We continue our run through the Blue Jays’ system to determine your favourite players, today focusing on the great third basemen that we have had in the past. For this exercise, we’ll focus on the 6 more prominent ones in Blue Jays’ history, but we are missing a few. The most notable omissions are Roy Howell, Troy Glaus, Scott Rolen and obviously Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Rance Mulliniks (1982-1992)
Mulliniks came over to the Blue Jays prior to the 1982 season, and he quickly moved into the 3B position and evolved into a regular contributor to the team through the first run of relevancy.
In 1115 games for the Jays, Mulliniks hit .280/.365/.424, good enough for a 116 wRC+, which is the second highest career mark for Blue Jays’ 3rd basemen. He gave the Jays 16.7 WAR over his 10 seasons, combining his strong bat with very solid defense at 3B.
Post-career, Mulliniks spent some time in the broadcast booth as a colour commentator in the mid-2000s.
Kelly Gruber (1984-1992)
Gruber came over to the Blue Jays prior to the 1984 season as a Rule 5 draft pick, taken from Cleveland who took him as their first round draft pick just over 3 years earlier. Gruber went on to become one of the Jays’ best Rule 5 picks in their history.
In 921 career games with the Blue Jays, Gruber hit .259/.307/.431, just over league average in his time here. He was very solid defensively, and had a 3-year stretch where he gave the Jays 13.5 WAR from 1988-1990. As Tom mentioned, he also hit for the first cycle in Blue Jays’ history on this day 31 years ago yesterday. Gruber picked up a pair of All Star game nods, and also picked up a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger as well as placing 4th in the MVP voting in 1990
By the time the World Series years came around, Gruber was reaching the end of his career. His last season in Toronto was worth -0.1 WAR over 120 games, but he was involved in one of the most memorable moments of that 1992 World Series.
He also had a huge game tying home run in the same Game 3, knotting things up in the 8th inning prior to the Jays’ walking it off in the 9th inning.
Ed Sprague (1991-1998)
The Blue Jays drafted Sprague with their first pick in the 1988 draft, and he made it to the Majors in time to take over for Gruber. While he never did reach the heights of Gruber, Sprague did have a few flashes of a good player, including helping the team to both World Series championships, and also a very strong 1996 season. While he wasn’t a regular for the 1992 series, he did hit a 2-run, pinch hit home run in the top of the 9th to turn the 3-4 deficit to a 5-4 lead and win in game 2.
He has the most plate appearances among third basemen in Jays’ history, but overall he left a lot to be desired. Over 3527 plate appearances for Toronto, he hit .245/.315/.413 (88 wRC+). His 1996 season was easily his best, when he hit .247/.325/.496 with 36 home runs and 101 RBI.
Eric Hinske (2002-2006)
J.P. Ricciardi’s first big move of his time in Toronto was to send closer Billy Koch to Oakland for fellow reliever Justin Miller as well as Eric Hinske, who was blocked in Oakland by the excellent Eric Chavez. Hinske would go on to have a great rookie season in 2002 with the Blue Jays, hitting .279/.365/.481 with 24 home runs and 13 stolen bases. He picked up the second Rookie of the Year award in Blue Jays’ history for that season.
Unfortunately for Hinske and the Blue Jays, it was downhill from there. A broken hamate bone led to a down season in 2003, causing him to miss a month from late May to late June. His hitting was impacted (whether it was the hamate, or something else) for the remainder of 2003, and also through 2004.
The Blue Jays added Corey Koskie to the roster prior to the 2005 season, moving Hinske over to 1B/DH. He was back to a league average hitter that season, but that was less than you’d hope for from a 1B/DH bat. For the 2006 season, Troy Glaus was the Jays’ third baseman, while the Jays also brought in other bats like Lyle Overbay and Shea Hillenbrand, relegating Hinske into a utility role. He had a good run with his bat over limited play, but was purchased by the Red Sox that August.
Hinske went on to play for a few different organizations, making it to the World Series with the 2007 Red Sox, the 2008 Rays and the 2009 Yankees. He made it back to the World Series as an assistant hitting coach of the 2016 Cubs. He is now coaching with the Diamondbacks.
One of the more memorable moments of Hinske’s time with the Jays has more to do with heckling than anything specific that he did. He was the Blue Jays’ designated target of the legendary Robert Szasz whenever the Blue Jays would visit the Tropicana Field mausoleum. “Former American League Rookie of the Year...” could quite frequently be easily heard among the dozens of fans in the Tampa Bay echo chamber whenever Hinkse would come to the plate.
Brett Lawrie (2011-2014)
The Blue Jays traded Shaun Marcum to the Brewers for Lawrie prior to the 2011 season, picking up the 57th ranked prospect in baseball. He spent the first half of the season in Las Vegas, where he hit .353/.415/.661 over 69 sun baked games at high altitude. The Langley, BC native made his debut on August 11, and proceeded to knock the door down over 43 games. He put up a 157 wRC+, hitting 9 home runs and stealing 7 bases while earning 11 Defensive Runs Saved in 380 innings at 3B. That brief cameo rocketed his hype, leading to this (even moreso now) ridiculous comparison between Lawrie and Mike Trout (read the comments for the real fun - I see some of your names in there as well).
As we all know, Lawrie didn’t turn into the superstar we all hoped for. Injuries would become the defining factor of his MLB career, as he missed time with broken fingers, ankle injuries, and the big one, a strained oblique. That oblique injury, potentially stemming from this play on July 18, 2012, has plagued him for the better half of the decade. Problems with rehabbing it have kept him out of professional baseball games since 2016.
Josh Donaldson (2015-2018)
The Blue Jays packaged Lawrie with Sean Nolin, Kendall Graveman and Franklin Barreto for Josh Donaldson in November 2014, in one of the best trades in team history. The 2015 AL MVP was the catalyst to get the Blue Jays back to the playoffs, putting up a combined 16.3 WAR over the 2 playoff bound seasons. In his 4 seasons with Toronto, Donaldson hit a combined .281/.383/.548 (150 wRC+), holding the career team lead for third basemen with 116 home runs, and totaling 22.2 WAR over 2 amazing seasons and 2 injury shortened ones.
He had some very memorable moments in his short time with the Jays, including 3 walk-off home runs in 2015, a 3-home run game, hitting .325/.402/.597 in the playoffs, with 9 doubles and 4 home runs. He also scored the series clinching run in the 2016 ALDS over the Rangers with some heads up baserunning.
Who was your favourite Blue Jays’ third baseman?
This poll is closed
Someone else (let us know in the comments)