Since all of the focus out there for Jays bloggers and analysts seems to be on the pitching questions that surround Jays spring training, I thought we should also look at who will make it onto the Jays bench this season. We know that the Jays usually keep 12 pitchers active on the 25-man roster, which leaves us with 8 starters, a DH, and four hitters on the bench. If they do decide to change anything it would be to keep 8 guys in the pen (may happen since some pen guys would be lost if they have to pass through waivers) and 4 on the bench. However, we’ll just review the top bench guys in each category anyhow and let the chips fall where they may.
As it stands today, the probable starters are as follows (in order of the lineup expected to be in place to begin the season):
- RF – Jose Bautista
- 2B – Aaron Hill
- DH – Adam Lind
- CF – Vernon Wells
- 1B – Lyle Overbay
- 3B – Edwin Encarnacion
- LF – Travis Snider
- SS – Alex Gonzalez
- C – John Buck
That leaves the following players vying for bench roles in spring training (with probable positions they can play included):
- 2B/SS/3B/OF – Mike McCoy
- 2B/SS/OF – Jarrett Hoffpauir
- 2B/SS/3B – John McDonald
- 2B/SS/3B – Brad Emaus
- SS – Jesus Merchan
- OF – Chris Lubanski
- OF – Jorge Padilla
- OF – Joey Gathright
- OF – Jeremy Reed
- 1B – David Cooper
- 1B/DH – Brian Dopirak
- 1B/DH – Randy Ruiz
- C – Jose Molina
- C – Raul Chavez
From those listed above, John McDonald and one of Jose Molina or Raul Chavez will be guaranteed a spot on the bench. Since I do believe the Jays want experienced catchers with their young pitchers, and he comes in cheap and allows Chavez to return to AAA to teach JP Arencibia a thing or two, I believe Jose Molina may have the inside shot at the C bench role.
INF bench – John McDonald, C bench – Jose Molina (Raul Chavez)
So that leaves 2 bench spots to be filled for 1B/OF. We can easily conclude that if Lyle Overbay is still with the Jays when the season starts only one of Brian Dopirak and Randy Ruiz will make it onto the bench. I give a slight edge to Randy Ruiz in this case because chances are that they want Dopirak to play every day to better his defensive skills while Ruiz can fill in nicely at DH as well as an emergency 1B when needed. So, if we assume Ruiz makes the bench, that leaves us with 1 spot remaining.
1B/DH bench spot – Randy Ruiz (Brian Dopirak)
I would next group Emaus, McCoy, and Hoffpauir into the middle infielder category and would discount Emaus immediately because he has options remaining and needs more development in AAA. Both McCoy and Hoffpauir could easily make the bench, however it may be tough for the Jays to find playing time for either of them. Aaron Hill will play everyday minus the odd day off, and Alex Gonzalez and Johnny Mac will alternate at SS. The Jays are also going to carry one of Ruiz or Dopirak, so that leaves the 3B backup and OF backup roles. This leads me to believe that McCoy – who has a lot of experience at 3B and in the OF – has a better chance to get that bench spot.
However, it also leaves us with a quite a battle because if McCoy has a shot at that OF spot – he’ll be battling a few capable OFers brought in by Alex. Joey Gathright (28), Chris Lubanski (24), Jorge Padilla (31), and Jeremy Reed (28) are all capable outfielders that would gladly take a role on the Jays bench. If I were a betting man, I’d say that Chris Lubanski has the best chance to make the bench due to age and ceiling, as well as his ability to play all OF positions. People seem to like Gathright in MLB, but I’m not a huge fan. I’d rather have McCoy on the bench, who can also play all OF positions and also plays all over the infield, instead of a 1 dimensional guy. McCoy fits better at the top of the lineup than Gathright does and has more success stealing bases. Still, if any of the others have a breakout spring, they could take that last bench spot.
That would round off the bench to the following 4 players:
John McDonald (2B/SS) bats right – Randy Ruiz (1B/DH) bats right – Jose Molina (C) bats right – Mike McCoy (2B/SS/3B/OF) bats right (but his both lefties and righties very well).
Not too bad a bench if you ask me. I still think Joey Gathright has a chance to make it ahead of McCoy, and it could come down to the spring training performance of each player. Whichever one doesn’t make it will most likely end up in AAA. Jarrett Hoffpauir should join that player, along with Brian Dopirak, Raul Chavez, Brad Emaus, and others who the Jays want to stick around. David Cooper should return to AA if Dopirak is in AAA. All-in-all the Jays have a pretty decent bench and good depth for position battles. They don’t have any real pressing needs on their bench, from what I can tell, and should have the depth to help them win some games. Mike McCoy in particular could become a mainstay on the bench to the point of taking a starting role should the opportunity arise.