Blue Jays to audition Pillar, Saunders for leadoff spot


The Toronto Blue Jays will reportedly be keeping Troy Tulowitzki in the fifth spot while auditioning Kevin Pillar and Michael Saunders to bat leadoff

Troy Tulowitzki is staying in the middle of the lineup.

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told reporters today in Dunedin that the club would give outfielders Kevin Pillar and Michael Saunders a shot at the top spot in the lineup. 

Tulowitzki is a more natural fit individually towards the heart of a lineup, especially given his 30-home-run potential in the friendly confines of the Rogers Centre, but Toronto’s lack of a “true” leadoff man was still expected to leave him firmly in the conversation.

Between Pillar and Saunders, there’s an element of hope involved on both sides.

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With the centre-fielder Pillar, Toronto is looking at a career on-base percentage of .303 with just 28 walks in 628 plate appearances last season. His speed is enticing, but as Ben Revere showed in the latter half of 2015, speed can be wasted ahead of the big bats as the risk of wasting a runner is rarely worth it. In the eight or nine spot, Pillar may run free.

The Pillar of old is not the on-base machine that the Blue Jays need atop the order. Then again, he was potentially the fourth outfielder entering last season. Stranger things have happened, surely.

In Saunders, the Blue Jays are hoping on health and consistency. The left-fielder comes with a similarly underwhelming OBP of .301, but the club will be banking on him recapturing the .330 mark he held between 2013 and 2014.

It’s also interesting that Gibbons gave no mention of Dalton Pompey, whose spot in the left-field conversation is fading despite spring barely beginning.

The return of Devon Travis may still be what the leadoff spot needs, but with Tulowitzki now officially eliminated, it becomes one of Toronto’s most wide-open positions.