For Fans, By Fans

Jays Listed – Top 10 Second Baseman

Picking the No.1 spot for this list shouldn’t be too hard. I think the Hall of Fame basically already chose it for me. Picking the rest of the list is nowhere near as easy. Even finding 10 Blue Jay players that are worthy of such a list is a difficult task.

In 36 seasons the Blue Jays have had 14 different players start at second base on opening day. You should be able to get a solid Top 10 out of that right? However,  two were Tony Fernandez and Manual Lee who under the rules only qualify at short stop, another was Pedro Garcia (who?) in 1977 and two more were Carlos Garcia and Domingo Cedeno who should not make the list.

Subtract those five names and the number of opening day second base men left is only nine. Are those remaining nine all even worthy of a spot? Maybe not, but we’ll see.

 

10. Choose your own second baseman.

If you’re old enough you may remember Choose Your own Adventure books from back in the day. If you don’t know what I’m talking about well Google it because they were awesome. Since the list of Jays second basemen gets incredibly thin when you get to the dredges No. 10 on the list is a reader’s choice from the following gap fillers.

Frank Menechino: 2004-2005 –  Menechino had a surprisingly good 1.4 WAR in only 72 games during the 2004 season when he hit .301 with a .400 OBP and a .904 OPS. He also hit nine home runs and had 25 RBI. Those stout numbers were short lived though as the following season in 2005  his average plummeted to .216 and his OPS fell to .697. In 70 games in ’05 he hit four homers and had 13 RBI.

Domingo Cedeno: 1993-1996 – Cedeno  was actually the Blue Jays starting second basemen on opening day in 1996. He ended up splitting the second base duties with Tomas Perez and a few bench warmers that season. During the ’96 season Cedeno appeared in 89 games for the Jays and hit .280 with a .320 OBP and a.671 OPS. He didn’t finish the season in Toronto though as he was dealt to the White Sox along with Tony Castillo for Allen Halley and Luis Andujar in August.  His career stat line with the Jays isn’t very impressive with a .246 average, a .291 OBP and a.619 OPS. His WAR during his four seasons with the Jays was -1.5.

Danny Ainge: 1979-1981 – UGH! Ainge should have stuck to basketball and just left baseball alone. For some reason the Jays kept Ainge around for three seasons. It wasn’t like he showed great improvement over the three season either as in his last season in 1981 he hit a lowly .187 with a .258 OBP and a .486 OPS in 86 games. Those are the worst numbers of his short baseball career. Ainge’s three-year stat pack with the Jays included a .220 average, a .264 OBP and a .533 OPS. He hit two home runs, had 37 RBI and posted a WAR of -4.4.

Mickey Morandini: 2000 – Morandini played so few games for the Jays most casual Toronto fans likely don’t even remember him. He joined Toronto late in the 2000 season via a trade from the Phillies. He ended up taking over the starting second base job from an injured Homer Bush. In 35 games Morandini hit .271 with a .316 OBP and a .624 OPS.

Try and choose the best of the worst from that selection.

9. Dave McKay – 1977-1979

McKay was the Blue Jays first Canadian Blue Jay, from Vancouver, British Columbia. He may have played his first game as a Blue Jay at third, on opening day 1977, but he saw more time at second during his three years in Toronto.

The Jays acquired McKay in the 1976 expansion draft. He was the 49th pick in the draft, taken from the Minnesota Twins. McKay’s Canadian roots and his solid showing on opening day made him a quick fan favorite. Against the White Sox on opening day McKay had a pair of hits and drove in the winning run in Toronto’s 9-5 win.

McKay’s debut season with Toronto didn’t continue that strongly though. He finished under the Mendoza Line with a .197 average and a .222 OBP. His OPS that season was .488 and his WAR -2.0. His best season with the Jays was in 1978, when he manned second base for most of the season, appearing in 145 games. His bat still lacked much punch though, as he hit .238 with a .268 OBP and a .619 OPS. He homered seven times, which would be a career high and had 45 RBI, also a career high.

McKay was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001.

 

8. Craig Grebeck – 1998-2000

Grebeck gave every short, skinny kid that was a Jays fan the hope that one day they could play in the Majors. At only 5-8, 160 pounds, Grebeck was small in stature next to most of his teammates but he made up for it with determination and hustle.

