Toronto Blue Jays’ 2014 Prediction: Edwin Encarnacion Will Be An MVP Front-Runner
Toronto has many things in common with other major cities — a diverse culture, endless condominium construction and a Starbucks on every corner. However, in the last 20 years, has any Toronto professional sports team ever played the lead role in any nightly syndicated highlight show outside of Canada? I’m betting the under.
It’s only fitting that this underdog metropolis owns one of the best kept secrets in all of MLB, Edwin Encarnacion. One who is about to embark on a career year and finally get the recognition of being one of baseball’s elite commodities.
In 2013, Encarnacion finished 14th on the MVP ballot, but don’t get it twisted; that 14th place finish only amounted in a two-percent share of all total votes. It was an astonishing outcome, considering that out of those top 14, only five recorded an .OPS higher than .900 and you know who was among them.
Not only has the slugger been shoved to the side league-wide, but he also plays the background in his own backyard, overshadowed by the spotlight shined on the one who steps in the batter’s box before him, Jose Bautista. Over the past two years, Encarnacion has showcased a prodigious power display with a grand total of 78 long balls. Only two other players have exceeded that number, Miguel Cabrera with 88 and Chris Davis with 86.
The production notables do not end there. In 2013, the Dominican pulverized his way to a seventh overall SLG% of .534, all the while displaying his discipline at the plate with a 9th overall BB% of 13.2. What really jumps off the page, though, is the fact that his BABIP (any hitter’s best friend) resided at a minuscule level of .247. To achieve such feats without the aid of the BABIP gods is truly remarkable. Just ask Colby Rasmus how much an overblown batting average on balls-in-play can pad one’s stats.
The anomaly theory can be thrown out in this scenario; just look to Encarnacion’s 2012 level of .266 to counteract the fluke position. Not to mention his back to back swing percentages south of 42 or the fact that he only struck out 63 times compared to 82 walks, which in turn has created a monster of patience at a plate. The city of Cincinnati has since burned any evidence that still remained after the 2009 Blue Jays stickup job that saw Scott Rolen dealt the other way.
The knock on Encarnacion has always been for his defense, as it should be; it seems like charging the ball is not an instated clause in his contract. However, anyone who claims that Miggy (2013 MVP) isn’t cut from the same cloth would have to be a resident of the Motor City. Let’s be real; offensive production pays the bills in any MVP discussion, and Gold Gloves take care of the defensive side.
With the end of his three-year, $29 million contract creeping ever closer, look for Encarnacion to truly cement himself and force his way into the minds of the BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America). Let’s just hope the Hall of Fame committee called in sick that day.
Fantasy owners and the citizens of Toronto will continue to reap the benefits of this annual sleeper, while the mainstream needs to catch up to not only the player but the city he plays in. It’s not all about Cabrera and Mike Trout just yet.