After trading Surprise, Collins wants to do ‘Mash Baseball’ with the Blue Jays

TORONTO – Jack Collins, a 26-year-old left-handed hitting catcher, was acquired by the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for another 26-year-old left-handed hitting catcher from Ridge McGuire – his bat here making him his first rounder; What got him into the big-league in less than three seasons after posting 1.212 OPS as a college junior in Miami; What he decides in the end is how long he will stick to the highest level of baseball. No one is saying he is Johnny Bench.

But at least give him some defensive credit – last April, playing his fourth game of the season as a catcher, Collins was at the end of all receipts for 114 pitches thrown by Carlos Rodon in a no-hitter against Cleveland. You know, the night Rodon lost a perfect game with a one-out in the ninth, hitting Roberto Perez in the toe with a rogue backfoot slider, before rallying to complete the 307th no-no in MLB history.

Believe it or not, Collins first worked on a game with Rodon. And while the irresistible right-handed can go fairly straight ahead for a game-call – Rodon never knocked out Collins all night because he played a sweeping slider and fading changeup on higher, mid-90s heaters – he’s not easy to catch. See where some of Rodon’s sliders end up:

Collins – A physical presence at 6’3, 220-pounds. – He had to put all these yellow dots in front of him. He could be on all eye pitchers as a perfect game craft. But for anyone who is behind the plate, the intensity increases. You think every infielder and outfielder is on their toes, don’t you want to be the guy who makes the mistake of trying to find the ball for them? Try to be a person who is guaranteed to play a game with every pitch.

“Yeah, that’s a lot of stress,” Collins said. “You get one missed third strike or one missed blocked third strike – you can really ruin it. Even just framing the pitch up. At that time, every strike was important. It’s early in the season, you don’t want him to go too far in his pitch count. It was a wild day. “

It was also a matter of pride for Collins, whose work behind the plate was, let’s say, questionable throughout his career. And, look, defensive numbers aren’t pretty. The eye test did not go much better. But Collins has worked tirelessly for half a dozen years to improve the White Sox organization, holding his right knee to the ground at the club’s behest and drilling down his pitch framing and presentation in the off-season, which has long been his biggest weakness.

Still, he hears criticism and naysayers all over. All the people who said he would never be behind the plate at the Majors – that he should be transferred to the first base or designated heater yesterday.

So, it made sense that, for at least one night, Collins helped a pitcher become uninjured, read the oscillations, and decided in an in-game shift to a more change-heavy method than Rodon usually uses – right-handed used. Change 22.9 percent of a season-high time that night – while creating a clean zone for home plate umpire Doug Eddings, who himself was a Banner Knight:

Again, the Blue Jays did not acquire Collins for his defense. They like his bat and the underlying numbers which suggests that it can be very impressive with a few adjustments. He is clearly Toronto’s third option behind the plate, and is likely to be the first baseman or designated hitter for most of his playing time. But the Blue Jays believe they can help Collins continue to improve as a catcher, which will increase his usefulness off their bench.

“We’re probably going to do something different than his habit in Chicago,” said John Snyder, coach of the Blue Jays bench who has worked with the club’s catchers. “It simply came to our notice then. Lots of things on the plate opposite the edges. He doesn’t really have to worry about stealing a corner injury.

“He had the most success catching Rodon last year, wasn’t he? And very similar to Rodon Robbie Ray, where it was like, ‘Show me the target, I’m letting it eat.’ And many of our boys are similar to that, too. They are trying to do the same thing. “

If you watch closely, you will see what Snyder is saying even from Danny Janssen and Alejandro Kirk. The Blue Jays are asking their catchers to set up in the middle of the plate this season, especially at the beginning of the count, encouraging the pitchers to do what Ray has done – throw their worst pitch in the zone with confidence and believe it will miss a bat or weak contact. Create.

This placement will help Collins in the weakest part of his defensive play – getting fewer strikes. Ideally, as a catcher, you go from the bottom of the ball to your chest with your gloves on to those bottom-of-the-zone pitches. But with so many pitchers trying to improve fastball in today’s game it’s not always easy, working north with the hitter and south with the secondary. That’s why Blue Jess drills the phrase in their catchers: “Everything below your goal is for you, everything above is for your pitcher.”

“I mean, if there’s a pitch underneath where your gloves start, do your job. Go and put it in front of you. But if the pitch is on or above your gloves, you have to put it in the box, “said Snyder, adding that the box means strike zone. “We want our jugs in the box. This is the biggest thing. So, we want our catchers to put the balls in the box, in the box. And for our pitchers outside the box, any strike he gets is an added bonus.

