With the Blue Jays’ offence finally near full strength, the lineup options for John Gibbons are significantly stronger than they were a week ago, including a red hot Devon Travis.
My how things can change in a hurry in the game of baseball. At this time last month, most of the narrative around the Blue Jays was a lost season and the potential to start selling of veteran pieces, kicking off a dreaded rebuild that the Blue Jays hoped to put off for at least a few more years.
Now? The Jays have a healthy lineup again, and are in the midst of a 4 game win streak, also playing their next 9 games at home. Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki returned on Friday adding two of the greatest weapons in Toronto back to the lineup, and several hitters who struggled in April have turned things around.
Devon Travis is perhaps the greatest example, as he’s been one of the hottest hitters in baseball throughout the month of May. As most of us know, he’s broken the Blue Jay record for doubles in May, and is in the midst of a 10 game hit streak.
The young second baseman began the year in the leadoff spot, a position he’s occupied for the bulk of his time as a big leaguer in Toronto. However, after struggling to a .130/.193/.195 in the season’s first month, he was dropped in the order in favour of Kevin Pillar, who was taken significant strides on offence this year.
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Now that Travis’ stick has come around, does it still make sense to bat him in the bottom third of the lineup? He hit eighth on Friday night against the Rangers, and provided 3 hits, raising his May slash line to .372/.383/.679, and bringing his overall average to .252.
There are a couple things to consider. First, a healthy Blue Jays’ lineup has a great deal of depth, as evidenced by the fact that Tulo was hitting in the 7 spot on Friday as well.
Secondly, the emergence of Kevin Pillar and Justin Smoak at the plate has given the Jays’ two additional weapons in a lineup that had plenty to begin with. As I drew up my projected lineups for the 2017 season, I often had Pillar and Smoak listed as the 8 and 9 hitters. I don’t blame Gibbons for the way he’s employed them both, and I wouldn’t suggest either should be dropped in the lineup now either.
But it does feels as though Travis might be a bit of a wasted asset hitting 8th spot in the lineup. Granted, having threats in the lineup from 1-9 is a great thing, but Travis’ ability to get on base before the likes of Donaldson, Jose Bautista and more hit the plate, is worth salivating over.
For now, Gibbons and the Blue Jays will have the luxury of experimenting with what works best now that they have a mostly healthy lineup. Travis will likely continue hitting near the bottom for now, but if he continues tearing the cover off the ball the way he has this month, don’t be surprised if he moves up again. After a difficult April, the Florida native is remaining us all just how good of a hitter he is.
*Update- Travis is hitting in the 2nd spot in the lineup today, with both Donaldson and Tulowitzki getting the day off, easing them back into the lineup.