Will the Jays Lineup be Better in '11?

With the players the Jays currently have under contract, will the Jays offense be better or worse in 2011? The Jays haven’t made too many moves, but then again, did they have to? The tinkering with the lineup that was done by Alex Anthopoulos can easily be seen as upgrades at the 1B, SS, DH, OF/Bench positions, as well as in the speed category. The Jays will also presumably have Jose Bautista at 3B instead of Edwin Encarnacion, making that a huge offensive upgrade. That’s nothing to shake a stick at when you ask me, because the 2010 offense did pack a whole lot of punch as it slugged its way through the season. 

The Jays offense finished 2010 with the following rankings in all of MLB: 

  • 15th in ABs
  • 24th in Average
  • 9th in Runs Scored
  • 21st in Hits
  • 2nd in doubles (only behind Boston)
  • 25th in triples
  • 1st in HRs (2nd place Boston had 46 fewer HRs than the Jays)
  • 9th in RBIs
  • 2nd to Boston in Total Bases
  • 23rd in Walks
  • 14th most Strike Outs
  • 28th in SBs
  • 26th in OBP
  • 1st in Slugging

The Good:Runs Scored, Doubles, HRs, RBIs, Total Bases, Slugging 

The Bad: Average, Hits, Triples, Walks, SBs, OBP 

As we can see, Alex Anthopoulos and the Jays have some deficiencies to address in the Jays lineup despite their historic power surge. Some minor changes have been made with the departures of Fred Lewis, Alex Gonzalez, and John Buck, as well as with the additions of Rajai Davis, Yunel Escobar, and J. P. Arencibia to the lineup. Are these changes enough to address the bulk of the issues listed above? I say that for the most part, yes, and here’s how I came to that conclusion. 

In order to assess the impact of the newcomers, we need to look at what changes will be made to the lineup overall. The most used lineup in 2010 was as follows: 

Presumed lineup changes made and their impacts based on what we know today: 

image courstey of newstalk650.com

 

Catcher 

  • I’m going to play an “I told you so” card at some point in 2011 when people start to see that J. P. Arencibia‘s bat is a lot more special than they give him credit for. He’s going to be a big upgrade from John Buck‘s stats across the board very quickly.
  • John Buck‘s 2010 stats:409 AB/ .280 AVG/ 53 runs/ 115 Hits/ 25 DB/ 0 Tr/ 20 HRs/ 66 RBI/ .314 OBP/ .489 SLG
  • J. P. Arencibia‘s AAA stats: 412 ABs/ .301 AVG/ 76 runs/ 124 hits/ 36 DB/ 1 Tr/ 32 HRs/ 85 RBIs/ .359 OBP/ .626 SLg
  • Analysis: His 2009 season really broke what was unquestioned support for his impressive bat. As you can see from his 2010 stats in AAA, he rebounded swiftly from that injury plagued season and even added 2 HRs during his 1st ever game in The Show. Still, people question him. Why? Because they like to do so sometimes. He’ll have to prove me wrong, but until then, I’m 100% in the corner of JP “Beast Mode” Arencibia. Enjoy the show folks, because adding his power to an already power-filled lineup will be a lot of fun to watch.

image courtesy of mopupduty.com

 

First Base 

  • Lyle Overbay leaves, Adam Lindtakes over 1B: This is a little messy because it involves wheeling players around in terms of positions played, but it essentially makes the old DH – Lind – the 1B and add’s Encarnacion’s bat in his place. Encarnacion may also spend time at 1B, but I’ll look at him simply as replacing Lind as a DH to simplify things. Overbay will be 34 years old in 2011, while Lind will be much younger at 27 and will be hitting his prime years, so the Jays have already gotten a lot younger by making this change.
  • Lyle Overbay‘s 2010 stats: 534 AB/ .243 AVG/ 75 runs/ 130 Hits/ 37 DB/ 2 Tr/ 20 HRs/ 67 RBI/ .329 OBP/ .433 SLG
  • Adam Lind‘s 2010 stats:569 ABs/ .237 AVG/ 57 runs/ 135 hits/ 32 DB/ 3 Tr/ 23 HRs/ 72 RBIs/ .287 OBP/ .425 SLg
  • Analysis: It’s actually slightly demoralizing that we can’t rant and rave about how much better Lind’s offensive output will be than Overbay’s, even though I think most would agree that it shouldbe much better. He could have a similar season than he had in 2010 if he doesn’t adjust his hitting approach, or he could resume his potent 2009 season caliber performance. We’ll have to wait and see, but for the purpose of this post we’ll call it a draw with the potential to be a big upgrade. I’m expecting a return to 30 HRs, 80-90 RBIs, and a .270 avg/.325 OPB or above from the big guy, which would be a significant upgrade from Overbay’s stats.

