Blue Jays Weekly Round Up – Coming Back Down To Earth
Apr 14, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) breaks up a double play attempt by Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis (29) in the sixth inning at the Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Here at Jays Journal, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the performances of Jays’ players (and the decision making of John Gibbons) to monitor who impressed and disappointed each and every week. It’s still early, but through two weeks there have been several developments that have given us a good sense of what’s to come in the 2015 season. Here’s this week’s round up:
Devon Travis: The rookie second baseman has done nothing but impress through two weeks. Hitting .375/.419/.700 Travis has surprised many with his power, showing the ability to hit the ball out of the park with 3 home runs in 40 plate appearances. More than his power, what’s impressed me right from the beginning of Spring Training has been Travis’ plate coverage and approach of taking pitches on the outer half to right field. With Jose Reyes going down with a rib injury this week (his timetable for return is uncertain) and Travis being chosen by John Gibbons to fill the vacant leadoff spot, Jays fans should be relieved that they will have a capable replacement for the time being.
It’s interesting that despite an approach that I think makes him suitable for the role, Travis didn’t feature as a leadoff hitter throughout his time in the minor leagues. Regardless, the Florida State Seminole is doing a great job of showing Jays fans that his minor league .323 batting average is translating well to big league pitching.
Josh Donaldson: Despite being moved to an unfamiliar spot in the batting lineup (Donaldson only had 35 plate appearances hitting second in 2014), Donaldson responded very well in the second week of the season. This past week, Donaldson had two 3-RBI games, adding his first two home runs of the year on Friday evening. While he has continued to pepper Jays first baseman with errand throws (Donaldson has a history of inaccurate throws from the hot corner), he certainly is beginning to meet expectations as a key offensive producer for the Jays in 2015. With the batting lineup still in flux early in the year, it will be interesting to keep an eye on whether Donaldson ends up having the most success whether hitting before or after Bautista and Encarnacion going forward.
Kevin Pillar: Pillar is beginning to cement his status as fan favourite and is surely going to create some difficult questions for John Gibbons and the front office when Michael Saunders returns from injury. Including his SPECTACULAR grab to rob Tim Beckham of a home run, Pillar is only second to Lorenzo Cain in defensive runs saved among MLB outfielders. While it can be frustrating at times that Pillar has started to exclusively take the aggressive approach and go for the catch on fly balls that might be out of reach, it’s difficult not to applaud the 26 years old determination. At the plate, Pillar has held his own hitting .279 with 4 RBI’s and despite not walking so far, his improved two strike approach and pitch selection has been obvious so far in 2015.
Russell Martin: Before getting into Martin’s struggles thus far in 2015, I wanted to add the disclaimer that I fully expect the former Gold Glover to rebound and end up being the player that we all envisioned when Alex Anthopolous handed out his largest free agent contract this offseason. Simply put, Martin has the track record and experience of being a very, very good big league catcher and it’s only a matter of time before all Jays fans will come to appreciate this.
That said, despite 2 home runs yesterday evening, Martin has scuffled at the plate, hitting .111/.306/.333 so far. His struggles at the plate seem to have affected his performance defensively and although he has done an adequate job of learning R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball, it’s been obvious to me that besides throwing out runners on stolen base attempts that he must be adjusting to the lights or playing surface in the Rogers Centre. Martin committed a costly throwing error on Tuesday night that ended up being the difference in the game. It’s way too early for pressing the panic button, so I look forward to Martin rebounding in a big way in the coming weeks.
Drew Hutchison: After starting brilliantly on Opening Day against the Yankees, Hutchison has largely disappointed in his last 2 starts. Between these two starts, Hutchison has failed to get out of the 5th inning, giving up a combined 11 earned runs to end up with a .720 ERA and 5.31 FIP. A lot of Jays fans were really hoping for a breakout year from Hutchison and must have been thrilled at how he began the season, but his performance since has been discouraging. Hutchison does not have an overpowering arsenal of pitches and so his fastball command is extremely important, but he has been letting this pitch leak out over the plate far too often and has been punished by hitters accordingly.