Grebeck signed as a free agent with Toronto after the 1997 season. He surprisingly ended up playing in 102 games that season, which included 77 starts at second base. He hit only .256 with a .327 OBP, 27 RBI and 33 runs scored.

In 1999 Grebeck played in only 34 games, but that short sample delivered some amazing results at the plate. Grebeck hit .363 with a .443 OBP and a .868 OPS. He also scored 18 runs.

In Grebeck’s final season in Toronto in 2000 he batted .295 with an OBP of .364 and a OPS of .775 in 66 games. He also had 23 RBI and drove in 38 runs.

7. Nelson Liriano 1987-1990

The Blue Jays signed Liriano as a amateur free agent in 1982. Five years later he made his Toronto debut in 1987. That season he appeared in 37 games, hitting .241. with a .310 OBP and a .652 OPS. He also stole 13 bases and scored 29 runs while posting a WAR of 0.5

Liriano’s best season at the plate came in 1989 when he appeared in a career-high 132 games. That season he hit .263 with a .331 OBP and a .707 OPS. He stole 16 bases, and drove in 53 runs while posting a career-high WAR of 2.5. That was Liriano’s only season in Toronto, and the only season in his career, that he posted a WAR over 1.0.

Mid-way through the 1990 season the Jays traded Liriano to the Twins along with Pedro Munoz for John Candelaria.

 

6. Homer Bush – 1999-2002

The Blue Jays acquired Bush from the Yankees in the Roger Clemens deal that also saw David Wells and Graeme Lloyd come to Toronto. Bush’s biggest challenge while with the Jays was just staying on the field. During his five seasons in Toronto (really just over four as he was release in May, 2002) Bush played in only 305 games. He missed a considerable amount of time due to nagging hip injuries that also forced him into early retirement in 2004.

Bush’s best season in Toronto was his first in 1999. That year he appeared in 128 games (an unfortunate career-high) and hit .320 with a .353 OBP, five homers, 55 RBI, 32 steals and 69 runs scored. He also posted a solid .774 OPS and a 3.0 WAR. Injuries played havoc on Bush’s numbers the following season  as he was limited to 76 games and hit only .215 with a lackluster .524 OPS and -1.5 WAR. He also saw his stolen base numbers plummet to nine.

Bush’s career numbers with the Jays add up to a .283 average, .321 OBP and a.681 OPS. His WAR while with Toronto was 2.2. Judging solely by his debut season with the Jays Bush could have had a solid career with Toronto if mounting injuries and mounting pressures to produce due to being part of the Clemens trade hadn’t derailed his chances.

 

5. Orlando Hudson – 2002-2005

You can’t say that the Jays didn’t get get value out of Orlando Hudson considering where he was drafted. The O-Dog was drafted by Toronto in the 43rd round of the 1997 draft.

He made his Toronto debut in 2002 and in 54 games hit .276 with a .319 OBP  and a .762 OPS. Those numbers stayed relatively the same in his first full season, 2003, when he hit .268 with a .328 OBP and a .723 OPS in 142 games. Hudson’s best season with the bat came in 2004 when he batted .270 with a .341 OBP, a .779 OPS, 12 home runs and 58 RBI.

While Hudson wasn’t the greatest hitter he made up for it with a solid glove. He won his first gold glove in 2005, but when you break down the numbers his best defensive season in Toronto was in 2004. That season he posted a defensive WAR of 3.0. By comparison Roberto Alomar’s best defensive WAR while with the Jays was only 0.5.

After leaving Toronto the O-Dog would win three more Gold Gloves and he was a two-time All-Star with Arizona and the Dodgers. Hudson must have enjoyed hitting in the desert as he hit over .300 for the first time with the D-Backs in 2008.

 

4. Kelly Johnson – 2011 – present

Johnson has barely been with the Blue Jays long enough to give him a fair rating. Johnson was acquired by Toronto on August 23, 2011 for Aaron Hill and John McDonald.  In the remaining 33 games during the 2011 season Johnson would hit .270 with a .364 OBP and a .781 OPS. He hit three home runs, had nine RBI and posted a WAR of 1.0.

