The top five Toronto Blue Jays players at every position

Paul Molitor
A look at the top five Toronto Blue Jays at each position on the diamond, including starting pitchers, relief pitchers, and designated hitters.

As is usually the case here at Mop-up Duty, this post was inspired by a heated conversation about who the greatest third baseman in the history of the franchise is. A glut of talent has passed through the position over the years, including Josh Donaldson, Scott Rolen, Troy Glaus, Kelly Gruber, and Jose Bautista. Some had been at the position for 10 seasons, while others, like Rolen, wore a Blue Jay uniform for a season-and-a-half. How do you really define who the best was? What criteria should be used?

For me, when I attempt to determine who the best player at a position is, I try to think of who I would want to play for my team in Game 7 of a World Series. Take the catcher position for example. Sure, Ernie Whitt – a fine player – might have amassed 19.3 WAR over the course of his 12-year career in a Blue Jay uniform. But I want Russell Martin behind the plate, even though he played only four seasons in Toronto and accumulated significantly less WAR at 8.2.

Broadening the scope of the discussion to include all positions and pitching has resulted in the ranking below. The criteria used to determine eligibility is as follows: the player in question must have played at least a full season’s worth of games at his position in a Blue Jay uniform. A season’s worth of games is approximately 140 games to allow for injury and days off. In this case, a rental player such as Rickey Henderson would not be included. Although he is one of the greatest players of all time, and certainly one of the greatest players to ever don a Blue Jay uniform, Henderson played only 44 games as a Blue Jay, thus rendering him ineligible for consideration as a top five Blue Jay left fielder. For pitchers, the criteria are similar: at least 25 starts for a starter or 40 innings for a reliever.

Agree with these rankings? Disagree vehemently? Show us your love or unleash your hate in the comments below. Click on the player name to view their career statistics.

Starting pitcher

Roger Clemens

Roger Clemens is responsible for two of the greatest single-season pitching performances in Blue Jays history. His 1997 and 1998 seasons produced two Cy Young awards, leading the league in both wins, ERA, and strikeouts each year. He owns Blue Jays single-season pitching records in bWAR (11.9), strikeouts (292), and ERA for a starting pitcher (2.05). While he was more than likely taking performance enhancing drugs during this time, no Blue Jays player has produced more dominant single-season pitching performances than Clemens.

Roy Halladay

What can be said about Doc that hasn’t already been said? Roy Halladay has been Mr. Consistency throughout the course of his career (his 1999 and 2000 seasons notwithstanding).  He holds single-season Blue Jays records in wins (22), WHIP for a starting pitcher (0.96), lowest number of walks per nine innings (1.083), and walk-to-strikeout-ratio (6.375). He led the league in innings pitched three times for Toronto, and led the league in complete games five times. The six-time All-Star won a Cy Young award for the Blue Jays in 2003. If you’d like to learn more about Halladay, I highly recommend the book Doc: The Life of Roy Halladay.

Dave Stieb

The greatest starting pitcher of the 1980s, Dave Stieb owns Blue Jay single-season records in innings pitched (288.1), complete games (19!), and shutouts (5). He is the top Blue Jays pitcher in bWAR (56.9), wins (175), innings pitched (2873), and strikeouts (1658). The seven-time All-Star was a victim of lacklustre run support for most of his career; Stieb never won a Cy Young award or had a 20-win season. Stieb is the only Blue Jay pitcher to ever record a no-hitter.

Jimmy Key

Certainly the greatest left-handed pitcher in franchise history, the soft-tossing Jimmy Key has the Blue Jays franchise record in WHIP by a starting pitcher with a 1.196 mark. Key was the runner-up in Cy Young voting for his outstanding 1987 season.

Pat Hentgen

A bulldog cut from the same cloth as Dave Stieb and Roy Hallday, Pat Hentgen led the league in innings pitched and complete games twice over the course of his career. Hentgen was the recipient of the Cy Young award for his 20-win season in 1996. While Hentgen burned bright in 1996 and 1997, the wear and tear on his arm rendered him a shell of his former self for the remainder of his career.

Further reading: Greatest Roy Halladay Moments, The Dave Stieb vs. Jack Morris Hall of Fame Debate, Jimmy Key Profile

Relief pitcher

Tom Henke

You can bring him in now, but he’s even better later. The “Terminator,” as Henke was affectionately known by Blue Jay fans, was Toronto’s closer for eight seasons. Henke owns the franchise record for career ERA (2.48), WHIP (1.025), strikeouts per 9 IP (10.295), saves (217), strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.880), and adjusted ERA+ (167).

