After the Tampa Bay Rays acquired Logan Forsythe from the San Diego Padres in the 2013 offseason, some fans feared that the team was grooming him to be their starting second baseman. Of course, that wasn’t true–the Rays were well aware of Forsythe’s deficiencies and he was only going to see regular time for them in case of emergency. Well, that emergency time has come, and though it is only temporary, Forsythe has a major opportunity ahead of him.
When Nick Franklin returns from his oblique injury, he will be the Rays’ starting second baseman at least against right-handed pitching. However, Franklin will not be ready until the end of April at the earliest, leaving a gap that Forsythe is set to fill. The Rays have always expected him to hit lefties, and he was solid against them (.708 OPS) even in his overall poor season in 2014. Righties, on the other hand, have been a different story for Forsythe in his big league career.
Logan Forsythe wasn’t always going to be a platoon player–the Padres certainly wouldn’t have selected him in the supplemental first round of the 2008 MLB Draft if he was. In his first extended stint in pro ball in 2009, Forsythe hit to a .344/.466/.474 line with a 38-33 strikeout to walk ratio against lefties, but no one could complain about his .279/.412/.423 line with a 73-69 K-BB ratio versus righties either.
In 2010, Forsythe’s platoon split was even smaller–.279/.404/.331 against lefties and .238/.363/.340 versus righties. Forsythe may have had some bad luck with balls dropping for hits versus righties, but he had a better strikeout rate than he had against lefties, almost an identical walk rate, and hit for more power. Forsythe looked at that point like he was going to be equally good against pitchers from both sides.
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Then, in 2011, Forsythe’s performance against righties actually surpassed what he did against southpaws. His .350/.455/.562 line dwarfed his .244/.415/.415 line versus opposite-side pitchers, and it was in July of that year that he was called up to the big leagues for an extended period. What happened? Well, that season, he didn’t hit anyone, managing a .577 OPS against righties and a .548 mark versus lefties. And since then, his platoon split has flipped from where it was that season.
In 2012, Forsythe had a 1.010 OPS against lefties that slipped to .603 against righties. Though he fell to .651 versus opposite-side pitchers in 2013, that still beat out his .593 OPS versus righties. Then last season, he hit to just a .536 OPS against righties but that aforementioned .708 mark against lefties. Forsythe’s minor league numbers prompted optimism that he could play against righties as well as lefties, but his time with the Padres and Rays has taken all of that optimism away.
On the other hand, has Forsythe really gotten a chance to prove himself? 2012 was the only year that he received even 200 plate appearances against right-handed pitching (236 to be exact), and we know how difficult it is to play inconsistently. Maybe all Forsythe needs is a few weeks playing regularly against righties as well as lefties–at the very least, he deserves a chance. Now he is going to get it.
The Rays won’t be patient with Forsythe against right-handed pitching. If the first two or three weeks of the season are the same as his previous work against such pitchers, the Rays will resort to another option like Tim Beckham or Alexi Casilla. The Rays know that Forsythe can be a strong platoon player for them against lefties, but starting Forsythe every day is an experiment that they know carries risk. If it fails, they will be ready.
Nick Franklin’s injury is unfortunate, but it gives the Rays a chance to find out who Logan Forsythe really is. He could have significantly more value to their team and in potential trades if he hit righties–why not give him a few weeks and see what happens? People lament how Matt Joyce didn’t receive enough of an opportunity to be an everyday player, but no matter how Forsythe does to begin 2015, the Rays can say that he received his chance.