Blue Jays: Josh Donaldson is right in his comments about the lineup

Jun 13, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) singles in the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 13, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) singles in the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Texas Rangers a night ago but had to bail out Marco Estrada in the process. However, all the talk surrounding last night’s ball game is the comments that were made by superstar Josh Donaldson. The comments surrounded the current construction of the batting order and I do believe he is 100% justified in the comments he made.

The comments that are being discussed by Blue Jays fans and Toronto media are as follows. This is from Steve Buffery‘s piece:

"“I would say for the most part, our 3 and 4 guys, they’re not getting on base enough,” said Donaldson. “Bautista’s known to be around .380 to .400 on-base and I don’t think he’s anywhere near that right now (.337),” said Donaldson. “I’m not sure Kendrys Morales’ on base is (.307), but I can’t imagine that he’s a very high on-base guy (career .331). So the fact of it is, if those guys weren’t getting on base, then he (Smoak) is going to hit solo home runs. With that being said, I think the tougher question is, where would he need to hit in order to have guys on base? I think that’s what we need to (consider).”"

The points raised by Josh Donaldson are extremely true. Jose Bautista is a career .367 OBP guy. Through Bautista’s 296 at bats in 2017, he’s at .338. Kendrys Morales has a career OBP of .329 and is currently sitting at .309. While Donaldson’s comments are valid, that’s not where the problem lies. There are some other holes in the batting order right now that should lead to a lineup shuffle.

It all starts at the top of the order with leadoff man Kevin Pillar. Pillar was on fire for the majority of the season’s first month and a half. He was setting the table for a lineup that was largely without Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki. Since the suspension that saw Pillar miss two games around May 17th at the Atlanta Braves, Pillar has slashed .167/.224/.269. An OBP of .224 is not acceptable. It’s been over a month since the suspension and there hasn’t been much production from Pillar.

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The lack of production from Pillar leads to Josh Donaldson in the 2 hole usually coming up without anyone on base, especially starting a ball game. The question then becomes who leads off? The logical solution if healthy would be Devon Travis, but we know that can’t happen. The first choice would be the aforementioned Jose Bautista. Despite the below career average OBP, the OBP of .338 would play in the leadoff spot. As we know, Bautista was in the leadoff spot for a lot of last season after the Blue Jays lineup shuffle when they were playing in Minnesota against the Twins.

Another option is a less conventional one in Russell Martin. The only reason it’s not conventional is that Martin is a catcher. Not many catchers in the history of the MLB have led off in the past. However, that shouldn’t matter as Martin’s current OBP is .374. He’s quietly having a great season at the plate despite the .221 batting average in which everyone immediately looks too.

It’s likely that if a lineup shuffle was to happen, Bautista would be the guy to leadoff. The old school way of thinking has your best hitter as your 3rd hitter. However, the new school way of thinking has the best hitter in your lineup bat 2nd. That won’t change in this lineup shuffle as Donaldson remains in the leadoff spot.

Given the production in the power department from Kendrys Morales and Justin Smoak, either or should be put in the 3 hole. I’m opting with Justin Smoak, given Morales’ .309 OBP. Of the 20 home runs that Smoak has hit, they’ve only accounted for 32 of his 46 RBI. That’s a lot of solo home runs. For a guy having a career year and producing at a great clip, that’s a problem. Smoak should bat 3rd behind the two guys who get on base the most for the Blue Jays. Perhaps more of Smoak’s home runs will go for 2 or 3 run shots instead of solo shots. Kendrys Morales remains in the cleanup spot.

After the top 4, I would put Russell Martin 5th ahead of Troy Tulowitzki. Tulowitzki is struggling mightily with a 68 wRC+. There is some concern surrounding Tulowitzki right now, but one would imagine he will get hot again. Tulowitzki bats 6th.

The batting order would round out with Steve Pearce batting 7th, Ryan Goins batting 8th, and Kevin Pillar batting 9th. The hope would be that Pillar starts to heat up a bit to get on base before the lineup gets turned over.

Now, Manager John Gibbons has tinkered with the lineup in the past but seems very hesitant to do so as of now. The reasons are unclear, but perhaps a contributing factor would be a lineup demotion for Pillar be detrimental to his confidence and a lineup promotion for Justin Smoak to the 3 hole would put too much pressure on him. None of those should be factors, however. For a team that relies so much on the home run ball, getting more guys on base and creating more havoc on the basepaths could jumpstart the offense and help them to not be so home run reliant.

You shouldn’t be concerned with the comments of Josh Donaldson. The players talk amongst each other quite often to figure out how to get better. This is a good thing that Josh Donaldson spoke up and he is 100% right in his saying. If I was running the team, my batting order as explained above looks like this:

  1. Jose Bautista
  2. Josh Donaldson
  3. Justin Smoak
  4. Kendrys Morales
  5. Russell Martin
  6. Troy Tulowitzki
  7. Steve Pearce
  8. Ryan Goins
  9. Kevin Pillar

Next: Blue Jays: Could Brad Hand be of interest to add to the bullpen?

What do you think the order should be? Comment in the comment section!