Saturday, March 5, 2011

Jason Donald - More than Adequate for Third Base?

Jason Donald came up to the Cleveland Indians on May 19, 2010 after a freak collision between shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and Johnny Peralta resulted in a Cabrera having a broken arm (video link here).  Donald would spend the remainder of the year in Cleveland and play 47 games at shortstop and 41 games at second base.  Although, not over matched, Donald struggled with the bat in 2010 putting up a mediocre .251 average, a .310 on-base percentage, and a SLG% of .378.  Donald was very impatient at the plate, which was reflected by a walk rate of 6.8%, a 3.6 pitches seen per plate appearance which was below the league average of 3.8, and his swing rate was 50.8% which is above the major league average of 45%. 

Jason Donald will always be part of history as he was the base runner that Jim Joyce called safe, which cost Detroit Tigers Armando Gallaraga a perfect game (video link here).  Great post-game video with Donald here (video link).

Donald is attempting to become the Indians starting 3b in 2011 (see his video interview here), which shouldn't come as a surprise as Baseball America had this to say about Donald prior to the 2009 season:
Weaknesses: A mechanical fielder, Donald grades out as a below-average shortstop and likely won't be a regular at the position in the majors. He should be average at second base and has enough arm for third, though he needs more work there. At times he can be too hard on himself, taking bad at-bats into the field and vice versa
Donald will not provide the power that a traditional 3b would bring, but he does have enough gap power in his bat to hopefully provide an above league average in ISO from the 3b position.  Here is a look at some of  Donald's career statistics:


Jason Donald was drafted in the 20th round by the Anaheim Angels out of high school and turned down a 1 million dollar signing bonus to go to the University of Arizona.  He was later  drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the third round of the 2006 draft out of the University of Arizona where his strengths were his natural hitting ability and plus power to the gaps, but he lacked speed and patience at the plate.  He was considered an underachiever at the University of Arizona and his stock fell a little on his sub-par performances in the Cape Cod League where he posted a .585 OPS in 2004 and a .698 OPS in 2005. Donald immediately signed his contract with the Phillies and headed to Batavia of the low A New York Penn League where he'd play in 63 games and put up a slash line of .263/.347/.362. 

Jason Donald had a breakout season in 2007.  He played 51 games for Lakewood of the South Atlantic League and would post an impressive slash line of .310/.409/.447, an impressive wOBA of .387, and a walk rate of 12.1% before being promoted to High A Clearwater of the Florida State League.  At Clearwater, Donald played in 83 games and posted an even more impressive slash line of .300/.386/.447, a wOBA of .398, and a walk rate of 10.5%.

Donald would be promoted to AA Reading in the Eastern League where he had a very impressive season, including an appearance in the AA All-Star Game, a member of the MLB Futures All-Star Game, and a member of the U.S. Olympic Team where he hit .381/.536/.581 in 8 games.  At Reading, he hit .307/.391/.497, a wOBA of ..405, and a walk rate of 11.4%.  At the end of the 2008 season, the Phillies added him to the roster of the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League where he hit .407/.471/.747 and led the AFL with 19 extra base hits.

Up until 2009, Donald had not had a setback in his minor league development and seemed right on the cusp of making the Phillies.  He was ranked by Baseball America as the #4 prospect in the Phillies system ans he began the season at AAA Lehigh Valley of the International League.  The Phillies were impressed with his bat and ability to play multiple positions so they had planned to have him spilt time between his natural position shortstop to 2b and 3b in the event that his bat was needed at the big league level.  Donald got off to slow start and battled a hamstring injury early in the season and missed most of June and July while he recovered from surgery to repair torn meniscus.  In 51 games at Lehigh Valley, Donald put up a depressed slash line of .231/.286/.346, a wOBA of .297, and a walk rate of 6.1%.   On July 31, 2009, Donald along with catcher Lou Marson, and pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Jason Knapp were part of the trade to Cleveland that brought Cliff Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco to the Phillies.  Donald reported to Columbus where he'd only appear in 10 games to finish the 2009 season.

Donald began the 2010 season playing shortstop for the Columbus Clippers.  Donald played in 37 games in Columbus putting up a slash line of .277/.396/.820, a wOBA of .375, and a walk rate of 12.7% before being called up to Cleveland on May 18, 2010 to replace starting shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera who broke his arm in a freak collision with 3b Johnny Peralta. 

Donald remained with the Indians the remainder of the 2010 season and played 47 games at 2b and 41 games at shortstop.  He would not be over matched by big league pitching in his rookie year but still has a lot of work to do.  Donald put  up a slash line of .253/.312/.378, a wOBA of .315, and a walk rate of only 6.8%.

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