Blue Jays Report Card: End-of-season grades for every key player

The Blue Jays beat the Astros 3-1 to get a win for John Gibbons in his final home game as manager.

Finally, mercifully, this forgettable Blue Jays season is about to end. With the Jays headed to their worst result in 13 years, our year-ender report card is going to have some ugly grades. Still, you’ll find a few silver linings too, as the rebuilding process kicks into gear.

INFIELD

C Russell Martin, D-

Lowest MLB batting average (minimum 350 plate appearances):

Russell Martin .194
Adam Duvall .193
Logan Morrison .186
Gary Sanchez .182
Chris Davis .168

Granted, Martin didn’t fare as poorly as Chris Davis, who’s about to set an all-time record for the worst single-season batting average in the history of the game. But like Davis, Martin’s decline looks much worse when weighed against his enormous salary, in the Toronto catcher’s case, $20 million this season.

It’s tough to say anything definitive about Danny Jansen when he hasn’t even reached 100 big league plate appearances yet. Still, there’s no way in hell a Jays organization committed to rebuilding does anything other than make Jansen its No. 1 catcher next spring, even with one more contract year at $20 million left for Martin.

1B Justin Smoak, B-

On one hand, Smoak was the Jays’ best hitter this year, socking 25 home runs and compiling a .242/.351/.458 line that was 22 per cent better than league average. On the other hand, Smoak’s production fell off compared to his 38-homer breakout last year, and you can’t take much pride in being the best hitter on a team that ranks a lowly 23rd in Wins Above Replacement by position players. If Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins shop Smoak this winter to stock the farm system and make way for Rowdy Tellez at first, that would be a sign that the Jays might no longer be settling for half-measures.

2B Devon Travis, D-

Can’t stay healthy, no longer productive even when he does, and we can’t call him a prospect anymore when he’ll turn 28 in February. There’s no reason for Travis to be on the major league roster come spring.

SS/2B Lourdes Gurriel Jr., B+

Walked just 16 times against 101 strikeouts this season across three levels, so Gurriel still has lots of work to do to refine his batting eye. He’s still an intriguing talent who delivered 18 homers in 116 games between Double-A, Triple-A, and the majors, while playing both up-the-middle infield positions. Make him watch a few hundred hours of John Olerud at-bats, then check back in spring training.

3B Yangervis Solarte, D

Remember when Solarte was cranking home runs at a prodigious pace, highlighting a plucky group of bargain-priced players who’d given the upstart Jays a big lift at the start of the season? That was lots of fun while it lasted.

SS Aledmys Diaz, B+

Acquired in December from St. Louis for a fringe minor leaguer, Diaz has been one of the team’s most pleasant surprises, cracking 18 home runs in relief of Troy Tulowitzki. He’s an OBP liability and a subpar fielder at short, but in an ugly season like this one, we’re grading on a curve.

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OUTFIELD/DH

OF Teoscar Hernandez, C-

We wouldn’t normally label a 25-year-old finishing his first full season in the big leagues as someone who belongs at DH. Then again, Hernandez is no ordinary player. While the 30-homer potential is encouraging, the rest of his game is not. Whether by advanced metrics or more colorful means, his defence can only be described as atrocious.

OF Kevin Pillar, C-

The next time Pillar rakes during the first few weeks of a season, we’re not going to fall for it. Pillar is half-acrobat, half-vacuum cleaner in the field, and he’s also a terrible hitter. This year, last year, next year. There may be a no more “he is what he is” player in Blue Jays history.

OF Randal Grichuk, B+

Here’s a legitimate bright spot: 13 home runs and a near-.550 slugging average after the All-Star break for a player bought at rock-bottom prices. Between Diaz and Grichuk, Jays management has now given itself a definitive blueprint to follow as it rebuilds the roster: Acquire as many unwanted Cardinals as possible.

DH Kendrys Morales, C

Good times.

PITCHERS

SP Marcus Stroman, D+
SP Aaron Sanchez, D-

What do you do with the two young right-handers who were supposed to be your rotation building blocks, only to see both collapse under the weight of injuries and plain old lousy performance? You probably can’t trade either one, at least not right now, coming off twin miserable seasons. If you wanted to bet on one of the two reviving his trade value at some point next season, make it Stroman. The worst strand rate in all of baseball owed as much to terrible team defence and rotten luck than it did to lousy performance. Stroman’s defence-independent numbers point to a capable pitcher, even in a lost season. Sanchez fans can’t make the same claim, at least not until their guy starts locating his pitches anywhere close to the strike zone.

SP Marco Estrada, D

Watching a right-handed starter get by with high-80s velocity in today’s flame-throwing era felt a bit like a magic trick. It was fun while it lasted.

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SP Sam Gaviglio, C-

You take what you can get from a 28-year-old journeyman forced into regular action by rampant injuries and a bunch of deadline deals. Including a case of whiplash, unfortunately.

RP Ryan Borucki, B

Sure, Borucki made his bones largely thanks to a freakishly low 5.3 per cent home run-to-flyball rate that has no chance in hell of lasting beyond this year. So what? The only Blue Jays starter to put up better numbers than Borucki this year was J.A. Happ, and he stopped being a Blue Jay two months ago.

RP Ken Giles, C+

A functional closer who’s not as good as the guy he replaced, but turning a radioactive commodity into the potential Rookie of the Year isn’t something that’s likely to be replicated any time soon.

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