Blue Jays trade fallout: Who bats leadoff?
In trading Jose Reyes, Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro and Jesus Tinoco, the Blue Jays gained an incredible return. What they have lost in the short-term, however, is the presence of a clear-cut leadoff hitter to set the table for this lineup, one which now looks like something out of a fantasy draft.
The Blue Jays have three options in-house with Devon Travis, Kevin Pillar and Dalton Pompey. Keep in mind that we’re calling these options, but not all of them qualify as “good options”.
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Beginning with Dalton Pompey, who many have floated as a recall candidate to take over in left field after a great streak of play with the AAA Buffalo Bisons. Pompey’s struggles earlier this season cause a legitimate reason for worry, and returning the rookie to the top of this order is a risk that the team cannot necessarily afford at this point. Toronto simply does not have the time to give Pompey an extended look on a trial period, but this is not to squash the idea of his call-up entirely.
One factor this team lacks is a pair of legs off the bench that can plug left field defensively later in games. Ezequiel Carrera is a light version of this, but despite his recent burst, his defense is simply not enough to warrant his roster spot long-term. If Chris Colabello and Danny Valencia continue to see time in left, Pompey could be a frequent late-inning replacement while providing a speed upgrade from many of Toronto’s starting nine in pinch-run situations.
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Pillar could intrigue with his speed, and let’s face it, the center fielder has been on a tear offensively. I sense that his career norm will be a little streakier than we’ve seen over the past two months, but towards the bottom of this lineup, Pillar has become an underrated commodity. In a leadoff role, however, I’m not wild about his ability to set the table.
Strikeouts would be the leading concern with Pillar, which has limited his OBP to .306 despite a .272 average. In front of Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki, the leadoff man needs to be on base as often as possible. Speed would be a bonus, but a man on base is priority number one. Period.
This leads us to Travis, who despite not profiling as your “traditional” leadoff man with just three stolen bases, should be Toronto’s top OBP option in that spot. Travis’ average of .301 is currently supported by a .360 OBP. Travis also average 3.96 pitches per at-bat compared to 3.50 from Pillar, and I trust his eye to expand that number if asked to undertake a full-time leadoff role.
The pushback to this idea will again be the speed and base-running talent, but Travis should do well enough in those areas to keep the lineup moving. While he won’t steal 30 bases, he has the basic athleticism required to go from first to third on a Donaldson single. Pair that with his mature plate approach, and I think we’re look at the Blue Jays new leadoff hitter.
Next: Trade analysis: Don't forget about Hawkins!