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Toronto Blue Jays: Is Edwin Encarnacion’s Breakout For Real?

Led by “Joey Bats” (that would be Jose Bautista to those of us in the Unite States), the Toronto Blue Jays have boasted a dangerous lineup over the past few seasons.  A top ten offense the past three seasons (No. 6 in 2011), the Toronto Blue Jays figures to be even stronger with the emergence of Edwin Encarnacion.  Acquired by the Toronto Blue Jays at the 2009 Trade Deadline, Edwin Encarnacion – or “E5″ as some of his fans call him – looks like he may be the classic late bloomer.

Back in 2005, Encarnacion ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds organization.  I realize that 2005 is a generation ago when discussing prospects, but it just goes to show that his physical skills and tools have always been well-regarded – the offensive ones at least.  Even with his up-and-down play and general inconsistency, E5 has periodically shown flashes of the type of potential he possesses.  In 2006 he cracked 26 homers as a 25 year old, one year after batting .289 in 502 at-bats.  He just has not been able to put it all together in one season…

…until now, perhaps.  It hasn’t even been one month so we can’t buy too much into Encarnacion’s .289/.326/.554/.880 start.  Nor should we freak out over his five homers and seven doubles – not yet at least.  However, there are signs that suggest that Encarnacion’s hot start in 2012 is legit – most importantly, the improved command of the strike zone. Not only did Encarnacion display improved K and BB percentages over the full 2011 season compared to 2010, but his work after the All-Star break in 2011 was stellar.  His post-break line included an .887 OPS with a 34-38 walk-to-whiff ratio.  We’re only talking about a sample of 234 at-bats here, but these small second half samples often serve as a preview of improved production.

Personally, I think Edwin Encarnacion is ready to settle in as a legit power threat in the middle of the Toronto Blue Jays’ lineup in 2012.  He is currently sporting a 5-16 walk-to-whiff ratio so we’ll see how much of his improved strike zone command carries over throughout the rest of the season, but so far the power appears to be real.  If someone asked me for a bold prediction, I would roll the dice on a .275/.330/.510 slash line with 30 bombs and 90 RBI.  Good for the Toronto Blue Jays, but potentially sucky for the rest of the American League (b)East.

I can’t promise a steady diet of Toronto Blue Jays banter, but you should follow me on Twitter just in case.