Second Base 

  • No changes, as Aaron Hill will continue to man 2nd. However, I think most would agree that the Jays can expect similar pop from Aaron Hill with a much better average and OBP than he provided  in 2010. Therefore, I’ll include Aaron – the 2011 edition – as a possible slight upgrade in both average and OBP.

image courtesy of mopupduty.com

 

Short Stop 

  • A full season of Yunel Escobar versus a half-season of Alex Gonzalez and a half-season of Yunel Escobar. The Jays got a 27 year old SS instead of a 34 year old SS, shedding yet another 7 years off the age of the squad for 2011.
  • Alex Gonzalez‘s Stats in Toronto:328 AB/ .259 Avg/ 27 runs/ 64 hits/ 27 DB/ 1 Tr/ 17 HRs/ 50 RBI/ .296 OBP/ .497 SLG
  • Yunel Escobar Stats in TO 2010: 236 AB/ .275 Avg/ 32 runs/ 64 hits/ 7 DB/ 0 Tr/ 4 HRs/ 16 RBI/ .340 OBP/ .356 SLG
  • Analysis: I would argue that Yunel is a huge upgrade to the Jays lineup because he compliments their strengths better than Alex did. While Alex provided some really surprising pop to the lineup, he simply didn’t get on base enough. You can see that Yunel scored more runs than Alex despite having close to 100 fewer ABs with the Jays in 2010. That’s because his OBP was much higher and he allowed the guys hitting behind him to drive him in as a result. As has been pointed out by many Jays fans, Jose Bautistamay have had close to 170 RBI if some runners were on base when he hit his 54 HRs. Instead, he only got 124, or 70 if we discount the ones he drove himself home with. With Yunel’s great OBP ahead of them, the core of the Jays lineup should have many more RBI opportunities in 2011, something that should boost their 26th ranking in OBP, and 9th ranking in RBIs and runs scored.

Third Base 

  • image courtesy of gameslam.com

     

    Edwin Encarnacion, or E5 as he is known when he plays 3B, will “reportedly” not be manning 1B in 2011. If that’s true, and Jose Bautista is in fact the starting 3B – and I for one see nothing wrong with that – it will be one of the biggest upgrades to the Jays in 2011, both offensively and defensively. 

  • Edwin Encarnacion‘s Stats:332 AB/ .244 Avg/ 47 runs/ 81 hits/ 16 DB/ 0 Tr/ 21 HRs/ 51 RBI/ .305 OBP/ .482 SLG/ .932 Fldg %
  • Jose Bautista‘s Stats 2010: 569 AB/ .260 Avg/ 109 runs/ 148 hits/ 35 DB/ 3 Tr/ 54 HRs/ 124 RBI/ 9 Sbs/ .378 OBP/ .617 SLG/ .969 Fldg % (at 3B)
  • Analysis: The upgrade with Jose Bautistais substantial enough to have a very significant impact in the lineup in 2011. Not only with Jays pitchers benefit from his better D at 3B, but they’ll benefit from the offensive force Edwin will provide as he gets to concentrate on being a DH or 1B. Hopefully this will lead to a better average and OBP from Edwin and will give the Jays more pop from the hot corner than they’ve ever had. In fact, Jose stands in at a comparable level with Evan Longoria and Alex Rodriguezif he can come close to duplicating his 2010 season. If he does man 3B, the Jays end up with one of the best 3B options in all of MLB….when’s the last time Jays fans were able to say that? I see no reason to keep Jose Bautista in RF. Sure, he’s got a canon of an arm, but who’s going to run on him now that everyone knows that? When you consider that, the fact that his range will diminish as he gets older, and the other options on the FA market and in the system, I think it’s much better to place Jose at the hot corner.

Left Field/Right Field 

  • image courtesy of beanesbunch.com

     

    Fred Lewis didn’t spend all of 2010 with the Jays, but he was a fairly regular member of the OF corners when he got into Toronto. Jose Bautista will presumable leave the OF for the hot corner, but his bat is staying in the lineup. Therefore, the result is that Travis Snider will continue to be part of the OF corner options, along with newcomer Rajai Davis who the Jays traded for in return for 2 highly ranked relievers. The added youth and speed in the OF should help the Jays cover more ground and help out the pitchers as a result. 