Mark Eichhorn

Although he only has a handful of saves in his career, Mark Eichhorn is certainly one of the most effective relievers in Blue Jays history. The side-armer pitched 159 innings in relief in 1986, winning 14 games while posting a microscopic 1.72 ERA. He owns the Blue Jays single-season WHIP record (0.955), hits per 9 IP (6.019), games played (89), and adjusted ERA+ (246!).

B.J. Ryan

Left-handed reliever B.J. Ryan is responsible for one of the greatest relief seasons by a Blue Jays pitcher of all time. In 2006, Ryan posted a 1.37 ERA over 72.1 innings pitched, striking out 86 while posting a 0.857 WHIP. His adjusted ERA+ was a ridiculous 335. Unfortunately, a “back injury” led to Tommy John surgery the following season. Although he turned in respectable performance in 2008, his elbow persistent elbow woes resulted in retirement the following season.

Duane Ward

Tom Henke’s setup man became the Blue Jays’ fulltime closer in 1993 and picked up right where Henke left off. The hard-throwing right-hander led the league in saves in 1993 with 45 (tops in Blue Jay history) and struck out 97 hitters in only 71.2 innings pitched. Although Ward lived in Henke’s shadow for the better part of his career, he’s second in career ERA to only Henke at 3.18. He’s third all-time in Blue Jay history in strikeouts per 9 IP (9.281), second in games played (452), and second in saves (121). His single-season ERA of 1.95 set in 1992 trails only Mark Eichhorn’s 1.72 as the lowest single-season ERA of any Blue Jay pitcher.

Ken Giles

Although the future of Giles’s career in a Blue Jay uniform is yet to be determined, his 2019 season ranks as one of the greatest all-time relief seasons in Blue Jay history. Only a handful of Blue Jays have ever thrown 100mph (Billy Koch, Brandon Morrow, Brandon League, Nate Pearson, A.J Burnett) and Ken Giles is one of them. Giles’s 2019 season was B.J. Ryan-esque: a 1.87 ERA (244 ERA+), 83 strikeouts in 53 innings pitched, but only 23 saves for a pretty mediocre Blue Jays team (not that saves really matter). Is he the fifth best reliever to ever wear a Blue Jays uniform? It’s hard to say really. There’s also Roberto Osuna, Paul Quantrill, Billy Koch, Mike Timlin, even Casey Janssen and Jason Frasor to pick from. For me, it’s Giles.

Further reading: Henke Highlight Videos, Mr. Submarine: Mark Eichhorn, Duane Ward: The 100+ Inning Set-Up Man

Catcher

When compiling this list, I came across a few surprises. Firstly, the Blue Jays have not had many talented catchers over the years, though my memory would have me believe otherwise. The best of the bunch is home-grown Russell Martin, though by the time he got to Toronto he had begun his decline. Apart from Martin, there’s 80s stalwart Ernie Whitt – an overachieving journeyman catcher. After that it’s really a free-for-all. Your picks are as good as mine.

Russell Martin

Following arguably the best season of his career in 2014, Russell Martin signed a five-year $82 million contract with the Blue Jays. As far as catchers go, he did a pretty good job of providing value commensurate to what he was paid. The veteran catcher offered a steadying defensive presence behind the plate, threw out would-be base stealers at a 44% clip (!) in his first season, and provided some pop while getting on base at a respectable rate. He’s clearly the best catcher the Blue Jays ever had and he played an important role in the playoff runs of 2015 and 2016.

Ernie Whitt

For many boomers, Ernie Whitt was the face of the 1980s Blue Jays teams. Offensively, Whitt was basically league average over the course of his 15-year career. Defensively, he was quite a bit better – deceptively quick behind the plate, Whitt was better than average at catching base stealers.

Pat Borders

Here we have the prototypical journeyman catcher. What Borders’ career lacks in height (though a World Series MVP trophy is nothing to turn your nose up at), it makes up for in length. Although Borders didn’t break into the big leagues until he was 25, he managed to hang on until he was 42 years old – virtually unheard of for a catcher. Borders played parts of eight seasons in Toronto, and was pretty much league average or (usually) below in every offensive category. Anecdotally, he was capably defensively and pitchers enjoyed pitching to him – he was the catcher for Dave Stieb’s no-hitter in 1990.

Gregg Zaun

Recency bias in full effect. Gregg Zaun was not a great catcher by any stretch of the imagination. Yet he contributed in many ways as both as a starting and platoon catcher over the course of five seasons in Toronto. He walked nearly as often as he struck out (250 walks vs. 266 strikeouts from 2004-2008) and got on base at a .354 clip. He played fundamentally sound defense and did a reasonable job of controlling the running game in spite of working with pitchers who were notoriously poor at holding on baserunners (A.J. Burnett being the greatest offender). He sneakily added 10.7 wins above replacement over his five seasons in Toronto, which is remarkable because his career was just about over before then-General Manager J.P. Ricciardi picked him up off the scrap heap. He was also the de-facto personal catcher in Toronto for Roy Halladay, a pitcher notoriously fickle with his battery-mates.

Darrin Fletcher

For the fifth spot it’s down to Darrin Fletcher or Greg Myers, and honestly, it’s a toss-up. I’ll go with Fletcher because he had about two seasons of slightly above average offensive production compared to Myers’ one good season in 2003. Not a lot to say here about Fletcher really, except for the fact he kept his strikeout numbers remarkably low. He went on to become a pretty solid part time broadcaster for the Blue Jays, but loses points for constantly referring to breaking balls as a “piece”: slide piece, change piece, etc. Annoying.

Further reading: Gregg Zaun Bio

First baseman

We’ve got a few studs on this list; one through three were pretty easy to determine. But the drop off from three to four is precipitous and five is a toss-up.

Carlos Delgado

A borderline Hall of Fame candidate, this converted catcher has posted some of the greatest offensive seasons by any Blue Jays player. Delgado owns single-season Blue Jay records in slugging percentage (.664), OPS (1.134), total bases (378), doubles (57), and RBI (145). He’s the franchise leader in home runs with 336, RBI (1058), and walks (827). Defensively, Delgado was average or a bit below, but no one really noticed while he was scorching rockets all over the SkyDome.

Fred McGriff

Like Carlos Delgado before him, the “Crime Dog” is also a borderline Hall of Fame candidate. Surprisingly (to me at least), he’s the franchise leader in OPS+ with a mark of 153, ahead of Josh Donaldson’s 148. McGriff also leads all Blue Jays in an odd stat called “Offensive Win %.” If a team’s batting lineup consisted of nine Fred McGriffs from when he wore a Blue Jays uniform, and had average pitching and defense, that team would win 72.6% of the time. That translates to a 117-win season. Impressive.

John Olerud

Known for having the second sweetest left-handed swing (next to Ken Griffey Jr.), John Olerud forever lives in Blue Jays lore for having flirted with .400 for most of the 1993 season. He slumped over the final two months of the season – if you can even call it that – and finished with a .363 batting average, a Blue Jays single-season record. More importantly, he finished the season with a .473 on-base percentage (due in part to 33 intentional walks), another Blue Jays single-season record. Olerud was also a slick-fielding first baseman on balls hit directly at him, but he was slowwwww and didn’t have much range. He still won three Gold Gloves (for what it’s worth) as a member of the Seattle Mariners.

Justin Smoak

Smoak, a former first-round draft pick, was astutely plucked off the waiver wire from the Seattle Mariners in 2014 after four seasons of mediocrity. That trend continued in Toronto for two seasons, until his breakout season in 2017 when he hit 38 home runs and made his first All-Star team. He also might be the greatest defensive first baseman in Blue Jays history.

Willie Upshaw

The oft-forgotten and underrated Willie Upshaw spent nine of his 10 major league seasons as the Blue Jays’ first baseman. He was the first Blue Jays first baseman to ever reach the 100 RBI mark, reaching that milestone in 1983 when he put up a .306/.373/.515 slash line. Upshaw finished 11th in MVP voting that season, and racked up a few more votes the following season. Other candidates for this fifth spot include John Mayberry, Lyle Overbay, and Adam Lind.

Further reading: Fawning Over Fred McGriff, Profiling Willie Upshaw

Second baseman

Ahhh. Second base. A super star at the top, a bunch of scrubs below.

Roberto Alomar

This one is a no-brainer. Alomar is in the Hall of Fame wearing a Blue Jays cap and could do anything he wanted on a baseball diamond. In his five seasons in Toronto, Alomar was a five-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner. He walked more than he struck out, he played elite defense, and was responsible for breaking the Blue Jays playoff curse with an iconic home run against Oakland A’s reliever Dennis Eckersley.

Aaron Hill

A first-round pick in of the Blue Jays in 2003, Aaron Hill was considered a safe-bet college pick by then-General Manager J.P. Ricciardi. He turned out to be pretty safe: Hill provided to be a mostly unremarkable and serviceable second baseman. His best season was the 2009 season in which he posted a .286/.330/.499 slash line.

Orlando Hudson

While Orlando Hudson’s bat wasn’t quite as potent as Aaron Hill’s, he was much slicker with the glove – and a lot more fun to watch. A 43rd round draft pick, Orlando Hudson’s major league debut was delayed due to an offhand comment where he likened then-General Manager J.P. Ricciardi to a “pimp.” In any event, Hudson’s defense is second only to Roberto Alomar in Blue Jays second baseman history.

Damaso Garcia

Over the course of seven seasons in a Blue Jays uniform, Damaso Garcia picked up a few accolades, including a Silver Slugger award and two All-Star selections. He is best remembered for setting his uniform on fire in an attempt to end a slump

Devon Travis

Devon Travis was the Blue Jays’ second baseman for parts of four seasons, from 2015-2019. He never played more than 103 games in a season due to troublesome knee injuries, but was a league average offensive player with adequate defense. And that’s the most you can hope to get from the fifth spot on this list.

Further reading: The Orlando Hudson Ass-Slap Double Play

Third baseman

Here’s the fun one. Tonnes of studs up and down the line. “Dosh” is the GOAT, and then it’s a dog fight down the list.

Josh Donaldson

The third baseman sometimes referred to as “Dosh Johnaldson” by Blue Jays broadcaster Buck Martinez, an argument could be made that he’s one of the greatest players to ever play for Toronto. Donaldson’s first season as a Blue Jay was one for the ages: 122 runs scored, 41 doubles, 41 home runs, 123 RBI, and a .297/.371/.568 slash line to go along with sparkling defense at the hot corner. Oh yeah, and an MVP award. He was – and is – hella fun to watch play; he dripped with swag and attitude.

Kelly Gruber

A Rule 5 draft pick, Kelly Gruber was mostly a 5-tool player at his peak. Sadly, Gruber never realized his full potential due to constant injury woes. His best season was in 1990 where he hit 36 doubles, 31 home runs, 118 RBI, and posted a .274/.330/.512 slash line. He won both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards for the third base position, was an All-Star, and finished 4th in MVP voting. Hard nosed with a cannon for an arm, Gruber is best known for making the final out on a triple play that never was in the 1992 World Series.

Once worshipped as a God in Toronto, Kelly Gruber has fallen off in popularity due to an inebriated Pitch Talks appearance in which he was abrasive and made inappropriate comments to the host.

Ed Sprague

Sprague transitioned to the starting role following Kelly Gruber’s decline due to injury in 1993. Though they were similar players, Sprague’s defense was not nearly as good as Gruber’s, he walked a little more, may or may not have had more power, and was demonstrably slower on the basepaths. Gruber racked up 16.4 WAR over the course of his career, Sprague accumulated 5.7. In 2008, Sprague admitted to dabbling with steroids and using corked bats.

Troy Glaus

During Glaus’s two seasons in Toronto, he more or less mashed, posting two .800+ OPS seasons. While Glaus was a bit of a cinder block on defense, he had a strong arm. His light-tower-power was best displayed at the SkyDome; I fondly remember a few Glaus bombs that caromed off Windows Restaurant beyond the centre field fence.

Rance Mulliniks

The left-handed hitting Rance Mulliniks thrived in a platoon role on Blue Jays teams in the 80s before becoming an important pinch-hitting threat off the bench and designated hitter later in his career. Mulliniks was an OBP stud before it became en vogue. His best season was in 1988 when he posted a .300/.395/.475 slash line and a surprising OPS+ of 143. Fundamentally sound, Mulliniks wasn’t a flashy player but did the little things right to help his team win.

Honourable mentions:

Scott Rolen

In my opinion, Scott Rolen belongs in the Hall of Fame and he may very well get there. While he played more than 200 games as a Blue Jay, he was a shell of his former self due to numerous shoulder injuries. Over the course of his career he had four surgeries on his left (non-throwing) shoulder, forcing him to adjust his swing considerably, and sapping his power as a result.

Tony Batista

Known for his weird batting stance and even weirder 2000 season. While he slugged 41 home runs that season, he posted an OPS+ of 102 due to his inability to get on base at a respectable rate.

Further reading: The now-dated Kelly Gruber: The Greatest Blue Jays Third Baseman, Kelly Gruber on “The Superstars”

Shortstop

Tony Fernandez

Tony Fernandez is one of the greatest defensive shortstops of all time, and he was no slouch with the bat either. Fernandez is the Blue Jays’ franchise leader in hits (1,583), triples (72) and games played (1,450). With the bat or with the glove, there’s no one I’d rather have at shortstop in a must-win game than Fernandez, regardless of what happened in Cleveland. For more on the career of “Cabeza,” check out this excellent piece by Sportsnet’s Gare Joyce, as well as this memorial by The New York Times.

Troy Tulowitzki

If we’re being honest, prior to the acquisition of Troy Tulowitzki, it had been 16 seasons since the Blue Jays had a solid shortstop. Tulowitzki was acquired from the Colorado Rockies in 2015 to solidfy the shortstop position for Toronto’s 2015 playoff run. He certainly cleaned up the position defensively, but struggled with the bat as he adjusted to playing in a new city and new country. He played about league average offensively the next season before being released by the Blue Jays following achilles and heel injuries.

Yunel Escobar

The streaky Escobar had flashes of brilliance defensively while producing adequately at the plate. He produced a 4.8 bWAR season in 2011, but was run out of town following a bizarre eyeblack incident.

Jose Reyes

Reyes was meant to solidify the shaky shortstop position, but he fielded like his glove was an actual frying pan. While he used to be a bit of a stud, he was over the hill by the time he reached Toronto.

Alex Gonzalez

Defensively solid, offensively erratic, Alex Gonzalez was tasked with assuming the shortstop position following Tony Fernandez’s departure. He wasn’t very good, could sometimes run into a fastball, and could play serviceable defense. Not really the production you would want from an up-the-middle position for 7+ seasons, but here we are.

Honourable mention:

Maicer Izturis. Just kidding.

Further reading: Tony Fernandez DayYunel Escobar

Left fielder

After the top two, it’s more bottom-of-the-barrel scraping.

George Bell

As Tony Fernandez poignantly said, “George Bell and Michael Jackson had a lot in common — they both wear a glove for no obvious reason.” While Bell was never known for his defense, what he lacked with his glove he more than made up for with his bat. George Bell was the first Blue Jays player to win an MVP award, winning it in 1987 by hitting 47 home runs, driving in 134, and posting a .308/.352/.605 slash line.

Shannon Stewart

While Shannon Stewart had a limp noodle for a throwing arm due to a high school football injury, he was a well-rounded offensive player. His best season came in 2000, when he had 21 home runs, 20 steals, and a slash line of .319/.363/.518.

Frank Catalanotto

Fundamentally sound like Rance Mulliniks above, Catalanotto fit the mold of the classic noodle-armed left fielder. The left-handed hitting Catalanotto was somewhat of a platoon player in Toronto, and posted an OPS north of .800 over the course of four seasons in a Blue Jay uniform. He was J.P. Ricciardi’s ideal player: a low-cost acquisition who consistently got on base.

Candy Maldonado

The Candy-man just makes the cut here, having played 189 games as a Blue Jay. Maldonado was the starting left fielder for the Blue Jays in 1992, and posting a tidy slash line of .272/.357/.462. What Maldonado is most known for is his cannon of an arm (somewhat uncharacteristic for the left fielder position) and was guilty of air-mailing throws to the catcher from time to time – even sailing throws over the backstop.

Reed Johnson

When Blue Jays General Manager J.P. Ricciardi asked his minor league staff to send him an outfielder who “plays like his hair is on fire,” Reed Johnson was the player he received. Johnson did do that, sacrificing his body with headfirst slides, diving catches, and wall crashes. His finest season as a Blue Jay came in 2006 when he posted a slash line of .319/.390/.479. Though he only had 33 walks that season, his league-leading 21 times hit by a pitch helped to boost his OBP to the .390 mark.

Further reading: Jorge Bell Highlight Films, George Bell Was a Firecracker, A Memorable Blue Jays Opening Day

Centre fielder

Vernon Wells

The Blue Jays’ 1st round draft pick in 1997, Vernon Wells is one of the greatest homegrown talents in Toronto franchise history. Arguably a 5-tool player, Wells’ best season came in 2003 when he posted a .317/.359/.550 slash line. He set the franchise record in single-season hits with 215 that year. In some circles, Wells is best remembered for signing a 7-year, $126 million contract and struggling to perform under the weight of a massive contract. Regardless, he was a fine player – one of Toronto’s all-time greats – and accumulated 28.7 WAR over 12 seasons as a Blue Jay.

Lloyd Moseby

Another homegrown talent and 1st round draft pick, “Shaker” was the Blue Jays’ centre fielder for 10 seasons. The speedy left-handed hitter is the franchise record holder for stolen bases with 255. Lloyd had a bit of pop in his bat too – he hit 26 home runs in 1987 and had a .499 slugging percentage in 1983.

Devon White

“Devo” is probably Toronto’s best defensive centre fielder in franchise history, and an adequate offensive player who stole 126 bases over the course of five seasons as a Blue Jay. He will forever be remembered in Toronto for “the catch” – a jaw-dropping catch against the centre field fence that began a phantom triple play in a crucial game three of the 1992 World Series. It would make for a great statue outside of the Rogers Centre.

bAlo763V_400x400
Photo credit: Devon White’s Twitter

Jose Cruz Jr.

The talented Puerto Rican brought a unique blend of speed and power to Toronto: he’s the only player in the history of the Blue Jays to be a member of the 30-30 club, a feat he accomplished in 2001.

Colby Rasmus

While injuries and mental health issues plagued Rasmus throughout his career, he put up a fine season for the Blue Jays in 2013, posting a slash line of .276/.338/.501. While he wasn’t viewed especially well by defensive metrics during his time in Toronto, much of that might have to do with how the Blue Jays positioned him. This theory might have been proved true later in his career, as Rasmus had the highest UZR/150 of any defender in baseball with a minimum of 200 innings played in 2016 – away from Toronto.

Further reading: Devon White’s Spectacular Catch

Right fielder

Jose Bautista

Probably the best offensive player in Blue Jays history, this selection is a no-brainer. Bautista owns single-season franchise records in WAR (8.3), home runs (54), and walks (132). He’s also the franchise leader for position players in WAR (38.2). Not only was he a terrifically gifted offensive player, but he was positionally versatile and his strong throwing arm ranks only behind Jesse Barfield’s and probably Raul Mondesi’s among Blue Jays right fielders. He’s responsible for the most iconic moment in franchise history this side of Joe Carter’s World Series-winning home run: the “bat flip.” A statue commemorating this moment would also look great beside Devon White’s “the catch.”

Shawn Green

Drafted in the 1st round by the Blue Jays in 1991, Shawn Green was a big ol’ stud for Toronto when he took over right field in 1995. Green was an actual five-tool player until a shoulder injury later in his career sapped the strength in his throwing arm. His 1999 season was his finest, a year in which he was the league leader in doubles with 45, slugged 42 home runs, drove in 123, and stole 20 bags as a cherry on top. His slash line was an impressive .309/.384/.588 and he was an All-Star, Silver Slugger, and Gold Glove award recipient.

Jesse Barfield

One of the greatest outfield arms of all time belongs to Jesse Barfield. Another homegrown Toronto outfield talent, Barfield’s best season came in 1986 when he led the league in home runs with 40 while posting a slash line of .289/.368/.559. But back to that arm: he led the league in outfield assists in both 1985, 1986, 1989, and 1990. Baserunners knew how good Barfield’s arm was, and yet he still managed to gun them down. Impressive.

home run champion 1986
Photo credit: Jesse Barfield

Joe Carter

As mentioned previously, Carter is responsible for the most iconic moment in franchise history by hitting the game-winning home run to win the 1993 World Series. He was a bona-fide slugger; he could be counted on to drive in 100 runs and he hit 30 or more home runs in four of the seven seasons he was a Blue Jay. Joe ranks 4th on this list because he also made a lot of outs: his career OBP as a Blue Jay is barely above .300, which is slightly better than Kevin Pillar levels. Which is to say, very bad. He also didn’t play stellar defense. I wouldn’t say it was terrible, but others might.

Raul Mondesi

The former rookie of the year for the LA Dodgers as acquired from the LA Dodgers for Shawn Green following Green’s massive 1999 season. While Mondesi didn’t exactly fill Green’s giant shoes, he was still a pretty good player. Mondesi couldn’t really hit for average, but he could do everything else: hit for power, play exceptional defense, and steal bases. His exceptional arm is only behind Jesse Barfield’s in franchise history: he tied for the league lead in outfield assists with 18 in 2001 and registered over 100 throughout the course of his career. Inked onto his upper right arm, snaking roughly from his shoulder to his elbow, is a tattoo of a cannon, with red flames and a baseball exploding from the barrel.

Raul Mondesi

Further reading: Jose Bautista’s Disciplined Approach Paying Dividends, Jesse Barfield’s Top Five Outfield Assists

Designated hitter

Last but not least, the realm of the rent-a-player.

Paul Molitor

Signed as a free agent to replace Dave Winfield at designated hitter, Paul Molitor was a Blue Jay for three seasons and left an indelible mark on the franchise. He ranks only behind Vernon Wells and Tony Fernandez for hits in a single season with 211. He ranks behind only Josh Donaldson and Shawn Green in single-season runs scored with 121. He stole 32 bases from 1994-1995 and wasn’t caught stealing once. He’s the franchise leader in batting average with a mark of .315. He’s 4th in OBP with a mark of .387. He’s tied with Shawn Green and Vernon Wells for single-season offensive war (he was a DH, remember) with 5.9. He finished second in MVP voting (again, as a DH!) in 1993. In short, Paul Molitor was a stud.

Edwin Encarnacion

Acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in a deal for Scott Rolen and a couple of fringe relievers, Edwin Encarnacion’s first few years in Toronto were trying. He was a defensive bust at third base and carried his struggles with him to the batter’s box. Encarnacion was actually designated for assignment by the Blue Jays in 2010, only to re-sign with the team as a free agent a month later. The following season Encarnacion was shifted across the diamond and began playing first base, and that’s when his stock really took off. In 2012, Encarnacion belted 42 home runs while posting an OPS+ of 153. He began to play more games at designated hitter than he did at first base, and his offensive numbers blossomed.

Dave Winfield

Winfield played for the Blue Jays for a single season with the singular goal of acquiring a World Series ring. He got it while posting an OPS+ of 138, good enough to win the Silver Slugger award for the DH position.

Jose Canseco

A juiced-up Jose Canseco joined the Blue Jays in 1998 and tore the cover off the ball for 151 games. He crushed 46 home runs that year, some into the rarified air of the SkyDome’s 5th deck. He led the league in strikeouts with 159 but that didn’t matter – he also won a Silver Slugger for the DH position. He also stole a surprising number of bases: 29, to be exact.

Frank Thomas

The two-time MVP joined Toronto as a free agent in 2007 when his best days were behind him. He put together a respectable season, and even received a few MVP votes – though I’m not sure why. Not a lot to see here, but as far as designated hitters go, Thomas is the Blue Jays’ 5th best all-time.

 

Featured image photo credit: John Reid III/MLB Photos

Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.

Written By

has written for Mopupduty.com since 2006. Follow Callum on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram

  • Let’s Be Frank

    The rankings seem to favour players who had one or two dominant seasons over players who demonstrated excellence in a Jays uniform over an extended period of time. I would disagree with this approach. For me, as an example, Dave Stieb was the greatest pitcher the Jays have seen, linked to so many fond memories; Clemens, on the other hand, is merely an afterthought.

    • The rankings do favour players who had dominant seasons in a Blue Jays uniform – the approach is explained in the second paragraph. In line with that approach, I would 100% choose 1997 or 1998 Clemens to start in a must-win game over any other Blue Jays pitcher in franchise history.

      If you were to take a different approach, one that is focused on the accumulation of fond memories over a prolonged period of time, it would be tough for me to choose between Stieb or Halladay. Regardless, you’re right in that Clemens is nothing more than an afterthought in that situation.

      • Let’s Be Frank

        I’m glad we can agree to disagree. Regardless, well done, Callum. Reading through the lists triggered memories of excellent players I hadn’t thought of in a while. For kicks, you think of doing the same for Expos players. Le Grande Orange, Rusty Staub, is the guy responsible for making me a life long baseball fan.