Ryan Goins, Second Baseman, Toronto Blue Jays
2013 season: 34 G, 119 AB, .252 BA, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 0 SB, .609 OPS
This time last year, after a busy off-season, the Blue Jays were expected to make a lot of noise in the American League East, but injuries and poor performances quelled that notion. The team finished 74-88, fifth place in the division.
Confident they could bounce back with what they have, the Jays didn’t make many moves this winter. They will have a slightly different look in the infield, thanks to Ryan Goins.
The 26-year-old infielder wasn’t even an afterthought heading into last season. But injuries create opportunities, and Goins got his first taste of major league action in late August. After a red-hot start, going 12 for 30 (.400 average), he managed just 18 hits in his final 89 at-bats, finishing with a .252 average, .264 OBP and .609 OPS.
His hitting gets even more concerning when you look at his 2013 minor league numbers. He managed a putrid .679 OPS in 111 games in Triple-A last season and had a .706 OPS in five minor league seasons. It’s apparent that his power is limited, but he did have a reasonable .273 career average in the minors.
Where Goins shines is with his glove. He has shown impressive range and can save runs in the field, something the Jays are looking for after last season. In his short stint in the majors, he had an above average 6.2 UZR and made just one error in 262.1 innings played.
Goins may play an unbelievable second base, but he will still have to at least hold his own at the plate. As a best case, he projects as a .270-.280 hitter with very little power or speed. He has the inside track on the starting job, and will hold on to it if he plays lights-out defense and keeps his average above .270. If he becomes an automatic out in the ninth spot, however, the Jays may have to look elsewhere.
The problem is there really isn’t anywhere else to look at the moment. Maicer Izturis, last year’s second baseman, managed a .597 OPS in 399 plate appearances and had a UZR of -8.9. So in the second year of a three-year, $10 million deal, he probably will be just a utility man off the bench. Non-roster invitees Jonathan Diaz, Chris Getz and Munenori Kawasaki are also in the hunt, but none of them can really hit a lick either. At least Goins already has a strong glove going for him.
All this serves to illustrate why Goins is the leading candidate out of the gate. Rather than make another change, the Jays are going with him and focusing on his hitting. He has already put in extensive work with hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, dating back to December when Seitzer reportedly invited Goins to his home. That alone shows the team’s commitment to the young second baseman. If Goins can consistently spray some singles and doubles at the big league level, the Jays might just have their answer on that side of the infield.
Next up: Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves