It is 50 games into the 2010 MLB season, and the Toronto Blue Jays are doing far better than anyone could have anticipated up to this point. Now, keep in mind that we are only one third of the way into the season, but here is a review of the position players.
Fred Lewis- Lewis was traded to the Jays from San Francisco on April 15th, and was only considered to be an extra outfielder or hitter off the bench. Granted, he had his struggles early on, but he has blossomed into a prototypical leadoff hitter. He is hitting .289 with a respectable 3 home runs and 15 RBIs. Couple that with 4 stolen bases and his above-average defence, and the Jays may have had a steal in their trade with the Giants. Grade: A-
Aaron Hill- Hill went on the DL early in the season with hamstring problems, and has still not bounced back to being the top-notch hitter he was all of last season. His average is a meagre .164, although he has 7 home runs and 16 RBIs. Hill stated earlier in the season that he is only 100-or so at-bats in, and that he has 400 more to improve himself. Let's hope for the Jays sake that he does. Grade- C-
Adam Lind- The season started out so well for Lind. He was hitting up around .300, and his power didn't seem to have faded after his breakout 2009 season. Lately though, his average has dipped to a less-than-stellar .223, and his offensive numbers aren't where the Jays hoped they would be. He has 7 home runs and 26 RBIs to this point. Like Hill, the Jays and their fans are hoping that Lind can find his touch from last season, and start producing at that consistent rate once again. Grade- C
Vernon Wells- After 3 mediocre seasons, fans were starting to get fed up with Wells and his massive contract, and why wouldn't they be? The man is being paid $126 million over 7 years to hit home runs and drive in runners, which he hadn't been doing on a consistent basis since 2006. That has all changed this year, as Wells is hitting .303 to go with his 12 home runs and 34 RBIs. Vernon appears to have finally turned the corner on his past few seasons, and is back to the fan-favourite slugger we all loved from years past. Grade- A
Jose Bautista- After clobbering 10 home runs last September, and hitting .400 in Spring Training, the Jays had high hopes for Bautsta coming into the 2010 campaign. He has not disappointed. While his .247 average is a little suspect, his 15 home runs lead the Major Leagues. Couple that with 40 RBIs, and you've got a great compliment to Vernon Wells in the lineup. Even better about Jose is that he is able to play outfield and third base, so he's there to fill-in whenever Encarnacion needs a break at third. Grade- A-
John Buck- After cutting ties with Rod Barajas and Michael Barrett (remember him?) in the offseason, the Jays were left with Raul Chavez as their # 1 catcher. Fortunately, Alex Anthopolous signed John Buck, who was non-tendered by KC, to a 1-year deal. Up to now, he is hitting .271 with 8 home runs and 26 RBIs. Not bad for a career .240 hitter. The offensive production should not come as a surprise though, as Buck has belted 20+ homers in a season before, and was always a solid bat in Kansas. He is on pace for his best season ever, and Jays fans/management would love to see it continue as it is. Grade- B
Alex Gonzalez- When signed, GM Alex Anthopolous noted that Gonzalez was being brought in for his defensive work. Now, while he has been great defensively, it is his offence that has baseball fans turning heads. He is currently sitting at 10 home runs and 30 RBIs, good for third on the team in both categories. Meanwhile his predecessor, Marco Scutaro, has hit 2 home runs and only knocked in 8. It seems as if the Jays made the right move in letting Scutaro go and bringing in a proven defender, who has surprisingly chipped in with for than his fair share of offence. His only down-spot is his .259 average, but he has 112 more games to boost that. Grade- B+
Lyle Overbay- It has been said the last 3 seasons now, this will be Lyle's bounceback year. He broke his hand in 07, and his offence suffered in 08 and 09, but this is a contract year, and surely he will get better, right? Not really. He is hitting a dismal .197 on the year, while hitting just 4 homers, and driving in 19. It has gotten so bad that Cito Gaston dropped him from fifth to seventh in the batting order. If this pace continues, it appears that majors-ready prospect Brett Wallace will be getting his shot in the big leagues much sooner than anticipated. Grade- D
Edwin Encarnacion- The Jays picked up Encarnacion in a trade for veteran Scott Rolen last season, with the hope that he would return to his 2008-form, where he hit 26 long-balls. It didn't work out so great last year, and this season started out bad with an almost immediate trip to the DL after missing a lot of Spring Training. However, since returning from the DL, Edwin has 6 home runs and 14 RBIs. His average may be a suspect .242, but like everyone else, he has all season to bring it up. The only real worry-spot is his defensive work, but with his ailing wrist now at 100%, he should be able to return to an elite defender as well as power-hitter. Grade- B
Travis Snider- It is no secret that Travis Snider struggle last year, which is the reason he spent most of 09 with the Las Vegas 51s in AAA ball. This year though, manager Cito Gaston said he would stick to Snider no matter what the circumstance. Even with his manager's vote of confidence, Snider still struggled through the first month of the season, until finally heating up in May. While still only hitting .241, his average has climbed significantly from the low .200s it had been through April. His power seems to have come into full-swing (no pun intended) as well, as he has now 6 home runs to match his 15 RBIs. Snider's hot streak was derailed by a sprained wrist which landed him on the DL, but look for him to return to his May-form when he returns to the starting lineup. Grade- C
John McDonald- With an unexpected high-offence season being put on by everyday shortshop Alex Gonzalex, Johnny Mac hasn't seen much action this year. He is hitting .250 with 3 RBIs, but we all know that Mac is known for his stellar defence, not his sub-par offence. He had a perfect fielding percentage so far this year, but will obviously not be in contention for a Gold Glove. However, he is always a great guy off the bench to pinch-run, or fill in at second, third, or short. Grade- B-
Jose Molina- The least-known of the Molina brotherhood of catchers, Jose is quietly putting up a good season while being relegated to the role of backup catcher. He is hitting .295 with 4 RBIs, but like John McDonald, it is his fielding that has opened the eyes of the Jays' brass this year. He is fielding 1.000, and has thrown out 10 runners trying to steal, including 4 in one game at Tampa Bay (single-game record for a Jay). Compare that to John Buck, who has only throw out 5 would-be stealers. Still, Molina is a great alternative every few days to John Buck, and he is showing why he deserves consideration to be JP Arencibia's backup in the future. Grade- B+
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