One of the biggest questions surrounding the Blue Jays this pre-season has been who will bat leadoff, but the back end of Toronto’s lineup has quietly emerged as one of the fiercest in baseball
While all eyes have been focused on the front of the order, a job that now looks like it will go to Kevin Pillar, the production the Jays have gotten from their back end hase been very positive. With the speedy Pillar batting first, we know that the devastating foursome behind will deliver offensively. Let’s now look at the back end.
Assuming no injuries or freak attacks by sprinklers happen in the next few days leading into the season, it’s safe to assume that Russell Martin, Michael Saunders, Justin Smoak, and Ryan Goins will round out the back half of the nine.
Martin’s STEAMER Projections put him at 54 Runs, 16 Home Runs, and 67 RBI’s to go along with a .235 Average and an OBP of .330. This would seemingly fall right in line with his previous seasons, but the addition of Troy Tulowitzki in the 5th slot, means that Martin is less of an offensive go-to guy, and has now become a back-end asset. This will allow some protection for the hard working defensive catcher.
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Saunders is looking like a potential number seven hitter and while his projections are nothing to gawk at (31 Runs, 7 HR, and 30 RBI’s with an Average of .246 and an OBP of .325), he has done much to dispel any doubts about his ability to perform healthily at the Major League level. Not only did he easily win the left field job from the competition, but made a significant stab as a legitimate leadoff candidate. Given what he’s done in a short time this spring, his projections seem rather modest.
Smoak has been batting out of the 8th slot, which may end up being his final home. While his projections are modest as well (35 Runs, 11 HR, 37 RBI’s and an Average and OBP of .233 and .311 respectively), Smoak currently leads qualified Blue Jays players slugging percentage, OPS, home runs and walks. Smoak may yet develop the offensive ferocity he demonstrated as a prospect, and this year might very well be the year he takes a step.
Finally we have Goins rounding out the order. He is projected for 31 Runs, 3 Home Runs, and 28 RBI’s to compliment his .240 Average and .289 OBP. While this is nothing special and coincides with his career numbers. Goins took off down the stretch offensively last year, and was a boon to the team and not just a placeholder. The Jays shouldn’t expect too much from him offensively, but the decent batting he has is a nice compliment to his defensive mastery.
While Martin may be the only threat to any offensive hardware this year, the Blue Jays back foursome is an accomplished squad that looks poised to make major leaps. Increased production from them will only make the job of opposing pitching more daunting. Most back ends feature the odd offensive dud, but the Blue Jays find themselves packing a punch where few expect it.