So far in 2012 Johnson has played in nearly the same amount of games during the 2011 season. In 31 game Johnson’s average is down at .256, but his OBP has risen to .371 and his OPS is .809. Johnson has also shown his old power stoke with seven home runs and 18 RBI. He’s also posted a strong WAR of 1.6, which includes a defensive WAR of 0.7. In his previous seven seasons Johnson has posted a defensive WAR over 0.2 only once.

 

3. Damaso Garcia 1980-1986

The Jays acquired Garcia in a six-player trade with the Yankees before the 1980 season. In his first year in Toronto he appeared in 140 games and somehow finished fourth in ROTY voting after hitting .278 with a .296 OBP, four home runs, 46 RBI, 13 steals and 50 runs scored.

Garcia started to come into his own in 1982 when he hit a career-high .310 and set, at the time, a new franchise record with 54 steals. He still didn’t like to take a walk much with an OBP of only .338, but  he was still considered the best hitting second basemen in the AL and won the Silver Slugger.

Garcia made two All-Star games in 1984 and 1985 and in 1985 set a career-high with 65 RBI. He also garnered a few MVP votes that season. He was traded to Atlanta following the 1986 season and as a Blue Jay compiled a .288 average with a .690 OPS, 194 steals and 453 runs scored for a young and up-and-coming club. He’s also remember by many long-time Blue Jays fans for setting his uniform a blaze in the Jays club house during a slump in 1986.

 

2. Aaron Hill – 2005-2011

Hill was drafted by Toronto in the first round of the 2003 draft. He would make his Toronto debut just two seasons later in 2005. That season he saw time at second, third and short and hit .274 with three home runs and 40 RBI in 105 games.

Entering the 2006 season Hill was the starting second basemen following the trade of Orlando Hudson, but he did still see some time at short due to the struggles of Russ Adams. In his first full season Hill hit .291 with 50 RBI and 70 runs scored, but his power had not yet developed as he hit only six home runs.

Hill’s career was temporarily derailed in 2008. On May 29 he collided with teammate David Eckstein and sustained a concussion that would sideline him for the rest of the season.

Hill returned with a vengeance in 2009, recording the best season of his career to date. He cranked 36 home runs and had 108 RBI while hitting .286 with a .829 OPS and a 5.5 WAR. Before the season Hill had hit only 28 home runs in his entire career. Hill’s offensive outburst earned him his first All-Star appearance and the AL Silver Slugger for second base.

The following season Hill was unable to repeat those gaudy numbers at the plate. His average plummeted to .205 and his OPS bottomed out  at .665. His home run total dipped to 26 and he only had 68 RBI. His WAR also dropped considerably, from 5.8 in 2009 to 0.8 in 2010.

Hill continued to struggle at the plate in 2011 and he was traded to Arizona along with fan-favorite John MacDonald for Kelly Johnson. Hill’s career numbers in Toronto include a .265.average, a .318 OBP and a .732 OPS. He hit 96 home runs, had 409 RBI and recorded a WAR of 15.1.

 

1. Roberto Alomar – 1991-1995

Of course Alomar’s No. 1. No one else even comes close. As the only true Blue Jays in the Hall of Fame and as one of the best second basemen ever to play the game, Alomar is without a doubt No. 1 on this list.

Alomar may be one of the first players that comes to mind when you think Toronto Blue Jays, but he actually only played five seasons in Toronto. He was acquired in the deal that changed the franchise before the 1991 season  along with Joe Carter and was gone via free agency following the ’95 season. In between he was a five-tool force at second base hitting .307 with a .382 OBP, a .833 OPS, 55 home runs, 342 RBI, 206 steals and 451 runs scored. He also posted an impressive WAR of 21.0 in those five seasons.

Alomar was an All-Star all five seasons in Toronto and he also captured the Gold Glove in all five seasons and it wasn’t even a contest given his range and defensive abilities. Robbie’s best season at the plate was arguably in 1993. That year as the Jays captured their second World Series title he hit .326 with a .408 OBP and a.900 OPS. He also clubbed 17 home runs, had 93 RBI, stole 55 bases and scored 109 runs.

Other Toronto second basemen (not honorable mentions):
Pedro Garcia
Mariano Duncan
Carlos Garcia
Mike Sharperson
Tomas Perez
Joe Inglett
Tilson Brito
Felipe Crespo

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