TORONTO — As perhaps the most frustrating of all Blue Jays seasons comes to an end this weekend, it’s time to find out who the Jays themselves thought stood above the rest in 2013.
Every season, I have taken an anonymous poll of all Blue Jays’ uniformed personnel — players, coaches, manager — as well as a couple of members of the front office, asking them to select the team’s Most Valuable Player, Pitcher of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Most Pleasant Surprise of the Season.
I’m always impressed by how willing everyone is to participate in the anonymous process, and by just how seriously everyone takes their votes. This year was no exception.
We’ll reveal two of the winners today, and the other two on Sunday.
Rookie of the Year Award
There wasn’t a whole lot to choose from, quantity-wise, for Toronto’s 2013 Rookie of the Year Award. There were only five actual rookies on the team who made any kind of impact this season (I didn’t count guys like Sean Nolin and Thad Weber), and there was a clear consensus among the voters: Todd Redmond.
Redmond’s 23 votes beat out both Ryan Goins and Neil Wagner, who earned six votes apiece. The righty, a 39th-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2004, was picked up by the Blue Jays off waivers from Baltimore at the end of Spring Training and sent to Buffalo to provide depth for the Bisons. With the big club desperate for arms, Redmond got the call to help out in the bullpen and made a strong impression with his long relief work in Toronto’s 17-inning loss in San Diego.
He was sent back down after that game, but it wasn’t long before he returned and was, surprisingly, a mainstay in the rotation after that.
Redmond made 13 starts, and only two of them weren’t very good. Going into Sunday’s season finale, he’s 4-2 (his first four big-league wins) with a sparkling 3.77 ERA, an outstanding WHIP of 1.15 and 75 strikeouts in 76 1/3 innings. Should the Blue Jays make any off-season improvements to the rotation, Redmond would likely have to compete for a role as the fifth starter or long man, at best, but he’s definitely in the conversation now for a big-league job next year.
In a very difficult season, there were still quite a few bright spots for the Blue Jays, so much so that there were a dozen different people named by voters in this category. Ultimately, though, and perhaps as a consolation prize for not being named top rookie, voters chose Ryan Goins.
Goins started his big-league career like a house afire when he joined the Blue Jays in Houston in late August. He tied a club record with an eight-game hitting streak to begin his career, and has played Gold Glove-level defence at second base — a spot where good glovework had been sorely lacking for the club all season long.
In fact, since Goins has arrived, the Blue Jays rank in the top three in the big leagues in turning double plays.
However, the bat hasn’t been terrific for Goins; he was hitting just .264/.277/.336 going into Saturday’s game despite two separate eight-game hitting streaks with just two walks against 25 strikeouts in 110 at-bats. Thankfully for Goins, the glove has been so extraordinary that he’s definitely made himself a strong fallback with whom the Blue Jays can be comfortable as a starting second baseman next season if the club can’t upgrade at the position in the off-season.