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Blue Jays Birthdays: Donaldson, Wells, Johnson, Drabek

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Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Toronto Blue Jays

There is a bunch of Blue Jays birthdays today:

Josh Donaldson turns 34 today.

I don’t think I need to tell you anything about Josh. In 4 season he hit .281/.383/.548 with 116 home runs. He’s 14th on our all-time list for home runs.

Josh had a very good season for the Braves this year, hitting .259/.379/.521 with 37 home runs. He had a rough time in the NLDS (maybe he hated the chop as much as I do), but

Happy Birthday Josh, I hope it is a good one.

Vernon Wells turns 41 today.

For some reason I figured he would be older. Vernon’s father, Vernon Wells Sr. was a football player, a receiver, who played in the CFL with the Calgary Stampeders and the Ottawa Rough Riders. Our Vernon was drafted by the Jays in the first round of the 1997 draft, 5th pick overall out of high school in Arlington, Texas. JD Drew and Troy Glaus were picked before him.

He rose quickly through the minors; in 1999 played in four levels, starting the season in A-Ball and finishing in the Majors, getting called up to the Jays at the end of August. He got 88 at bats. In 2000 he was a September call-up and again in 2001 he spent most of the season in Triple-A with a couple of call-ups. He was considered the Jays top prospect and took part in the MLB Futures game a couple of times.

2002 was Vernon’s first full season with the Jays, he played 159 games, mostly in center but a handful in right. He had a pretty good season, batting .275 with 23 homers and 100 RBI. He was the youngest Jay to drive in 100 runs at 23. I’m hoping Vlad is going to beat that.

In 2003 Wells had his best season. He played in 161 games, hit .317/.359/.550, and led the league with 215 hits, 49 doubles and 373 total bases. He was in 3rd runs scored with 118 and RBI with 117. The 215 hits set a Jays team record. He made the All-Star team, won the Silver Slugger award and was 8th in MVP voting (Jay Carlos Delgado was 2nd to Alex Rodriguez that year, another Jay outfielder Shannon Stewart came in 4th but was traded in mid-season). He also had a 20 game hitting streak and became only the 3rd center fielder in major league history to drive in 100 runs his first 2 full seasons in the majors and as the other were Joe DiMaggio and Al Simmons he’s in pretty good company. Yeah it was a heck of a season.

Vernon’s numbers dropped off some in 2004, he hit .272/.337/.472 with 23 homers and 67 RBI. He missed a month with a strained calf muscle, so only got into 134 games. He did win his first Gold Glove that year. 2005 was a similar season with the bat, hitting .269/.320/.463 with 28 home runs and 97 RBI. He got in a full season that year playing 156 games. Not a bad season, 28 homers is nothing to sneeze at and he won his second Gold Glove, he didn’t make an error in the field all season.

Wells had another terrific season in 2006, he hit .303/.357/.542 with 32 homers and 106 RBI and 40 doubles. He was 9th in the AL in hits (185) and 5th in total bases (331). He won his 3rd Gold Glove, got into his second All-Star game and got a couple of MVP votes. He became just the 3rd Jay to have 20+ homers in 5 consecutive seasons. 8 of his 32 homers came against the Red Sox. He also had a career high 17 stolen bases.

After the season Vernon cashed in on his good year big time, signing a 7 year $126 million contract. Yeah, he wasn’t a good contract.

2007 was a terrible season for Wells; he hit just .245/.304/.402 and had less than 20 home runs for the first time in a full season with 16. A shoulder problem that he had surgery for in September helped along the poor season.

Vernon had another injury filled season in 2008, he missed time with a fractured wrist and later with a hamstring sprain. He still led the Jays in homers with 20 and RBI with 78 even though he only played 108 games. When he played he hit pretty well, 300/.343/.496.

2009 was another down year and then he had a bounce back 2010 season. In 2010 he hit .273/.331/.515 with 31 home runs and 17 steals (tying his career high).

Amazingly, after the 2010 season, Alex Anthopoulos was able to trade trade the untradable contract. The Angels were willing to take him off our hands. We received Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli (who was quickly flipped for Frank Francisco) in return (and we didn’t send much money along with Vernon).

The Angels didn’t get the best out of Wells (.222/.258/.409 with 36 home runs over 2 seasons). After the 2012 season they traded him to the Yankees, where he hit .233/.282/.349 over 130 games and that was the end of his career.

Vernon was one of those all out all the time type players. He’s one of the few guys I’ve seen who always ran hard down the line, always went full speed all the time. I admired him for that, but maybe he would have been better off to choose his moments. He had a far number of leg problems in his career.

