Blue Jays lineup: Justin Smoak batting 8th
Sunday afternoon’s Blue Jays lineup sees Justin Smoak as the designated hitter batting eighth
Putting stock into spring training stats is a fool’s game. Reading between the lines of positional assignments and lineup construction, however, can provide the odd nugget of value.
With the Blue Jays scheduled to face the Pittsburgh Pirates this afternoon, John Gibbons‘ lineup appears to be the nine batters we’ll see opening day. Depending on the health of Edwin Encarnacion, of course.
Beyond Kevin Pillar in the leadoff spot and the big bats through the heart of the order, one oddity is the presence of Justin Smoak in the eight hole.
Smoak spent the majority of his 2015 campaign batting in the fifth spot for Toronto (176 PAs) with starts also coming in the sixth spot (80 PAs). The arrival of Troy Tulowitzki and Gibbons’ statement that he’ll be the number five hitter, however, leaves Smoak as the odd man out when looking at Toronto’s power bats.
Having Russell Martin and Michael Saunders up against one another in the lineup would be an interesting dynamic in itself. Saunders is in the midst of a hot spring and comes with some level of speed on the bases, while Martin’s excellent on-base ability remains consistent.
Perhaps slotting Smoak into that eighth spot puts more pressure on Ryan Goins (and Darwin Barney) than anyone else. With Smoak’s .299 OBP in 2015 and .275 mark the year prior in Seattle, any regression towards career norms from Goins could create a low-impact bottom two.
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This was the beauty of having Kevin Pillar in the bottom two for much of last year, as he was at least able to push the envelope with his speed in an effort to turn the lineup over.
I would not be surprised to see Saunders move to the eighth spot with Smoak at seven in an attempt to liven up that bottom two, but regardless of the outcome, this is not necessarily a negative for the Blue Jays. All too often, having options is confused with having a problem.
In his first year with the Jays, the now 29-year-old Smoak hit .226 with 18 home runs and 59 RBIs, appearing in 132 games and being used frequently as a defensive replacement at first base.