Toronto Blue Jays News

Blue Jays: Long ball will factor big again in 2017

Sep 13, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (39) in the dugout prior to the game against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 13, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (39) in the dugout prior to the game against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Blue Jays began the offseason hoping to alter the dynamic of their offence a bit from the 2015-16 seasons, and become a little less reliant on the long ball.

The Blue Jays have sported one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball over the last two seasons, especially in 2015. Even in a slower 2016 season, the Blue Jays had 7 players hit more than 20 home runs including Edwin Encarnacion (42), Josh Donaldson (32), Troy Tulowitzki (24), Michael Saunders (24), Jose Bautista (22), Russell Martin (20), and even Melvin Upton hit a combined 20 home runs between his time with the Jays and San Diego Padres.

Encarnacion and Saunders are no longer with the Jays, but Kendrys Morales and his powerful stick have joined the lineup, so they shouldn’t be lacking in the power department. The question is, is that a good thing?

Manager John Gibbons was asked by Sportsnet in October about how he’d like to see the team evolve after the Jays were eliminated from the postseason, and he mentioned a need more lineup balance.

While the Jays reportedly made efforts on players like Dexter Fowler, the lineup hasn’t changed a great deal, even if a few of the names have. Morales brings a similar skill set to that of Encarnacion, and certainly doesn’t provide a boost in speed, even if he can bring a left-handed bat (against RH pitching). The only other significant position-player addition was Steve Pearce, who also swings right-handed and is no better than average on the bases, despite providing a solid OBP. While a positive addition, he wasn’t exactly the ideal candidate. (We like him here at Jays Journal though..).

With that in mind, will the Blue Jays have much of a different attack during the upcoming season? It’s hard to imagine a drastically different approach, even if that’s what Gibby has, or had in mind.

On the plus side, the Blue Jays were displaying some early power on the second day of Spring Training games, with new additions Morales and likely back-up catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia launching home runs in their first games.

And “Salty”.

While there shouldn’t be a Jays fan alive that doesn’t like the sight of those two blasts, it does spark the question, at least for me, will we see a different hitting emphasis this season?

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Let me be clear about something before I go any further: I’m not suggesting that the Blue Jays should abandon one of their greatest strengths. Their powerful offence has been a crucial part of earning back to back appearances in the ALCS, and they truly are one of the more feared lineups in the game. They did lead all of baseball in home runs in 2015 with 232, after all.

Their approach has given the club a great deal of success in the regular season, and I have little doubt that the Blue Jays will be in the hunt for a third kick at the cat come September. Where it’s come back to haunt them is during the playoffs, when the pitching performances hit another level.

Perhaps there’s nothing to worry about for now, as we’ll have the pleasure of a 162 game season to see what these Blue Jays are made of. It’s entirely possible that the Jays’ front office is still on the look out for another player who could add the speed, defence, and maybe even an extra left-handed hitter.

If the greatest need for those skill sets is during the playoffs, as many suggest, there is plenty of time to add a piece or two, if or when it’s necessary.

Next: Blue Jays: Kevin Pillar has not hit his ceiling yet

For now, I like the Spring debuts of Morales, Saltalamacchia and others, just fine.

Call me an dreamer if you must, but I like the look of this team.

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