Vernon is number 4 on out all time home run list and 5th on our list for bWAR.

Happy Birthday Vernon. I hope it is a good one.

Reed Johnson turns 43 today.

Reed was drafted by the Jays in the 17th round of the 1999 amateur draft out of Cal State Fullerton where he was named an Academic All-American and played baseball and soccer. When you are drafted in the 17th round you have to work harder to make it to the majors and Reed definitely worked as hard as any major leaguer. His high socks, great defense, hustle and willingness to take one for the team made him a fan favorite in Toronto.

Reed made the Jays coming out of spring training in 2003 and started the season as part of a platoon in RF with Frank Catalanotto. On July 16th Shannon Stewart was traded to the Minnesota Twins for Bobby Kielty and the platoon was moved to LF with Kielty playing RF. That first season Reed hit .294/.353/.427 scoring 79 runs and driving in 52. He hit 10 home runs, only walked 20 times but his on base percentage was helped by being hit by pitch 20 times, second in the league in that category. Reed made turning into a pitch an art form. Twice as a Jay he has tied the major league record by being hit by pitch 3 times in a game. He also had a 20 game hit streak that season. He was named AL Rookie of the Month for September.

In 2004 Reed continued in the LF platoon with Cat and filled in at CF and RF when needed. In 141 games he hit in every spot in the order during the season. He didn’t have as good a season offensively batting .270/.320/.380, scoring 68 runs, driving in 61 with 10 home runs.

In 2005 Johnson was still in the platoon, he played a little less, coming into more games as a defensive replacement, but when he started it was more often at the top of the order, batting mostly in the 1 or 2 hole. He hit .269/.332/.412 with 8 home runs, 55 runs, 58 RBI and was hit by pitch 16 times.

Johnson had his career season, with the Jays, in 2006. He was everything you could want in a leadoff man hitting .319/.390/.479 scoring 86 runs and driving in 49 with 12 homers. He also led the AL with being hit by pitch 21 times. After starting the season in his usual platoon he became a full timer in July.

Early in the 2007 season he hurt his back and had surgery on a herniated disk. He came back to the team in early July, but clearly wasn’t 100%. He finished with his worse stats for a season hitting only .236/.305/.320 with career lows of 31 runs, 14 RBI and 2 home runs.

In the off-season before the 2008 season, the Jays signed David Eckstein, a similar type of player as Reed, to play shortstop and lead off. With Matt Stairs expected to play in LF, Reed looked to be back in a platoon role. Then inexplicably, at least to me, the Jays signed Shannon Stewart and in spring training, released Johnson. I still have no idea why you would release Johnson, who was a year removed from a career season to play Shannon Stewart who was several years removed from his last decent season. Add into the equation that Johnson could play all 3 outfield spots very well, while Stewart could only LF and very poorly at that.

Stewart, of course, played awful for the Jays and was released during the season, while Johnson hit .303/.358/.420 in 109 games with the Cubs. Thanks JP.

I know I liked him far more than I really should, Reed wasn’t the perfect leadoff man, he’d be better if he would take some more walks, maybe cut down on his strikeouts and he doesn’t steal a lot of bases. But his hustle, defense, a good arm in the outfield and his willingness to take one for the team made him a great fourth outfielder type.

After leaving the Jays Reed played for the Cubs, Dodgers, Cubs again, Braves, Marlins and Nationals. In 13 seasons he hit .279/.335/.405.

Happy Birthday Reed, I hope it is a good one.

Kyle Drabek turns 32 today.

You might remember that Drabek was the big piece in the Roy Halladay trade. He didn’t turn out to be what we hoped. Back in 2011 Kyle was number 1 on our Top 40 Prospect List.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked “Which player in Blue Jays history did you have the highest hopes for, but didn’t live up to your expectations?” Kyle’s name should have come up, but I guess I blocked it out.

Kyle got into 39 games (30 starts) spread over 5 seasons with the Blue Jays. He had a 5.26 ERA. In 179.2 innings he allowed 188 hits, 117 walks with 123 strikeouts. The strikeout to walk rate isn’t exactly what you look for in a starting pitcher.

Back in 2015 the White Sox relieved us of him.. Since then the Diamondbacks and Giants have tried to see if they could get his ability to match his potential. In 2018 he pitched for an independent league team. He’s out of baseball now.

He’s an example of TINSTAAPP.

Happy Birthday Kyle. I hope it is a good one.