Since it is the halfway point of the season, I figured we could do a couple of polls, this one on the most pleasant surprise for the Blue Jays in the first half and, tomorrow, biggest disappointment. Let's stick to the happy side for today, just because I want to be positive for one day. I'll go back to being pessimistic tomorrow.
The candidates, in no particular order:
Chris Colabello: If you would have told me, before the start of the season, that Chris Colabello would have over 200 at bats by the midway point of the season, I have likely quit the site, figuring I wouldn't want to have to watch that. At the moment, Colabello is hitting .355/.374/.505 with 7 home runs and 54 strike outs. Yeah, it is BABIP driven and, I'm sure, his .436 BABIP will drop, but still....He's shown more power than I would have expected. Even with his BABIP at a more normal .313 over the past 2 weeks, he still has a .804 OPS (Baseball Reference cuts the 2 week period off at June 23rd, if you go back to the 22nd it would be .861). That's pretty good for someone 'slumping'. Yeah, it would be so much better if he had a defensive position. It isn't his fault they have him playing LF. And I'm not really a fan of him at first base either and I'd like it if he would take a walk, but for someone that was a call up by a desperate team, he's been amazing. If he continued playing every day, his numbers would drop but I could see him finishing with a .310/.335/460 type line. As is, I like him maybe platooning some and as bat off the bench.
Devon Travis: Coming into camp, I didn't think he would make the team, and then he's AL Rookie of the Month for April, with a .325/.393/.625 line. And, now that he's back from the DL, he's back to hitting, putting up a .406/.412/.500 line since his return. The little injuries he's picked up does worry me. He seems to be a ball magnet. He took a pitch in the ribs in April that cost him a couple of games, then he took a bad hop off his collar bone that cost him more than a month. He's been run over at second, turning the double play, too many times. It is tough to be consistent in the majors, and tougher when you have little aches and pains.
Kevin Pillar: Kevin has had a roller coaster of a season. He started the year in left field, was hitting kind of okish, but what made him stand out was his glove. He'd make at least one catch a game that seemed impossible. He got moved over to CF, then he stopped hitting altogether. For May he hit .181/.237/.257, with 5 extra base hits for the month. Just when I was thinking that even with his glove, he wasn't hitting enough to stay in the majors, the calendar turned to June and he started to hit. His .365/.380/.531 June got him the Blue Jays Player of the Month award. His first 5 games in July have been even better, .455/.455/.682. I wish he would learn to take a walk, but that's kind of a minor concern at the moment.
Roberto Osuna: Where would we be without him? He's been, pretty much, the only reliable arm in the pen. Gibby has been using him for 4, 5 and 6 out saves and who can blame him. I wouldn't trust anyone else either. He's really only had a couple of bad appearances all season (back-to-back on May 27 and 31st). He has a 2.13 ERA in 38 innings, 10 walks and 43 strikeouts over 35 games. I'd like to see him end up about 75-80 innings so I think things are going well. Course, I'd like to see relievers be used like they were in the old days, going 2 or 3 (or more) innings, if needed. I'd also like the Jays not to close the door on the idea that he could start.
Danny Valencia: Valencia hit .240/.273/.364 last year. This year he's sitting at .316/.347/.547 with 5 home runs. And he's also our best defensive left fielder (damning with incredibly faint praise). He's had 60 PA against lefty pitchers and 65 against right-handers. And he has a .590 slugging average against RHP (small sample and all). Half the time I think I'd like him to play left everyday.
Marco Estrada: Marco makes my list mostly on the strength of 2 near no hitters. He's had a couple of poor starts, but which of our starters haven't? And I'd like him to work deeper into games, but, in his last 7 starts, the Jays are 6-1 and he has wins in 5 of those starts. Marco has a 4.00 ERA in his 12 starts. I thought he might be handy in the bullpen but I didn't think I'd like him much as a starter, especially in Rogers Centre, but he's been quite good.
I guess you could add Josh Donaldson to the list....he's been amazing, but that's not really a surprise. Justin Smoak has 8 home runs in 121 at bats....but he hasn't played enough to get on the list. I've enjoyed Russell Martin a ton, but he's not a surprise. Mark Buehrle? Sort of doing what he's always done, but at 36, he's got a good shot at making it to 200 innings yet again, and I figured this would be the year he'd come up short. I thought Aaron Sanchez was improving start after start, and if he hadn't gotten hurt and continued to improve, he might have made the list.