At the All Star Break, the Blue Jays sit at 51-40, two games out of 1st place in the division, largely due to a rotation that ranks atop the American League and an offense that has been rejuvenated since the turn of summer. The offense holds the accolades of AL MVP Josh Donaldson, who is the first player since 2000 to have 20 HRs and 80 Runs by the ASB and Edwin Encarnacion, who leads the MLB with 80 RBIs. While these two are certainly the core of the Blue Jays offense, one player who has stepped up admirably in leading the Blue Jays to a 51-40 mark is none other than 4th outfielder Ezequiel Carrera.
Re-signed in the off season to serve as outfield depth, Carrera has exceeded those expectations rather unexpectedly. A toe sprain injury suffered by Jose Bautista on June 16th has seen Carrera become a lineup mainstay at Right Field and Lead off spot, Carrera has not disappointed in his promotion. Carrera this season is boasting an impressive .281/.370/.407 slash line along with 4 home runs.
The Blue Jays have not missed a beat in the absence of Jose Bautista in the lead off spot as Carrera has matched or exceeded Bautista in statistics used to measure a leadoff hitter.
As seen above, Carrera has been a valuable addition to the lead off spot, getting on base at a .379 clip and nearly matching Bautista’s walk rate, a recognizable feat seeing as Bautista is one of the more patient hitters in the MLB.
Carrera’s numbers at the leadoff position are just one piece of the overall 2016 performance that is Carrera’s best season yet at the major league level. Carrera’s .283 batting average is fueled by his improved contact ability, seeing his contact rate increase from 74.6% last season to 82.1% this season (Pitch F/X). His 10.2% walk rate is also career high for the 29-year-old outfielder and his 1.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) rank above the likes of Jose Bautista (0.8) and Russell Martin (0.1).
It may be hard for a casual viewer to pick up on how Carrera’s bat has been a welcome addition to the Blue Jays offense this season, but the same cannot be said for Carrera’s play in the outfield as Carrera has stepped in marvelously for Jose Bautista in right field.
Carrera’s UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) sat at a less than great -2.9 last season, but this season that number has jumped to 5.5, a full 9.9 points higher than his right field mate Jose Bautista (-4.4).
Carrera may not be joining the likes of team mates Josh Donaldson, Michael Saunders or Aaron Sanchez in San Diego for this year’s All Star game but Carrera sure has made a case for being an unrecognized all-star for his efforts this season. Carrera’s play will leave Blue Jays brass with a lot of tough questions upon the return of Jose Bautista such as if the Blue Jays carry more offensive value with Carrera in right field with Bautista at first base or DH and relegating Justin Smoak to the bench.