  • Fred Lewis‘s Stats in Toronto:428 AB/ .262 Avg/ 70 runs/112 hits/ 31 DB/ 5 Tr/ 8 HRs/ 36 RBI/ 17 SBs/ .332 OBP/ .414 SLG/ .983 Fldg %, 0.8 WAR
  • Rajai Davis‘s Stats 2010:525 AB/ .284 Avg/ 66 runs/ 149 hits/ 28 DB/ 3 Tr/ 5 HRs/ 52 RBI/ 50 Sbs/ .320 OBP/ .377 SLG/ .987 Fldg %, 1.0 WAR
  • Analysis: The Jays really addressed a huge need when they acquired Davis: speed. With his speed in the lineup and on the bases, it doesn’t allow opposing pitchers to feel at ease when they face the big bats of the Jays. He’s one of the fastest players in the league and finished 3rd in SB in all of MLB as a result. His fielding % and WAR rating are ever so slightly better than Lewis but go a long way to making the Jays better both offensively and defensively. I’m not sure if the Jays plan on using Davis at the top of the lineup in 2011 but it would make sense. He had a .360 OBP in Oakland in 2009 and could return to that level as he continues to face AL pitching amongst a much better lineup in Toronto. I think that most observers undervalue the impact Davis will have in the Jays lineup in 2011 and that he will become an integral part of the team’s success.
  • The Other “Addition” - Travis Snidershould improve quite a bit from his 2010 performance. Injury issues plagued the young RF during a good portion of the year and he did show glimpses of what he’s capable of before his injuries came into play. When you look at the month of May alone, when Travis hit .378 with a .404 OBP, you see how much potential exists in his bat. I think that 20-30 HRs with a .280/.360/.485 type line is very feasible and is what I expect him to put up in 2010 (or to better it).

Centre Field 

  • No changes. Vernon Wells returned to form in 2010 and finally kept himself healthy all season long. I think it’s safe to assume that another healthy season would result in a 23-33 HR and 80-100 RBI season. That’s a good enough result to continue to help the Jays win and more than most teams get from their centre fielder. If Vernon does break down or has a nagging lower body injury, look for Davis to take over CF duties, yet another reason he was an important pick up for the 2011 Blue Jays.

DH 

  • image courtesy of torontobluejaysway.com

     

    Edwin Encarnacion will have a whole lot of fun being a full time 1B/DH. I predict a 30+ HR 80+ RBI season with a much better average and OBP than he provided in 2010. Sure, call me crazy, but get back to me when the season’s over and let me know how I did as well! 

  • Adam Lind‘s 2010 stats: 569 ABs/ .237 AVG/ 57 runs/ 135 hits/ 32 DB/ 3 Tr/ 23 HRs/ 72 RBIs/ .287 OBP/ .425 SLG
  • Edwin Encarnacion‘s Stats:332 AB/ .244 Avg/ 47 runs/ 81 hits/ 16 DB/ 0 Tr/ 21 HRs/ 51 RBI/ .305 OBP/ .482 SLG
  • Analysis: We all know Adam Lindis capable of more at the plate than he showed in 2010. I don’t know if it was the new “swing as hard as you can” approach the Jays used in 2010 that caused him issues, but he certainly disappointed in all areas of his game. I passed on my thoughts of his upcoming season in the 1B category, where the Jays plan on using him in tandem with Edwin, but will separate them as 1B for Lind and Encarnacion as DH for ease of Analysis. If you allow for a 570 AB season (as Lind had) from Edwin Encarnacionin 2011 based on his 2010 output, he would have had the following stats: 570 AB/ 80 runs/ 139 hits/ 27 DB/ 0 Tr/ 36 HRs/ 87 RBI. That’s a pretty great line and more than the Jays could have gotten from any FA that wouldn’t cost them $70+ million. With what Lind did for the Jays in 2010 and what I expect Edwin to do in 2011, I see no reason to believe that this doesn’t represent a huge upgrade at the DH position in 2011. When you also consider that both Lind and Encarnacion will be manning 1B and will keep one another healthy and fresh as a result, you get a sense that the Jays could be getting more than they could imagine in offensive output from the pair.

When we sum up all of the changes, it adds up to the following lineup: 

  • Rajai Davis, LF (adds to speed, better average, and better OBP numbers than the Lewis/Snider combo)
  • Yunel Escobar, SS (adds much better OBP, hits, and runs)
  • Jose Bautista, 3B (a huge improvement over Encarnacion, will have to face major adjustments)
  • Vernon Wells, CF (should replicate ’10 numbers)
  • Adam Lind, 1B (should improve on ’10 numbers)
  • Aaron Hill, 2B (has some work to do in terms of avg and OBP, but the power is still there)
  • Edwin Encarnacion, DH (can you remember who DH’d in ’10? Sure, it was Lind, but he did zip so Edwin will improve on that big time in ’11)
  • Travis Snider, RF (The Franchise is ready to make his claim)
  • J. P. Arencibia, C (adds power, better average and OBP, better SLG, and more RBIs. Will prove critics wrong)

Other possible impact additions (internally) during the ’11 season: 

  • Brett Lawrie – He could do well to get a full season of AA or AAA under his belt, but the Jays may be tempted to bring him up if he does well during the 1st half of the season. He’s the best impact bat the Jays have had in the minors since Travis Snider and could fit in at numerous positions, allowing him to play a super-utility role until the Jays decide on where he should play long term. Talk about nice insurance for the big club!
  • Corey Patterson – He could earn himself a bench spot to start the season and would bring a lot of experience – not to mention the ability to play all 3 OF positions – along with him. It all depends on how well he kicks things off in ’11.
  • Adeiny Hechavarria – His D is ready for MLB action, so if he gets the bat going before the all-star break, I don’t expect the Jays to be shy about pushing him to The Show. Which of Yunel Escobar or Aaron Hill would shift to 3B is unknown right now, but we know that Hill is comfortable with the move should it come to that.
  • Eric Thames- With his power, there’s no doubt that he fits the Jays mojo of ’10, but I’m not certain John Farrell will allow the same free-swinging mentality. He progressed so much in ’10 that a look in September could be in the cards, or earlier if injuries warrant it.
  • Darin Mastroianni – If Rajai Davis flops or gets injured, I expect to see Darin’s name in the Jays lineup. It’s time that this OBP and speed machine gets a chance to prove himself at the highest level after a good amount of seasoning.
  • Brian Jeroloman – I would be surprised to not see Brian in a Jays uniform at some point in ’10. Not only has he caught Kyle Drabek and Zach Stewart before, but he’s the heir apparent to Jose Molina, a player I believe the Jays may move before the trade deadline to a defensive catcher hungry team (if the Jays are out of contention that is). While his bat doesn’t compare to JP’s, it could be an upgrade over Jose’s.

The remainder of the prospects would be a lot less likely to make it to The Show, but Travis d’Arnaud, Moises Sierra, and Adam Loewen are the next names on the list that could take a peak at the majors if circumstances were dire. 

My Take 

I don’t think that opposing pitchers can come out and say it outright, but I think they hate to face the Jays who can make them look foolish on any given pitch due to their power throughout the lineup. The Jays lineup is a formidable one now that Jose Bautistahas established himself as a true power and it now includes much better OBP threats that should result in more multi-run extra base hits, something that lacked severely in 2010. They now have some speed to work with, a couple of young guns set to take off (Arencibia – Snider), and a few underachievers from ’10 (Hill-Lind) who should rebound if they make the right adjustments. With this group of masher and the new thief, there’s no doubt in my mind that the Jays offensive rankings listed above will improve quite a bit and will result in more wins if the pitching holds us its end of the equation. 

I can’t honestly say that I believe this is the lineup that will take the Jays directly to the world series, but, stranger things have happened. The Giants had a much weaker lineup, and look where they wound up. I know the Jays lack the top-end pitching that SF has in the rotation and in the pen, but if all that I listed above comes out as expected, the Jays could do some serious damage offensively.I would say that the support ready to come up and support the current lineup is much better than it was in ’10 and that it should help add some consistency to the offense that was lacking in ’10. 

Whether or not that results in a push for a playoff spot is a question for another day, but I’m not as discouraged with the makeup of the Jays lineup as some people currently are. I think that off season expectations to make big additions were coming from good intentions, but that sometimes a simple tweak is better when you know you have some real talent pushing through the minors.

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Tags: Aaron Hill Adam Lind Alex Gonzalez Brett Lawrie Brian Jeroloman Edwin Encarnacion Jose Bautista Jose Molina JP Arencibia Lyle Overbay Rajai Davis Travis Snider Vernon Wells Yunel Escobar

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