The Blue Jays Need Maicer Izturis To Be Useful by Paul Swydan February 27, 2015 The Blue Jays have new players up and down their lineup — Russell Martin, Justin Smoak, Josh Donaldson, Michael Saunders, Devon Travis, etc. Dalton Pompey basically qualifies here as well. But one incumbent player may end up being just as, if not more, important than all of the new acquisitions — middle infielder Maicer Izturis. Signed early in free agency after the 2012 season, Izturis hasn’t really done what the Blue Jays had hoped he would in a Toronto uniform. He was, by WAR, the worst position player in the game in 2013, and then he missed all but 11 games in 2014. Ankle and knee injuries were culprits, though the ankle injury in 2013 may not explain the near-career low walk rate and career-low pitches per plate appearance. Either way, Izturis hasn’t gotten good results for awhile. That is going to need to change this season. Last season, the Blue Jays second basemen were 98 Brett Lawrie plate appearances away from being one of the very worst in the American League. With Lawrie off to greener/golder pastures this season, he’s not going to be saving Toronto’s keystone this year. The job is an open competition, but they need Izturis to be the player he was in Anaheim — that .320 to .350 on-base percentage guy. Steve Tolleson had some good batting average on balls in play action last season, and even that didn’t get him up to average offensively. And Ryan Goins would have killed to be Steve Tolleson. It’s hard for a middle infielder to be plus defensively and still be a sub-replacement player, but Goins and his 26 wRC+ pulled it off. There’s also Ramon Santiago, but he also sports a sub-.300 career wOBA. Then there’s Devon Travis. Travis could very well be on the verge of a breakout season, but he’s got to get the chance to play first. While he could break camp with the big club, the expectation is that he’ll instead get his first taste of Triple-A ball. That will leave Izturis in the pole position at second for the early part of the season, perhaps as much as the entire first half. If he, or Goins/Santiago/Tolleson, is rocking a sub-.300 wOBA for nearly half the season, it’s going to put a damper on the Jays’ newly assembled offense. It’s not just second base where Izturis may be pivotal. In a radio interview the other day (listen around four-minute mark), head alliterative power Alex Anthopolous said that the team would ideally keep Jose Reyes on the bench on day games after night games on turf. I was curious to see how many games this was. There are 16-19 of them, depending on your point of view. Here are 17 sets of games, with the first game being a 7 p.m. start and the second being a 1 p.m., or earlier, start: Blue Jays, 2015 Days After Nights on Turf Night Game Day Game Opponent 17-Apr 18-Apr ATL 25-Apr 26-Apr tb 8-May 9-May BOS 22-May 23-May SEA 5-Jun 6-Jun HOU 9-Jun 10-Jun MIA 19-Jun 20-Jun BAL 23-Jun 24-Jun tb 26-Jun 27-Jun TEX 30-Jun 1-Jul BOS 17-Jul 18-Jul TB 31-Jul 1-Aug KC 12-Aug 13-Aug OAK 14-Aug 15-Aug NYY 28-Aug 29-Aug DET 4-Sep 5-Sep BAL 25-Sep 26-Sep TB I said 16 and not 17 above, because the July 17-18 set is in the first series after the All-Star break, so Reyes may not need the blow at that time. There are two more sets of dates not listed above as well. On Sept. 18, the team plays at 7 pm against the Red Sox, and the next day they play them again at 4 pm. Now, that is technically a day game, but it is sort of in that gray area, and that series figures to be important. Then, the penultimate game of the season is a 6 pm start, and is followed by a 3 pm start in the final affair down in Tampa. Again, if the Blue Jays are in it, this might be an important set of games. So, conservatively we’ll say 16 games where Reyes is ideally on the bench. From Toronto’s perspective, it is likely that those are the only 16 games that they would have Reyes sit in a perfect world. But our world is rarely perfect, and if Reyes misses time in addition to these prescribed days off, he might only get into 120-130 games this season. And the man left in the middle will likely be Izturis. In five of the six seasons from 2008-2013, Izturis suited up at shortstop at least 15 times, including 28 times in his first season north of the border (18 starts). There is a chance that Jose Reyes plays the full season at perfect health, and only needs a day off here or there. There is a chance that Devon Travis wows the team in spring training and is the starter from jump street, and never looks back. But there is a bigger chance that Maicer Izturis is going to see plenty of action this season at both middle infield positions, and after a season down and then a season out, it’s hard to know what to expect from the Venezuelan native. But his production is likely to be an under-the-radar key to Toronto’s season.