Steve Pearce is a 33-year-old (34 in April) right-handed hitter, who we signed to a 2-year, $12.5 million contract, back in December.
Pearce is a ‘late bloomer’. He has 10 seasons in the majors. Steve had his first season of over 10 home runs in 2014, at the age of 31. That was also his first (and only) season where he played more than 100 games. His career bWAR is 8.5, but in his 4 seasons since turning 30, he’s totaled an 8.4 WAR.
There is a question. Do ‘late bloomers’ age well? The Jays own him for his age 34 and 35 seasons. Should we expect that he continues to play as well as he has for the last few seasons?
He’s had injury problems, and that might suggest that he won’t age particularly well. It seems like it is taking him a long time to get over last year’s arm injury and surgery. I’m thinking his days at second base are over. I’m hoping he’ll be able to play outfield at some point, but I think he’d be better off at first base (but then we have a half dozen guys that would be better off playing first base). Maybe he could play second for a couple of innings at the end of a game, sort of like Russell Martin. I could be wrong, he played 119 innings at second for the Rays last year. FanGraphs had him at a -0.2 UZR/150, so he was pretty much average there last year.
Personally, I’d give him first base, and release Smoak, and hope Rowdy Tellez can take over the spot sometime late in this season or next year. Hopefully, by then Pearce’s arm will be 100% again and he can play the outfield.
He’s only played over 100 games, in a season, once and that was just 102 games. And his career high for plate appearances is 383. I’d like him to set new high marks in both this year, maybe mostly because that would mean Smoak wouldn’t get all that much playing time.
Of course, I’d also like him to set a new high in home runs. He hit 21 in 2014. Getting 25 or so would go a long way towards replacing the power lost from the absence of Edwin Encarnacion.
Then, I’d like every Jay to set new career highs in a lot of things.
PECOTA predicts Pearce to hit .280/.347/.463 with 14 home runs in 349 PA. His ZiPS prediction is pretty close, .270/.349/.502 with 14 home runs in 292 PA. I’d be pretty happy if he finishes with numbers in that range.
We would likely be better off to have Pearce as a right-handed bat off the bench, but I don’t think that’s likely or best this year, with our roster. Maybe next year, if Tellez is ready to play first and if Pompey and/or Alford are ready to play in the majors, Pearce can fall back into a more part time role, facing mostly left-handed pitching
Pearce is having a nice spring, with the bat. He’s hitting .292/.357/.375, with 2 doubles, 3 walks and 4 strikeouts. He hasn’t played in the field yet. He was to play first today, but there was a late change to DH, so I’m guessing his arm isn’t 100% yet.
I’m looking forward to getting to watch Pearce play. He’s a guy I’ve liked for few years now. It should be interesting having him with the Blue Jays.