What will the next chapter in the legend of Munenori Kawasaki look like?
From his time as a surprising injury replacement and becoming a rallying point for the Toronto Blue Jays and its fan base, to having his role as a spark plug burn out just as quickly as it started, the Japanese import with a colorful personality (and not to mention legendary mic skills as an interviewee) has gone through a fitting roller coaster of a season.
These days, however, the only thing he’s concerned with is making sure that there’s an encore.
Though the skill set of the 32-year old won’t particularly jump out at you in any way — he doesn’t field particularly well (though he has done so at 3.0 fielding runs above average), nor is he a particularly competent hitter even for being a middle infielder; still, you can’t say he hasn’t been opportunistic and as it turns out, all that mediocrity put together actually yields somewhat palatable results.
Then again, given that the Blue Jays had to watch Maicer Izturis and Emilio Bonifacio flounder in the infield for most of the year, palatable is very relative here.
And considering that the team currently does not have any reasonable options at second base going forward besides the young Ryan Goins, are Kawasaki’s results enough to warrant him at least a shot at the regular second base gig going going into Spring Training in 2014?
At first glance, you probably wouldn’t think so. Kawasaki’s .232/.330/.312 doesn’t jump out at you in any way, though at 0.9 fWAR for the season through just 286 PA, he is easily the Jays’ second-most valuable middle infielder this season next to Jose Reyes.
Not only that, but as the season is winding down for the bluebirds, he has only turned on the jets at the plate, hitting .289/.386/.342 through 47 PA, even recording a four-hit game on September 25 … as an unlikely (what else?) DH.
At this point, you’d have to think that he’s probably going to stick around as a bench player/spark plug/cheerleader, or whatever role he can get his hands on, really. In a year where the Blue Jays looked to folks like Bonifacio to provide versatility, it’s Kawasaki that has provided it in more ways than imagined.
Besides. he also owns one very important skill that the team is mostly devoid of right now: patience.
With a 11.2 percent walk rate and a 0.82 BB/K, Kawasaki is ranked third and second on the team respectively in those categories, being tied with Jose Bautista in the latter. Just think about that for a second. Oh, and he also easily leads the team’s position players with a 3.9 percent swinging strike rate — no, seriously.
If anything else, it’s probably going to be that patience that mitigates his shortcomings on the field, his age, and his general lack of power in a mediocre bat. Given that Goins still doesn’t have a grasp on how to draw a walk yet (he owns a J.P. Arencibia-esque 0.08 BB/K in in first cup of team in the bigs), it would not be a surprise if the team ultimately decided that he needs more seasoning in the minors, opening the door for his Japanese compatriot for yet another unlikely role.
Munenori Kawasaki, starting Toronto Blue Jays second baseman in 2014 — could it happen?
You’d think that Alex Anthopoulos would have figured out an alternative by then, but it’s long past time to count Kawasaki out at this point, no?