In the second part of our position-by-position series evaluating the Toronto Blue Jays on their 2011 season and looking ahead to 2012, we look at the organization’s first baseman. Initially thought to be a source of stability and long-term growth, Adam Lind’s slide dating back to 2010 has left the position far less of a certainty.
The 2011 Guy(s)
Starter: Adam Lind
Back-Up: Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Teahen
Waiting in the Wings: David Cooper, Mike McDade
How Did The Jays Fare?
No doubt the club is still scratching their heads over an abysmal second half by Lind that left the 28-year old with over-all numbers looking far too similar to his disastrous 2010 campaign. Lind’s 2011 stat line (.251/.295/.439 with 26 home runs and 87 RBI) was a tale of two halves: a productive pre-All-Star Break in which he hit .300 with a .349 OBP and 16 home runs and a punchless post-ASB with a .197 average, .233 OBP and 10 homers. The fault of the underwhelming numbers lies squarely on his shoulders, as he performed well in the first half of the season while adapting to his new position, remained healthy all year and was hardly taxed in terms of playing time, starting 125 games and falling one plate appearance shy of 500. On top of that, he also benefitted from season-long protection in the line-up, hitting behind Jose Bautista.
Behind Lind, Edwin Encarnacion got into 23 games at first as part of what was his best offensive season since 2007 with Cincinnati, Mark Teahen did nothing in 10 games at the position and David Cooper failed to make much of an impression over 12 games there, most of which came during his September call-up.
Where Are They Headed?
No one within the organization is a threat to take Lind’s starting job just yet, but some early whispers indicate there might be an external challenge. The team seems to be thinking big and recent rumours (plus some previous trade deadline flirtation) have Toronto considering a run at Etobicoke’s own Joey Votto, who would bring both added star power and Can-con to the Jays and would certainly take over at first. Of course, there have also been some (yours truly included) voicing support for a run at Prince Fielder, who would cost big cash as a free agent but, unlike Votto, would not cost the franchise any other assets.
Of course, it’s hard to take either rumoured name too seriously at this point, particularly given that the team hasn’t acquired a ready-made star since Roger Clemens in 1997 (I suppose you could make an argument for Troy Glaus or Scott Rolen, but I’m not buying it). In other words, expect the pipe dreams to be just that and Lind should be back and possibly dropped down a spot or two in the line-up.
The other first base question lies with Cooper, who has done just about all he can in the minors but can’t seem to break through for any consistent duty on the increasingly-difficult-to-make Jays. His best chance at major league duty may come in the form of a trade elsewhere, or perhaps an injury to the regular first baseman that will offer Cooper a consistent, extended run at the corner.
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Written by Ben Fisher