, like Emilio, his career splits are far closer, .275/.338/.388 vs right, .268/.333/.361.
I don't know if it matters which one will get most of the time at second, the other will get a lot of at bats as a sub and they seem pretty even in value. Both are switch-hitters, Bonifacio is younger, just 27, with Izturis being 32. I'd figure Emilio has a bit more offensive potential, so I'd like him to get the first shot at the job, he'd look pretty good batting 9th in front of Jose Reyes. Izturis looks to be the one that would fill in at short or third when needed. Bonifacio can spell Rasmus in center on occasion.
Jose Reyes: I'm really looking forward to seeing him play. A 4 time All-Star, a lead off guy that can get on base and steal bases and someone that gets into double digits in triples most seasons. He should be a lot of fun. Last year, Jose hit .287/.347/.433 with 40 stolen bases. Course if he hits closer to the .337/.384/.493 from 2011, we'd all be happy. Defense hasn't been his strong suit, at least over the past few seasons. Last year his UZR/150 was -2.9, but with his bat, we can live with he defense.
As long as he stays healthy, he looks to be the best SS in the AL East. He is one of a handful of guys that I hope John Gibbons will give some games at DH, especially during home stands, to rest those legs on our turf.
Brett Lawrie: Oh Brett. After a 2011 where we were pining for the guys most of the year, but injuries and a reluctance by the Jays to look like they were rushing him, we didn't get to see him until August. He didn't disappoint, hitting .293/.373/.580 with 9 home runs before going down with a finger injury. We had unrealistically high hopes for Brett in 2012 and he disappointed us.
A .273/.324/.405 line at age 22 isn't all that bad but we expected more. He seemed far more impatient at the plate than he had looked the year before. And he rarely seemed to drive the ball. It seemed like half his hits were infield singles. The good news is that his defense was far better than we imagined it would be, Fangraphs has him at an 8.1 UZR/150 and he looked to be made for the exaggerated shifts the Jays were using. I wonder if Gibbons will be using the same shifts.
I'd like to think Brett will make a pretty big step forward with the bat. He won't be leading off, he doesn't have to carry the team. Just do his part.
An extra year of maturity wouldn't hurt either. And, you know, staying healthy would be good too.
David Cooper and Russ Canzler will be a short trip away at Buffalo. I wouldn't want either to get a lot of at bats but if there is an injury they could fill in. Cooper did do pretty well in 140 at bats with the Jays in 2011, hitting .300/.324/.464, so if Adam Lind is awful we could give him another look. Canzler has a bit of power, and has been willing to take a walk in the minors. Luis Jimenez has been signed as a minor league free agent as well.
The rest of the infield depth likely will come from non-roster invitees to spring training. The only other infielder on our 40-man is Ryan Goins, who played in New Hampshire last year. I suppose he could be used as a bench player, but more likely he'll be in the minors all the season. Alex has signed Jim Negrych and Eugenio Velez and given them a spring training invite. I'm sure he'll look for other minor league free agents before spring.
So the question is 'do we have the best infield in the AL East?'
The other AL East infielders, as they look at the moment:
Orioles: 1B: Chris Davis. 2B. Ryan Flaherty, Brian Roberts. SS: J.J. Hardy. 3B Manny Machado, Wilson Betemit.
Rays: 1B James Loney. 2B Ben Zobrist, Elliot Johnson. SS Yunel Escobar. 3B Evan Longoria.
Red Sox: 1B Mike Napoli?, Mauro Gomez. 2B Dustin Pedroia. SS Stephen Drew, Jose Iglesias. 3B Will Middlebrooks.
Yankees: 1B Mark Teixeira. 2B Robinson Cano. SS Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez. 3B Kevin Youkilis, Alex Rodriguez.