There was a tiny bit of actual Jays news yesterday. As Minor Leaguer covered in his post, the Blue Jays have added Joe Panik to the 40-man and placed Yennsy Diaz on the 60-day IL. I’m happy to see him get a shot. Spring training stats don’t tell you much, but Panik has done everything that could possibly be asked of a veteran minor league camp invitee. He hit .381/.462/.762 with a triple, two home runs, four walks and only three strikeouts in 26PA and looking credible in a few reps at shortstop.
There isn’t going to be a lot of power there. He barreled (hit at 95+mph at angles that lead to home runs or extra bases) only 2% of his balls in play last year, which was in the third percentile of the league. The move to friendly Rogers Center from the lefty graveyard that is Oracle Park might help what little he does have play, though, and his always excellent contact rate (5th best among players who got 100+ PA last year) and very solid plate discipline give him a high enough floor that he won’t significantly hurt the lineup even if he doesn’t do a lot to help it.
I think he could be a pretty decent utility infielder, and he’s probably closer to being able to fake being a shortstop for a game or two every couple weeks than Brandon Drury is. In the limited looks we got, he didn’t look completely out of place there. He’s only really played second base in the major leagues (he made a couple appearances at first in 2018), and the advanced stats are split on his work there. DRS, which powers Baseball Reference’s version of WAR, thinks he’s been pretty bad the past couple years, about 8 runs below average last year. On the other hand, UZR, which powers Fangraphs’ version, has him 1-2 runs above average per season, and StatCast’s infield Outs Above Average has his at 2 outs better than average in each of the past two seasons.
The team seems to feel that Santiago Espinal could use some more seasoning in Buffalo. That’s fair, given that he only has 112 PA at the level and that his walk and strikeout rates regressed a fair bit from what he was able to do at AA and lower. Given that, I think Panik makes a lot of sense. He should hit better than Drury (he has in two straight years on a park adjusted basis), and although he has less experience at third, short, and in the outfield, none of the defensive metrics think Drury is especially good at any of those positions.
There isn’t much else in the way of other news going around. Ken Rosenthal reports that the MLBPA has put together a fund to pay all players on 40-man rosters and all non-roster invitees with previous MLB experience while the shutdown continues. That’s a good step, and I’m sure it’ll make a huge difference for a lot of 40-man gus who haven’t really made MLB money yet. Now it’s on the teams to figure out a way to take care of the MiLB players, many of whom were counting on their salaries starting in mid April and who won’t be able to get the jobs tending bar or driving Uber they’d normally use to fill in during the offseason.
It was Vladdy’s 21st birthday yesterday, and in his honour the guys at Cespedes Family BBQ put together a twitter thread with 21 videos of him hitting bombs, starting with the Montreal series from a couple years ago:
1. where better to start than his you-couldn't-write-this-stuff walk-off dinger in the Montreal exhibition? he had just turned 19. I still can't believe this happened. also the fact that it was off Jack Flaherty ages *very* wellpic.twitter.com/r37NSBgiRn— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) March 16, 2020
I highly recommend the entire thread, which goes from back when he was 15 and dominating home run derbies with other prospects in the Dominican right up to what he was doing a couple weeks ago in spring training.