According to a series of tweets from MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm, the Blue Jays opening day lineup will see Jose Bautista start in right field and Edwin Encarnacion play third base, likely meaning that Juan Rivera will be counted on as the team’s regular designated hitter to start the season.
When Encarnacion was signed this offseason to his one year guaranteed $2.5 million contract, it was announced that he would be counted on to replace Adam Lind at first base from time to time and act as the team’s DH. Despite a reputation for awful defense, E5, as he’s not so lovingly known, has always appeared to me to be at least an average fielder, but with absolutely terrible arm accuracy. The National Post’s John Lott tweets that the decision to give Encarnacion a shot at redemption was reached because the player came to camp in great shape and showed improvement in his defense throughout Spring Training.
Prior to signing his five year $65 million contract, Jose Bautista, backed by manager John Farrell, made mention on multiple occasions of his preference for playing right field instead of third base. After the deal finally went through, he was a little less candid with his desires.
Bautista’s defensive rankings seem to vary quite a lot depending on what metric you’re using, but according to his aggregate defensive rating which takes a weighted average of all the most respected metrics, he was minus six runs above average in 982 innings in right field last season. In 393 innings at third base, Bautista also cost his team defensively, scoring a minus one run above average.
Comparatively, Encarnacion showed marked improvement between 2009 and 2010, going from minus eight in 726 innings at third base to a minus one in 841 innings last year. Juan Rivera played only 173 innings of right field last season and broke even in defensive runs above average. He has never had a plus season in right field over his career.
Looking at Encaracion’s improvement, the only real surprise to me is that he was ever considered not to be the everyday third baseman on this team. It’s somewhat humourous that Bautista carries a better reputation in right field than he likely deserves because of his powerful throwing arm while Encarnacion carries a worse reputation at third base than he deserves because of his terrible throws.
According to Bautista: “I don’t always play great defense, but when I do, I prefer right field.” He is the most interesting baseball player in the world.
And of course, every chance I get: