Blue Jays Fill Gap in Middle Infield
By Jay Blue
Blue Jays from Away
The Blue Jays made yet another trade yesterday, this time addressing a need because of the injury to Devon Travis. With the prospect of seeing Munenori Kawasaki on the bench with a playoff drive in full swing, Alex Anthopoulos pulled the trigger yet again, bringing in veteran Cliff Pennington.
Pennington won’t give the Blue Jays the same kind of defense that Goins does but he does give the Blue Jays a veteran who can fill in at multiple positions including short, second, third and in left field if needed. Pennington has a career OPS of .661, which is actually about 100 points higher than Ryan Goins’s OPS of .569 and will probably give Goins a day off or pinch hit later in games, particularly if the Blue Jays need a runner with Pennington’s ability to take a walk.
In getting Pennington (and some cash) back from the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Blue Jays gave up 20-year-old Dominican prospect Dawel Lugo. I’ve written about Lugo before and he’s a perplexing guy who has struggled over the past two seasons.
I first saw Lugo when he was an 18-year-old shortstop with the Bluefield Blue Jays, hitting .297/.317/.469 in the Appalachian League. He struggled more in 2014 in Lansing, hitting only .259/.286/.329 and struggled again this year in Dunedin, hitting .219/.258/.292 before a demotion back to Lansing where he’s crushing the ball, hitting .336.
Lugo has some loud tools including some excellent raw power and tremendous contact skills. So why are the Blue Jays willing to use Lugo as currency to get back a backup infielder whose contract runs out at the end of the year?
My opinion is that Lugo struggles because he trusts his elite-level hand-eye coordination too much. Lugo strikes out at a below-average rate because he can make contact with almost anything that is around the strike zone. I think that he’s developed a belief that since he can reach so much, he’ll swing at just about anything. This leads to very low walk rates (below 4% at every level of his career) and, probably, very poor rates of hard contact among what he has hit at the higher level.
Lugo has reached a plateau in his career where he will stall if he does not make significant adjustments at the plate. Still, Lugo is only in his Age-20 season and there is still hope that he will figure out how to wait for pitches that he can drive and make use of his outstanding skills.
Defensively, Lugo has shown himself to be a decent shortstop and should be able to stick at the position at least until the high minors. This is a kid who has had the shine come off a bit with a couple of rough seasons but still has the potential at a young age to turn things around. Not a bad trade chip for a team like Arizona that is getting rid of an expiring contract of a guy who’s been a bench player.
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