FROM JJ: Blue Jays’ Level of Excellence: Is Encarnacion Worthy?

(Originally appeared on Jays Journal)

Edwin Encarnacion‘s Blue Jays tenure is over. Did he accomplish enough to one day be honoured on the Level of Excellence?

Edwin Encarnacion—Cleveland Indian. It’ll take some getting used to.

Now that the unfortunate confirmation of Encarnacion’s departure has begun to settle in, we can start thinking of his Blue Jays tenure in the past tense. Just how much of an impact did he have on this organization?

Obviously he was a key player for the majority of his eight years in this city but did he contribute enough to have his name emblazoned on the Rogers Centre’s Level of Excellence? It’s an honour that has been bestowed on just six players in team history (out of about 700 total): Tony Fernandez, George Bell, Roberto Alomar, Dave Stieb, Joe Carter, Carlos Delgado.

Edwin’s career in Toronto didn’t get off to a great start. Coming back to Toronto in the Scott Rolen trade, Edwin was expected to fill the hole at the 3rd base. Faithful fans will remember how that went and the derisive nickname that he earned as a result (E5). He didn’t provide enough offense to mitigate his defensive shortcomings either. But the power was there. He hit 21 homers in 2010 as a part-timer.

They nearly lost Encarnacion in the offseason but thankfully he signed as a free agent with Toronto after being selected off waivers and cast aside by the Athletics. In 2011, the Blue Jays finally realized Eddie wasn’t a third baseman and transitioned him to a 1B/DH role. As he gained confidence by not having to worry about handling the hot corner, he gained traction at the plate. He broke out with 42 homers in 2012 and went on a five-year streak as one of baseball’s most feared hitters.

Encarnacion ranks 3rd all-time among Blue Jay hitters in offensive runs above average, 3rd in HRs, 6th in RBI, 5th in OPS and 8th in WAR.

So does he belong on the Level of Excellence? Well, Encarnacion has a better statistical case than two current honourees: Bell and Carter. But the Level hasn’t really been constructed on the basis of stats, otherwise Jesse Barfield would certainly be on it.

Rightly or wrongly, the Level more seems to favour specific moments, awards and playoff success: Bell’s MVP, Carter’s home run and rings, Fernandez’ ring/4 pennants, Alomar’s rings and HoF, Delgado’s 3 silver sluggers and Jays’ home run record, Stieb’s no-hitter. Alomar, Stieb, Fernandez, and Delgado are all extremely deserving members of course but there is a common thread of moments and awards.

Edwin has no individual hardware or major Jays’ records but he does have playoff success and some big moments. Based on past omissions and inductees to the Level, he appears to have a good shot. Jose Bautista and Roy Halladay will be ahead of him in line but he already has an advocate in Michael Saunders:

Personally, I think the Level of Excellence should include about 10-12 names and should consider stats to a greater degree. Edwin would easily be on such a list for me. The others? Bautista, Halladay, Stieb, Barfield, Fernandez, Delgado, White, Olerud, Alomar, Whitt and Key (dropping Bell and Carter from the current list). Bell, McGriff and Moseby would be tough cuts.

How would you approach the Level of Excellence and would Edwin make yours? Will he make the real one? Let us know below.

(Visit Jays Journal for more of my work and articles from other great Jays bloggers)

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