Saturday, September 11, 2010

Infield Issues Surface

After watching Bautista last night make a highlight reel play on an Evan Longoria grounder, I may have changed my mind regarding making him our full time third baseman in 2011. My initial thoughts were that losing his superb defense and outstanding arm in right field didn't make sense and that we had lots of infielders to plug the hole at third. However, after viewing last night's outstanding play at third, by Bautista I realized that third base is a much harder position to fill than the outfield and that we have a very competent third baseman already in Bautista. Though our outfield isn't as strong minus Bautista, it is competent if not outstanding with Wells, Lewis, and Snider.

My greater concern recently has been the defensive play uof our shortstop and second baseman. Both Hill and Escobar are capable of gold glove defense at their relative positions yet they've made too many bobbles and errant throws recently to resemble anything of that caliber. Earlier discussions about moving Hill to third base to take some pressure off his defense and take advantage of his power are signs that he's also not doing the job at second base. Other potential candidates to replace him at second such as Brad Emaus and Jarrett Hoffpauir might replace Hills offense and play passable defense at second. This would allow Hill's move to third with an expected improvement in defense at that position. But there's nothing like having a true power-hitting third baseman and Bautista profiles better at third than anyone else the jays could put there.

It's clear that our best option for solid infield defense with above-average power numbers includes a Bautista at third, Escobar at short and Hill at second. Our issues finding a replacement for Lyle Overbay at first are being excluded for the purposes of this discussion, but remain an issue as well. Last night's errant throw by Escobar that resulted in the winning run by the Rays was exactly the kind of play one envisions when hearing Bobby Cox's comments subsequent to the trade in June. Escobar has incredible talent and makes some brilliant plays in the field, but the times he does appear disconnected and make errors on routine plays. He can be frustrating at times since everyone knows his talent level. It's probably best to remember how many years we struggled filling the shortstop position here in Toronto, remembering it's a long season, and just enjoy Escobar's overall play, his above-average defense and solid bat.

Keep in mind, we also have Hechavarria coming with his gold glove defense in the next 1 to 2 years. The Jays are going to have a nice problem trying to find spots for him and Escobar and Hill and a decision of which one will cover third base, until we develop or trade for a prototypical third baseman. So enjoy the ride along the way remembering that Bautista is likely only here for another 1 to 2 years and taking solace in the fact that our future infield without him is still pretty attractive.

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