With Opening Day fast approaching Blue Jay hitters have been impressive. The Blue Jays core hitters have quietly put flown under the radar with all the attention given to the battle for the 4th and 5th spot in the starting rotation, or lack thereof, and which pitchers will be rounding out the bullpen. Looking at the stats of our starting nine makes me want to break into a Glee rendition of Eye of the Tiger….just kidding.
With Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Melky Cabrera all finishing last year on the disabled list, it would have been reasonable to expect them to require a few games to shake off the rust. That hasn’t been the case. Bautista has hit five home runs and Encarnacion knocked three out of the park. More importantly, neither player has been affected by the ailments which landed them on the DL. Bautista has shown patience at the plate (9BB and 10K) and has been putting good wood on the ball (.340/.439/.745). Not to be out done, Encarnacion has been equally impressive with five doubles to go with a triple slash of .309/.356/.564. If healthy Jose and Edwin could enter the discussion of top 3-4 hitters in the game, maybe not THE best, but they would definitely be in the discussion.
For me the biggest surprise of the spring has to be the play of Melky Cabrera. Last year, Melky was a mess as he suffered from a number of ailments which ultimately turned out to be caused by a tumor, which was removed this off-season. His performance this spring has been a breath of fresh air and reason for optimism. If Melky can stay healthy, he will provide the lineup with a solid bat in the #2 spot. On the down side, Melky has yet to go yard this spring, but has shown extra base power and the ability to make it to second base on a regular basis. His 9 doubles and 25 hits lead the team, which has produced a very good slash line of .431/.452/.586. A word of caution, last spring Melky had three home runs, seven two baggers, and a triple slash of .348/.377/.591.
Adam Lind and Brett Lawrie have shown they are ready to get this party started. Lind has picked up where he left off in 2013, as he has been racking all spring. Lind has shown extra base power while making consistent contact good for a .370/.408/.587 triple slash. While, Lawrie has been getting on base consistently this spring, he has yet to show the pop that we all hope and pray his bat possesses. He has one home run and three doubles to go with a 16 singles. Lawrie continues to demonstrate a quiet approach at the plate that has allowed him to hit a .333/.377/.438. The rib strain that Lawrie suffered at the World Baseball Classic last spring derailed his season, so let’s all be thankful for no WBC this year. To add insult to injury he rushed back, or was rushed back, and played injured for much of the first half. When healthy, Lawrie put up numbers that made this writer sad to see the season end but extremely excited to see what 2014 has in store of Captain Canada…key word being ‘Healthy’.
Speaking of health concerns, hopefully Jose Reyes’ recent day-to-day hamstring injury isn’t a harbinger of things to come. To say that Reyes in the spoon that stirs the tea (I don’t drink coffee) is an understatement. This is even more important this year than it was last season. The 2014 Blue Jays have a lot less speed this year than last with the departure of Emilio Bonifacio and Rajai Davis. So Reyes will be our main threat to steal, unless we can convince Rasmus and Lawrie to swipe a few more bags. On the other hand lets not tempt fate with Lawrie.
Moises Sierra has been what I expect he will be all year, a .250 hitter, with average OBP, and decent power. I am hopeful that he breaks out and shows that he can handle LF next year when Melky leaves via free agency after a monster year….without your dreams what do you have?
Colby Rasmus, Maicer Izturis, and Ryan Goins have been what we all expected them to do. Colby continues to strike out too much and not walk enough (1BB/16K). Colby is a streaky hitter, so I am hopeful that the spring is his cold streak and he will start hitting once he arrives in Toronto, strike that, New York. Lastly, Goins will live and die with his glove, so any offense is a bonus. Let us hope that it is better than his spring average of .164; however, he has been able to limit his strike outs (8)while picking up a couple free passes (5).
If the Blue Jays have any chance of competing against teams in the AL-Beast the batters better pray that they bring their hot bats north.