The Toronto Blue Jays have underachieved each of these last two Postseasons after such promising regular seasons. They’ve had arguably one of the most feared lineups in recent memory, but haven’t been able to seal the deal. With a lineup which included Jose Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki, Edwin Encarnacion, and 2015 MVP Josh Donaldson pitchers had a lot on the plate when it came to this Jays. However this offseason the Jays lost big time piece in Encarnacion who signed with the World Series runner-ups the Cleveland Indians, however, this season they should still be poised for another playoff push.
1. Devon Travis 2B: To start it out with the Jays don’t exactly have anyone who’s going to get on base at a blistering pace but I feel as if Travis is the best option. (Not that there are a ton of options) But Travis has the ability to get on base a moderate to consistent pace and steal a few bags here and there. In 2016 he hit for a 300 average and added eleven home runs and 50 RBI’s something he will look to build off of going into his third season at the MLB level.
2. Kevin Pillar CF: Pillar is a player more known more for his flashy defensive plays than his offensive statistics. The 28-year-old is going into his fifth major league season and was really the only other viable option to leadoff for this Jays team. He’s been able to play almost every game each of the past two seasons and looks to improve upon his career numbers. Last season he hit for a 266 average with seven home runs, 53 RBI’s and 14 steals. Pillar is an unselfish player from what I’ve seen of the Jays who is willing to lay down a sacrifice every now and then and will make all of the routine plays in center as well as adding some flashy highlight reel plays in the mix. The top two positions in this lineup could easily be flipped flopped but I feel this would best suit the team.[StephenReed]
3. Josh Donaldson 3B: The former AL MVP looks to be nothing but consistent for the Jays since he joined the team two seasons ago. He’s been one of the best in majors not only offensively but defensively as well, he may have the best glove of any third baseman in the game right now although Manny Machado may disagree. Donaldson seems to be one of the “sure things” in this Jays lineup and could easily land himself another MVP award. He’s hit 20 or more home runs each of the past four seasons and has had 90 or more RBI’s as well. Last season Donaldson hit for a 284 average, with 37 home runs, and 99 RBI’s almost reminiscent of his MVP season. Along with those phenomenal in the Postseason, last year alone he hit for a 417 average, with a home run, and 5 RBI’s. Donaldson could easily be a frontrunner for MVP again this season.
4. Kendrys Morales DH: Typically you want your big bopper hitting in the four spot, in recent years Edwin Encarnacion filled this spot however with him leaving there was a vacancy not only in the cleanup spot but at the DH position as well. Morales has more or less revitalized himself over his two seasons in Kansas City and looks to continue being the old guy that’s also consistent. Last year Morales put up some very good numbers for the Royals hitting for a 263 average while launching 30 home runs, and driving in 93 runs. He put together two of his best career seasons while playing for the Royals and looks to bring those numbers to a hitter friendly ballpark in Toronto.
5. Troy Tulowitzki SS: Tulowitzki may have had his worst season ever to this point in his career in 2016 but putting him ahead of Jose Bautista may be something that will greatly improve the subpar numbers he put up. Hitting a measly 254 didn’t exactly make him a feared hitter by any means, the 24 home runs, and 79 RBI’s, however, show he still has some pop in his bat and can be clutch, however in a very hitter friendly park those numbers could definitely be a little better. Entering his second full season as a Blue Jay he should now know what it takes to play in the tough AL East.
6. Jose Bautista RF: In what was Bautista’s worst statistical season in Toronto he still managed to do a few things to excite Toronto fans, I mean who could forget getting punched in the face by Rougned Odor? However that may have been the most exciting thing Bautista did all season, he struggled offensively posting a very low 234 average. While hitting for a career low batting average he still managed to hit 22 home runs and bring in 69 runs, showing that there still may be spark somewhere in that 36-year-old body of his. Hopefully for the Blue Jays and their fans everywhere, their once great hero can return to his old form.
7. Justin Smoak 1B: Smoak has been a bit of a journeyman through his MLB career so far starting in Texas, then heading to Seattle, then ultimately landing on this Blue Jays team. He’s never really been someone who will hit for a high average, or really get on base at a consistent clip, however, he has some power that could definitely do some damage. Having Smoak hit behind Bautista makes it so pitchers can’t purposely work around Bautista or anyone ahead of him because he has the ability to hit the long ball. Last season wasn’t exactly Smoak’s best year by any means but he hit for a 217 average, fourteen home runs, and drove in 34 runs. Also in regards to hitting Smoak here, you could easily see that RBI total go up higher than we have to this point in his career.
8. Russell Martin C: This is another instance like Justin Smoak’s, putting a player known for his offensive game behind someone to ensure the pitchers can’t pitch around anyone and make their lives easier. Martin who may be one of my favorite players had a pretty solid season behind the dish for the Jays last year, hitting a 231 average but hitting 20 home runs, and bringing in 74 runs. He was one of the key cogs in this Blue Jays lineup and could definitely help Smoak out by providing a safety blanket of sorts making this lineup even more deadly.[Kenny2]
9. Melvin Upton Jr. LF: Upton is another player who has traveled around the league in his career so far. Starting out in Tampa Bay and then making stops in Atlanta, San Diego, and finally Toronto. Upton still has pop in his bat after putting up 20 home runs last year and still has some speed posting 27 steals which makes him a perfect guy to put in the nine spot. He’s someone who can turn the lineup over effectively and will basically act as a second leadoff hitter. He could easily turn into the Upton of old (who most of us knew as BJ) and put up close to a career year in the stats department. In the hitter friendly ballpark in Toronto don’t be surprised if we see Upton return to All-Star form.
This Blue Jays team again appears to be a contender with the everyday lineup they have, however, teams on paper don’t always play to the standards we hold them to. If everyone does their job this Jays team has a good chance to win the very tough AL East