By 2014, opposing hitters might have a challenging time finding holes in the Toronto Blue Jays outfield. Chances are, Colby Rasmus, Anthony Gose and Jake Marisnick will be patrolling the grounds. All three are known for their athleticism and speed.
Currently, the 25-year-old Rasmus is Toronto’s starting center fielder, pounding 18 home runs and 64 RBI so far this season. With Jose Bautista on the disabled list, the Blue Jays summoned the 21-year-old Gose, who was No. 38 on Baseball America’s 2012 Mid-Season Top 50 Prospects List. One spot ahead of him on that list is the 21-year-old Marisnick.
When Alex Anthopoulos was named the Blue Jays general manager after J.P. Ricciardi was fired in October 2009, he established a commitment to focusing an athletic and versatile players. Rasmus, Gose and Marisnick fit that description since they can proficiently play all three outfield positions.
A first round pick of the Cardinals out of high school in 2005, Rasmus was traded to Toronto for before the trade deadline last July. He belted 23 home runs and swiped 12 bases for St. Louis in 2010 but was batting .246 with 11 home runs at the time of the deal.
While his former teammates mounted an exceptional run to catch the Braves, claim the National League wild card and defy the odds by winning the World Series, Rasmus batted .173 with three home runs in 133 at-bats.
This year, he has settled into a starting role and has emerged as a run producer for the Blue Jays, though his .246 average and .774 OPS are in need of improvement. What Rasmus consistently provides is exceptional defense in center field.
When Bautista injured his right wrist during a game against the Yankees on July 6, it wasn’t long before Gose made his major league debut. He was promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas on July 17, and was 1-for-11 with five strikeouts in his first four games. He has hit safely in his last four games, though he now has 11 strikeouts in 26 at-bats to accompany a .192 average.
Once Gose gets more comfortable with major league pitching, he will provide the Blue Jays with a disruptive tablesetter. A second round pick out of high school in 2008 by the Phillies, Gose was traded to Houston in the deal that sent Roy Oswalt to Philadelphia on July 29, 2010. That same day, the Astros sent him to Toronto for top prospect Brett Wallace.
When Gose was called up from Las Vegas, he was batting .282 with five home runs, 41 RBI, 29 stolen bases and a .808 OPS in 377 at-bats.
The gifted Marisnick, who originally committed to play baseball at the University of Oregon (where he would have also been given a chance to make the football team as a walk-on) before he was drafted in 2009, was swayed from his college plans when he accepted a $1 million signing bonus from the Blue Jays.
Described as of the best pure athletes in the 2009 draft, Marisnick has five-tool potential, the Blue Jays believe. He features above-average speed, range and a powerful arm that uncorks strong, accurate throws.
At Dunedin this season, Marisnick hit .263 with six home runs, 35 RBI, seven triples, 10 stolen bases and a .800 OPS in 266 at-bats. He received a promotion to Double-A New Hampshire, where he is off to a slow start, batting .226 in 84 at-bats as he makes what many baseball officials believe is the most challenging jump in the minors (from Single-A to Double-A, where pitchers are more advanced).
With Bautista in right and 24-year-old Travis Snider in left, the Blue Jays do not have to rush Gose and Marisnick. Yet their athletic ability – and visions of an outfield that features Rasmus, Gose and Marisnick – could lead the Blue Jays to trade Snider and use Bautista as a DH.