Thursday, July 28, 2011

Meet the Newest Blue Jay: Colby Rasmus

Yesterday, the Toronto Blue Jays acquired Colby Rasmus from the St. Louis Cardinals. Many baseball people are saying that the Jays easily won this trade in the long-term, while many others are wondering why. This could be due to the fact that, despite his previous rankings on prospect lists, many people may not have heard of Rasmus until today. So, here's a little rundown on the Jays' newest position player.

The Basics
Rasmus was born August 11, 1986 in Columbus, Georgia. He is listed at 6 feet, 2 inches tall and 200 pounds, and both bats and throws left-handed. The Cardinals drafted him out of high school with the 25th overall pick in the 2005 draft, 22 spots after the Jays selected Ricky Romero. At the end of the 2008 season, MLB had him ranked as the #10 prospect in baseball, 2 spots behind current Blue Jay, Travis Snider. However, Baseball America ranked him 3rd on the list of top 100 prospects just two months later, in February of 2009, three spots ahead of Snider.

The Numbers
Rasmus managed to put up impressive numbers during his time in the minor leagues, seeing a line of .275/.381/.551 with 29 home runs and 18 stolen bases during the 2007 season with St. Louis' Double-A affiliate, the Springfield Cardinals.

Since coming to the Majors, Rasmus has posted a career line of .259/.334/.444, with 2010 being his best season at .277/.361/.498 with 23 home runs and 12 stolen bases. So far this year, he has 4 outfield assists and has committed 3 errors in 92 games in centre field for the Cardinals. Compare that to the 3 assists and 2 errors that the Blue Jays centre fielders have posted so far this year, and it does not seem like much of a difference, but Rasmus' arm is certainly better than Rajai Davis'.

One cause for concern, at least for the moment, are Rasmus' strikeout numbers. Last year, he struck out 148 times in 464 at-bats. This year, he has struck out 77 times in 338 at-bats. This leads to numbers of 3.0 AB/K last year and an improvement to 4.1 AB/K this year. Still, J.P. Arencibia currently leads the Jays with 87 strikeouts, followed by the departed Corey Patterson's 65, and then Adam Lind's 62.

Rasmus has also grounded into 8 double plays this year, only Juan Rivera (11) and Yunel Escobar (10) have grounded into more this year for the Jays, though three guys have hit into 7.

Off The Field
Much has been seen in the media about the supposed rift between Rasmus and Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. Just read this article from last September or this one from yesterday morning, posted only minutes before we first heard of the possibility of Rasmus heading to the Jays.

This feels like another situation the Blue Jays took advantage of last year, involving Yunel Escobar, then a member of the Atlanta Braves. Escobar had fallen out of favour with many members of the Braves, and the Blue Jays took advantage of it while acquiring him for a seemingly low cost. Escobar was in the midst of a career-worst season, with a line of .238/.334/.284 at the time of the trade, and went .275/.340/.356 in his time with the Blue Jays. Escobar has improved in 2011, and is now in the midst of his best season in the Majors.

Perhaps the Blue Jays' coaching staff combined with the mentorship of Jose Bautista can help Rasmus to turn things around this season, and for the foreseeable future. The Blue Jays control his rights until the end of the 2014 season and he is now just two weeks shy of his 25th birthday. Many Jays fans are hoping that we have not seen the best of Rasmus yet.