The Toronto Blue Jays sent a handful of players to represent their respective countries in the World Baseball Classic this March. In total, 7 members of the Blue Jays organization attended the tournament that was dominated by a Dominican Republic team featuring 4 Toronto recruits.
Aside from missing out on key developmental time with their MLB clubs in Spring Training, WBC attendees also run the risk of injuring themelves during tournament play. Unfortunately, Toronto fell victim to this circumstance losing a pair of starters to injuries during the span of the Tournament.
Canadian 3rd Baseman, Brett Lawrie suffered a rib cage strain while his team was still in exhibition play prior to the Classic. This would end up knocking the 23 year old Langley native out of the tournament and on to the shelf following his return to MLB camp. Although Lawrie has shown some overall improvement since his return to Dunedin, there is no set timetable for his return to Grapefruit League play.
In his final At Bat of the championship game on Wednesday, Edwin Encarnacion jammed his right index finger fouling off an inside pitch from Puerto Rico’s Fernando Cabrera. Dispite suffering from a “fistful of bees” Encarnacion would stay in the game and be on the field as the Dominican Republic would record the final out of the tournament, icing their first WBC title. Upon his return to Dunedin, Encarnacion was listed as day to day with swelling in his finger and is not expected to miss a lot of time due to this injury.
Although Spring Training serves as a means to get your regular starters stretched out and in to game shape for the upcoming season, it also provides team management an opportunity to get a good look at their Minor League players. With so many of the MLB regulars off at the classic, a number of MiLB’ers were given an extended chance to impress the clubs Big League management during the duration of the Classic.
Below is a list of some players that were in the Classic followed by the Minor League/ back up players that were presented with more time in front of team management.
* All stats are as of Sunday, March 24th.
Brett Lawrie – Team Canada, .000 Classic, .267/.353/.533 Spring Training.
Mark DeRosa- Slated to be the teams utility Infielder, DeRosa has put together a strong spring showing having put up a .474 AVG to go with a pair of Home Runs over 35 Grapefruit League At Bats. With Lawrie on the shelf for the first series of the year, a healthy Mark DeRosa will be your opening day 3rd baseman.
Eugino Velez- Coming over from the 2013 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants, Velez has seen time at virtually every infield position save for 1st Base while also getting a couple of opportunities to flash his skills in the Outfield. A natural infielder, Velez provides this team with a steady glove, sneaky pop off the bat and some great speed on the base paths. Over 26 ST At Bat’s Velez has put up a modest .269 AVG complimented by a .321 On Base Percentage.
Andy LaRoche – At one time, the Pittsburgh Pirates viewed Andy LaRoche as their 3rd Baseman of the future and handed him the keys to the position by trading an unproven Jose Bautista to Toronto. Now, the 2 power hitting former Pirates are reunited on the same team and tearing up Grapefruit League pitching having hit a combined 9 Home Runs between the pair. Aside from his power numbers, LaRoche has put up an even .250 Batting Average over 48 Spring Training AB’s.
Jose Reyes – .314/.351/.486 Classic, .474/.545/.684 Spring Training.
Lance Zawadzki- One of the early stories of Spring Training was the strong showing from the former Dodger, Lance Zawadzki. After hitting a Grand Slam in his first game with Toronto, Zawadzki has gone on to hit .290 while playing a number of positions across the diamond although he has spent the majority of his time at Shortstop.
Jim Negrych- While Reyes was off at the WBC, Miacer Izturis and Emilio Bonifacio have been alternating between 2B and SS in his place. When one of the pair have needed a day off, Jim Negrych has stepped in manning 2B for the Blue Jays while putting up a .394 Batting Average over 33 AB’s. Like Velez, Negrych has made a strong case for a role with the Blue Jays should one of their infielders fall victim to injury throughout the 2013 season.
Edwin Encarnacion – .250/.333/.286 Classic, .200/.200/.400 Spring Training.
Luis Jimenez – Coming into camp having completed an All Star season in the Pacific Coast League with the Rainers, Jimenez is likely to secure a spot as Buffalo’s Designated Hitter/1B for 2013. Having seen Jimenez in Florida, I can tell you that he is a dead red Fastball hitter who can absolutely punish the ball in Batting Practice. His weakness seems to be adjusting to off speed pitches and this flaw has resulted in a fair number of Strikeouts as well as a .233 Spring Training AVG.
JP Arencibia – .200/.200/.200 Classic, .448/.484/. 759 Spring Training
Josh Thole- Traded to the Blue Jays in the R.A. Dickey deal, Thole came into camp with a reputation of being a knuckleball specialist. With Toronto having fallen into a situation where they are desperate for Catching depth, Thole will be sent to the Minors as an option-less Henry Blanco will break camp with the team come April 2nd. Thole hit .171 with a Home Run and pair of RBI’s over 35 Grapefruit LeagueAB’s
Mike Nickeas- Like Thole, Nickeas is also a so called “Knuckleball Specialist” who is not quite as polished with the bat as his counter part. Over 34 Grapefruit League AB’s, Nickeas hit .208, drew 4 walks and looked solid defensively behind the dish.