Could Corey Patterson Be Useful?

When the Toronto Blue Jays acquired Corey Patterson earlier this offseason, it was thought of as little more than a Minor League depth addition.  The speedy outfielder who never lived up to expectations as the third overall pick in the 1998 amateur draft has spent time in five different organizations since 2008, all while inspiring healthy doses of hilarious derision from Walkoff Walk.

However, after the Vernon Wells trade, the Blue Jays suddenly find themselves with a gap to fill in center field.  Assuming that Jose Bautista plays third base to at least begin the season, the Jays only have three outfielders on the active roster with Major League experience: Rajai Davis, Juan Rivera and Travis Snider.  Despite some bad defensive numbers last season, it’s expected that Davis would play center, with Rivera and Snider positioning themselves in the corner spots.

Unfortunately for Toronto, Davis doesn’t exactly frighten right handed pitchers unless they’re terrified of gaining confidence.

Last season:

412 PA, 3.9 BB%, 16.8 K%, .309 OBP, .357 SLG, .080 ISO, .295 wOBA.

Career:

941 PA, 4.9 BB%, 17.6 K%, .321 OBP, .375 SLG, .098 ISO, .308 wOBA.

In comparison, Patterson, a left handed batter who is probably more at home in one of the corner outfield spots, but can still play center, looks like this against right handed pitching.

Last season:

253 PA, 6.7 BB%, 22.9 K%, .341 OBP, .449 SLG, .159 ISO, .344 wOBA.

Career:

2900 PA, 5.1 BB%, 21.8 K%, .303 OBP, .422 SLG, .160 ISO, .311 wOBA.

Looking only at Patterson’s 2010 numbers, Blue Jays fans could be forgiven for being somewhat enthused at the prospect of turning metal from the Minor League contract scrap heap into a useful vehicle, but I think you have to look past the 253 plate appearances toward the 2900 throughout his career if you’re interested in a better indicator of future performance. Patterson’s .349 BABIP against RHP last season contributes more than a little to his modest success last season.

The former Cubs draft pick would contribute little more than a small increase in power over Davis while giving up both defense and speed to his potential platoon mate. Considering how the Blue Jays lineup hit last season, power numbers may be the one area in which Toronto can afford to give something up.

The Blue Jays under Alex Anthopoulos have been stealthy with their deals, and so there’s no way to know if they’re looking at making further additions, but if the team were to start the season with the roster they have right now, three regular outfielders in Davis, Rivera and Snider would be my choice as the way to go.

Another interesting option is Darin Mastroianni who can cover a lot of ground in center field and act as a back up second baseman, but the right handed hitter has never played above Double A, where, over the last two seasons, he’s gotten on base more than 38% of the time.  He’s never going to win a home run derby and he hits better against lefties, but Mastroianni has proven himself to be no slouch against right handed pitching.  Last season, again at Double A, the 25 year old had an OBP of .381 in 454 plate appearances against righties.