With spring training officially just under a month away, I thought now would be a good time to start a series of projections on what the 2012 Toronto Blue Jays might look like. Each day (don’t hold me to this), I will profile a 2012 Blue Jays starter, closing with a set of numbers based on my (usually positive) expectations. Today, we’ll take a closer look at what 2012 might have in store for Adam Lind.
Oh, Adam Lind, whatever are we going to do with you this year? It was only 3 seasons ago that the then-25 year old seemed poised to be set to become a middle-of the order bat in the Blue Jays core. After a disastrous 2010, Lind seemed poised to reclaim that status last season, with a new position in tow. How much he accomplished that goal depends on your outlook, really. While he did make some strides in the strikeout rate, bringing things down to 19.7% from a career 23.5%, and managing to hit 26 bombs, it was a tale of two seasons for the newly-minted Blue Jays 1st baseman.
On one hand, when things got good, Lind was really good. After an April start where he hit .274, Lind practically exploded in May, hitting .500 with 6 home runs over his first 22 PAs during the month. Even with an untimely back injury that sidelined Lind for nearly a month, he continued to pick up right where he left off, hitting .311/.385 over 104 PA in June with an awe-inspiring 9 home runs and 1.029 OPS during that span. Lind was back, and for all that he had to learn about his new position, he was ready to take over 1st base in a big way.
But then July happened, and Lind’s production dropped off the face of the planet; all of a sudden, the Adam Lind that was on a warpath to resurgence was nowhere to be seen. Then it continued in August. September. When all was said and done, Lind finished the season as one of the very worst hitters on the Blue Jays, posting a .197/.233/.356 line over the final 58 games of the season. When you put the two halves together, the results of his 2011 season are still not all that pretty: Lind’s .734 OPS for the season ranks him 3rd last among MLB 1st basemen, and his OBP of .295 ranks him 2nd last – not really what you want to see from a starting 1st baseman.
Yes, he did hit all those home runs, and the 87 RBIs look nice on paper (even if it’s not much of an indicator of his performance), there are certain alarm bells going off. For the third straight season, Lind’s walk rate declined, settling at just 5.9% in 2011. His infield hit rate spiked to a career-high 6.9%, and his pop-fly ratio more than doubled from 2010 to 10.5%. When he wasn’t hitting home runs post-AS break, he was making more outs than ever. It might be okay to have a power-play at 1st like a Carlos Pena is now for the Rays, but you’ve still got to get on base – and that’s just something Lind didn’t show that he could do for nearly half of his season (punctuated by a miserable August where he walked just once in 110 PA).
So the big question is, which Adam Lind do you believe? The one that was worth 3.7 WAR in 2009 – the same player who posted a .300/.349/.515 first half in 2011, or the one who has had 31 great games in 2011 in his age-27 season?
For me, the answer is somewhere in the middle. I don’t believe that Lind is nearly as bad as he was for the second half of last season; at the same time, I think it’s about time to give up on the idea that Lind is a star slugger in the waiting. Certainly, it’s not impossible for him to replicate what he did in 2009, but he’s not showing any consistent improvements in the skill set that’s required of him to put up those numbers. It’s not to say that Lind can’t be useful in 2012, but I do think that the bluebirds can do better at that position than a sub-par defender whose only demonstrated asset is his power. I’m pretty sure about one thing – if Lind doesn’t quickly reverse the trend at the plate that sank his summer of 2011, the team probably isn’t going to wait around too much longer, even if the only player lurking in that position ends up being Edwin Encarnacion (started 22 games at 1st last season).
Now that I got all that negativity out of my system, here’s what the hopeful, not-bitter-about-Prince-Fielder version of me thinks Adam Lind can do in 2012:
600 PA, .260/.320/.445, 26 HR
Yes, I’m trying to say that JPA and Lind will post similar numbers next season. The key difference in their value, of course, being their position. As always, comments are both wanted and appreciated. Anyone out there who thinks Lind is set for a massive 2012?
Previous 2012 Blue Jays forecasts: