Well here’s something interesting: Kevin Pillar’s thumb, injured while sliding into second base over the weekend in Kansas City, is worse than initially believed, and he’s been placed on the 15-day disabled list because of it.
Darrell Cecilliani has been recalled to take over as the club’s fourth outfielder, while that pang of dread you feel and see reflected in Bart and Lisa’s faces above is indeed because the Jays’ Melvin Upton Jr. experiment just went full throttle. At least for a couple of weeks.
Upton, who has looked abysmal in his very, very brief Blue Jays career, will get the vast majority of time in centre with Pillar out. And maybe that’s a frightening proposition for a lot of Jays fans, but it probably shouldn’t be.
Uh… I think.
We’d do well to remember that Upton is a competent fielder in centre, having posted a 1.5 UZR there in total over his previous three seasons (I’ve excluded this season because he’s only played 97 innings there). DRS likes him less, at -6, with most of that negative value (-8) coming entirely in the 2014 season with Atlanta (he was +2 last year). In other words, while he’s certainly not Pillar, he’s not a complete butcher out there either.
He’s also — I’m sorry to inform you — a significantly better hitter than Pillar, we just haven’t seen it yet. And while he is going to strike out enough to drive people absolutely insane, there’s no precedent for him looking as awful as he has with the Jays to this point. His current strikeout rate as a Blue Jay is a disgusting 42.4%, but that was a “mere” 28.3% in San Diego, and sits at 26.7% for his career.
Like Justin Smoak, Upton makes up for that with power (or is at least supposed to — or does when he’s not looking infuriatingly inept), and an ability to take a walk that he hasn’t yet shown here either.
Upton hit 16 home runs before coming over from the Padres, and has a 10.1% walk rate in his career, though is on pace to set a career low in that regard this season (5.9%). Still, add it all up and you have a guy who has an 89 wRC+ (though that’s down from 103 less than a month ago, as I noted in today’s Weekend Wrap), compared to Pillar’s 78. And he had a 110 wRC+ last season, compared to Pillar’s 93.
Update: Here’s Pillar talking about the injury, which he seems to think won’t keep him out more than the requisite 15 days, which… you can totally just read that from the tweet below…
— Alykhan K. Ravjiani (@AlykhanKR) August 8, 2016