“So, with Jack, we don’t ask him to hang out too much or do something he doesn’t feel comfortable doing. I was talking to him in the cage. He’s got some good insights – he really does. He understands that he is good in the area and in that case he has to be better. So, we would never say to him, ‘Do this.’ We’re going to see what he feels comfortable with, how we can work around his skills and hopefully make it a little better. “

And then there’s the bat, which is why he’s here. Picking No. 10 overall in the 2016 draft, Collins quickly rose to No. 56 in Baseball America’s Top 100 Probability Rankings and is widely regarded as Chicago’s future catcher because he shot up to his double-A. The first full season, a .816 OPS is being posted along the way.

But when he was able to hit several long home runs and show exceptional plate discipline against higher competition – he was second in all the big-small leagues with a 101 double walk in 2018 – the mechanical flaws of his swing at premium speed. Began to get published by. , Which reversed its strikeouts and contact rates, and sent in single, instructions. In general the game may be more acceptable to the three-truth-off approach, but the truth is that half of Collins’ first 1,533 professional plate appearances were the result of a strikeout, walk or home run.

And the downside of that approach was that when he made his MLB debut in mid-2019, Homer went to 26 for 2, including five walks and 14 strikeouts, and was quickly returned to the juveniles. The same is true again in 2020, as Collins got a taste of a brief Big-League only to fight for 1-on-16 lines. His defense was a struggle, as well, behind the plate in his first 99.1 Big-League innings and an average framing grade-4 DRS from both Fangraph and Baseball Savant.

Meanwhile, the winner এখন now looking elsewhere for a solution behind the White Sox plate, signed Yasmani Grandel to a four-year, $ 73-million deal. And in 2021, behind the sidelines of Grandale and the chance to take over between Collins and career minor-league Sebi Javala, the White Sox extended their hand even further. Javala slowly ate during Collins’ play until Grandale was ready to return and the club chose one or the other. They have picked Javala for the first time since 2019, bringing Collins back to Triple-A.

And so, Collins entered this spring with an a.195 / .315 / .330 line across 351 plate appearances in his first three MLB seasons, which he stood at .268 / .385 / .532. Plates have appeared on more than 405 triplets before. Collins was again fighting Javala – with the rest of Jonathan Lucroy – for the right to back up Grandel. Until he was.

“The trade has definitely warned me,” Collins said. “It’s almost the end of spring training, we’re getting ready to go wherever we’re going, and then all of a sudden I get a call that I’m coming here. It’s been pretty crazy.

White Sox, they thank me for almost everything. They appreciated what I did for them. Apparently, I was drafted by them so it was a little bitter. But that’s part of the game. “

All in all, Collins’ bat has a great potential. His average departure speed as a Big-League is over 91-mph; Its highest, 110; Its barrel rate, above average, is 11.4 percent. Look at it this way: Collins’ average departure speed last season was higher than Pete Alonso’s. Its barrel rate is higher than that of Jose Abreu. Dude ball hard hit.

He has posted a 17.5 percent walk rate since becoming a professional, he also sees pitches exceptionally well. The combination of patience and strength can be deadly if Collins can put it together. But in his rare chances at the Big-League stage in the last three seasons, it just didn’t click.

A constant project – and a source of frustration, in the end – Collins’ time with the White Sox addressed a problem in his cradle that he had borne since playing youth baseball, an inefficiency of movement that made it difficult to keep up with the times. The speed and action of Big-League pitching. He tried everything. Waving his bat over his head; Rest it on his shoulders; Add and subtract this and that from its swing. Nothing really worked. And, if he is honest, he has tried.

“Right now, I just want to mash baseball. It’s just a simple fact, “he said. “I’m thinking of Homers. Loss. Running on the run. All good things.

“It simply came to our notice then. That’s how I grew up. Don’t worry too much about the swing mechanically. I’m trying not to go into mechanics anymore. I’m just trying to get rid of everything and go there and hit the ball a long way. “

From a Blue Jess perspective, it will work. Whether it’s the first baseman, the nominated hitter or the catcher. It remains to be seen how many chances Collins will get behind the plate with his new team. He has never caught a Blue Jess employee before, above all. There is so much to learn. The last few days after the transaction were a whirlwind. But considering the opening day, ah, today, the next few have to be just as busy as Collins is shaking to learn all these new weapons.

But, hey, he hasn’t caught Rodon in a game before. And it worked pretty well for everyone involved. Trading from one AL Pennant favorite to another, a new staff, a new environment and a new coaching philosophy may be what Collins needs to begin to realize more of his obvious potential – whether behind the plate or standing next to it.

“I am just excited to be here. I can’t be really happy. I never thought I would be able to move from a really, really good team to a better team. It’s pretty crazy, ”he said. “So, I want to do what I can to win this team. Wherever I agree to play, whatever. I’m just looking for a ring on my finger. “

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