Who: Colby Rasmus, No. 28. Centrefielder. Bats left, throws left. 6’2”, 200 LBS. 25 years old.
Provenance: Columbus, Georgia. Drafted in the first round (28th overall) by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2005. Acquired by the Blue Jays in a three-team trade on July 27, 2011.
Contract Status: Signed a one-year deal worth $2.7 million in the offseason to avoid arbitration. Two years of arbitration rights remains. Eligible for free agency in 2015.
Career Stats: 420 games played for St. Louis and Toronto. .322 OBP, .432 SLG, .754 OPS. 53 homers, 171 RBI, 232 runs scored in 1580 plate appearances.
2011 Stats: .688 OPS (.298/.391) with 14 homers in 129 games between the Cards and Jays. Posted .517 OPS (.201/.316) after the trade.
Looking Back: Maybe it’s some sort of Mickey Mantle fixation that we all have, where every talented young “five-tool” centrefielder is just supposed to come blow our hair back and leave us breathless all the time.
After a tremendous 2010 campaign, in which Colby Rasmus showed the potential to be something truly special, last season was one that he’d most likely rather forget. Rasmus struggled mightily from the start of the season, and saw himself the focus of the Cardinals’ displeasure until he was dispatched just before the non-waiver trade deadline.
What occurred after his arrival to the Jays – two months of profound struggles and injuries – certainly didn’t help to build his reputation with his new fan base. And to add insult to injury, the Cardinals went on a historic run after the trade from 10 games back to become World Series champions.
Rasmus truly looked as though he was lost after the trade. When he fell behind early in the count he expanded his strike zone significantly and began chasing breaking balls, leading him to strike out 27.9% of the time while drawing just five walks as a Blue Jay.
The more that we think about it, the more that we recognize why some Blue Jays fans are so quick to dismiss Rasmus and look past him towards the next prospects. It’s not to say that we agree, because we don’t think the player who posted an .859 OPS and hit 23 homers in 2010 was replaced by pod people. It might just take some effort to find him again.
Looking Forward: It’s particularly hard to read Colby Rasmus because he presents himself in such a low key, laconic manner that you wonder whether if there’s any energy there at all. Put him next to a jacked-up, earnestly energetic Brett Lawrie, and you wonder why Colby doesn’t seem more enthused to be given the opportunity to play every day.
But that exterior doesn’t speak to what is actually happening inside the man’s mind, and we hope that in the coming year, he’ll have the opportunity to show the reason why the Jays brass and so many others around baseball were so enthused with his talents.
With all of the other bats around him, Rasmus can probably settle into a spot lower in the line up, and won’t be asked to carry a large part of the load. However, if he does find himself in a spot just before or after Brett Lawrie, or wedged between Lawrie and J.P. Arencibia, his lack of production will be noticeable if he’s not driving them in or getting on base to give them runners in scoring position.
Rasmus’ defense will also bear some scrutiny this season, as he’ll be pushed hard by Anthony Gose by the time next spring rolls around. The advanced defensive metrics dislike Rasmus, giving him negative marks for his range, so if he’s to hang around Toronto in the long term, he’ll likely need to put up enough offense to take a corner spot or play the field well enough to prop up his bat.
2012 Expectations: We think Rasmus is much better than he showed last year, and that if he can find the right approach at the plate, he will post an OPS right around .800. He’ll likely strike out a fair bit and he won’t steal many bases, but if he can show patience at the plate, he can be an asset by getting on base and hitting 15-20 homers.
But the upside is much more than that, which is why we're not nearly ready to figure that we've solved the question of who Colby Rasmus is.