Cleat Geeks

Jays Jabber; Secureing The Future With Donaldson

The Toronto Blue Jays showed how thankful they were for the enormous contribution the reigning American League MVP made, by avoiding arbitration and keeping their future superstar happy. If last year was any indication, the baseball world was correct in thinking the Blue Jays won the trade with the Athletics that brought the star third baseman to Toronto.

Just how good is Josh Donaldson?

MLB.com notes:

Donaldson has become one of the elite players in the game after finishing in the top 10 in voting for the AL MVP Award during each of the past three seasons. The career year came in 2015, when he beat out Angels centre fielder Mike Trout for the honour after hitting .297/.371/.568 with 41 home runs and a league-best 123 RBIs.donaldson-trout

Beating Trout is a fairly big deal, given he’s widely seen as the best batter in the game. Is it necessarily surprising though?

Jays On The Couch put together this statistical research:

If you head over to MLB.com 2015 sortable stat table, you see that Donaldson ranked 2nd in average at .297, 2nd in OBP (.371), 2nd in SLG (.568). He was 1 behind Nolan Arenado for the MLB lead (among 3B) in home runs with 41 and 7 behind in RBI with 123, which again, was good for 2nd spot. He was 4th in doubles (41), 1st in hits (184), 1st in runs (122). He also saw the most pitches of any qualifying third baseman with a season total of 2817, which translates to nearly 4 pitches per plate appearance.

In looking at where he ranks among MLB third baseman, you notice that, depending on the category, he is at or near the top. Surrounding him are players like Arenado and Manny Machado. Depending on the category, you’ll also see guys like Todd Frazier and Kris Bryant. This will likely come as no surprise as these are household names across MLB and widely accepted as the best in the business. Over the last few seasons, Donaldson has established himself among them.Arenado2

Nolan Arenado, of course had a monster year himself. He claimed the Silver Slugger award after tying Bryce Harper with 42 home runs and leading the National League with 354 total bases and 130 RBI. His 2015 WAR was 4.5, according to Fangraphs.

Photo By: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Photo By: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Manny Machado put up respectable numbers while being the only Major Leaguer to appear in all 162 games, and became only the 7th Orioles player in history to have 20 homers and 20 steals. The All-Star ended up with 35 home runs and 20 stolen bases, while putting up a .286 batting average. His WAR was 6.8 that year.

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

In a year that saw him become the first player since Ryne Sandberg in 1990 to win the Home Run Derby in their team’s respective hometown, Todd Frazier put up solid numbers. While perhaps not as much of an all around hitter like Machado, he still put up 35 homers and batted in 89 runs. His WAR last year was 4.4.

Kris Bryant had a phenomenal debut becoming the first player in history to win Baseball America college, minor and rookie of the year awards in consecutive years. His debut season saw a solid .275 batting average with 26 home runs and 99 RBIs. This earned him a WAR of 6.5.

Note what Fangraphs itself states is the point of the WAR rating, when taking into account all of these stats and facts:

WAR is trying to answer the time-honored question: How valuable is each player to his team? Baseball is the sum of many different parts and players can help their teams win through hitting, base running, defensive play, or pitching. Comparing two players offensively is useful, but it discounts the potential contribution a player can make by saving runs on defense. WAR is a simple attempt to combine a player’s total contribution into a single value.

Above those four players, Donaldson himself scored an 8.7 WAR in 2015.

A separate MLB.com article makes further note:

There are 24 position players since 1901 who accumulated a WAR of at least 23.0 for their age-27 through age-29 seasons. Of the two dozen, 19 are in the Hall of Fame, with the only exceptions being Barry Bonds and a quartet of active players: Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Chase Utley and Donaldson. This collection of ballplayers — led by Babe Ruth — finds Donaldson occupying the 19th slot, in between arguably the game’s greatest second baseman, Joe Morgan, and two of its absolute top-of-the-line center fielders, Tris Speaker and Mickey Mantle. For this age, Donaldson rubs shoulders with players like Lou Gehrig and Hank Aaron, Duke Snider and Willie Mays, Ty Cobb and Mel Ott.

barry-bonds (1)This is amazing company to be in. Barry Bonds is only an exception due to the lingering debate over performance enhancing drugs and would likely be in if writers viewed the situation from a purely statistical perspective. The same point could someday be made for Alex Rodriguez, as well.

But all of these other names like Mickey Mantle and Ty Cobb? There is a great deal of potential with Donaldson.

But while it may still be early to draw conclusions as to whether Josh Donaldson will someday be in Cooperstown, it is clear that he is on the path. One does not simply find themselves in the company of Ruth, Mantle, and Hammerin’ Hank without holding a great deal of promise.

The Blue Jays realize this and made it clear that they want this legacy to be in their uniform. Good call, Toronto.

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