Blue Jays: Predicting the Opening Day Batting Order

DETROIT, MI - JULY 14: Manager John Gibbons
DETROIT, MI - JULY 14: Manager John Gibbons /

How will John Gibbons construct his batting lineup when the regular season begins? With a few new faces, we take a look at what might make sense in 2018.

The Blue Jays are scheduled to play their third spring training game on Sunday, and we are starting to get a better idea of what the lineup may look like. With Randal Grichuk, Curtis Granderson and more expected to see regular playing time, the batting order is bound to look a little different than it did last year.

Sunday’s lineup is the first real glimpse at what that might look like, as other than Troy Tulowitzki and Kendrys Morales being absent, the rest of the likely regulars were penciled in by John Gibbons.

It’s fantastic to see Devon Travis back on the field and leading off for the Blue Jays. He’s by far the best choice at the top of the lineup when healthy, and as I wrote the other day, I believe he’s a real key to the success of the offence. Following Travis, it’s no surprise to see “The Bringer of Rain”, Mr. Josh Donaldson hitting in his familiar two-hole.

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After that is where the question marks begin, at least for me. For Sunday’s game, Gibbons had Russell Martin hitting third, and if the last three years have taught us anything it’s that Gibbons really values Martin’s hitting ability. I think he’s an asset on both sides of the ball, but I’d be surprised to see him hitting this high in the order when the regular season begins.

I really like the way the new additions could potentially break up the order, at least a little more than the last few years. It’s been a common “problem” to have a lineup full of right-handed power hitters, and while that hasn’t drastically changed the situation is a little more flexible, and even more so if guys like Solarte are in the lineup.

Without further adieu, here’s how I would stack them up, assuming that Tulowitzki and Travis are both healthy and starting.

1- Devon Travis (2B)

2- Josh Donaldson (3B)

3- Justin Smoak (1B)

4- Randal Grichuk (RF)

5- Kendrys Morales (DH)

6- Troy Tulowitzki (SS)

7- Curtis Granderson (LF)

8- Russell Martin (C)

9- Kevin Pillar (CF)

With this configuration I really believe you’re putting the best three hitters at the top of the lineup, which to me is a no brainer, with all due respect to Martin. After that, I like Grichuk between Morales and Smoak, as he splits up the lefty hitters against right-handed pitching, and also brings a little more speed to the top half of the order, hopefully cutting down on a least a few double plays.

The bottom half of the order is where I think Gibby and I will disagree, and that comes back to Martin. If I were going to actually predict what I think Gibbons will do, I would expect that Martin hits 6th, and Tulowitzki drops down to 8th. It might not matter either way depending on how the two veterans perform, but I still believe Tulowitzki has more upside on offence, if he can stay healthy at least.

Putting Granderson in the seven hole gives the Blue Jays left-handed swingers hitting 3rd, 5th, and 7th, which would make things a little more difficult for opposing managers as they trot out their bullpen arms. At the bottom, Pillar provides some nice speed when the lineup turns over.

And for the sake of appeasing those who will say “Tulowitzki and Travis can’t stay healthy!”, here’s how I would draw it up without them.

1- Granderson (LF)

2- Donaldson (3B)

3- Smoak (1B)

4- Grichuk (RF)

5- Morales (DH)

6- Martin (C)

7- Solarte (2B)

8- Diaz (SS)

9- Pillar (CF)

Other than Devon Travis, Granderson likely makes the most sense at the top of the order, even if it’s an imperfect fit. He posted a .323 OBP last year despite hitting just .212 on the season, so he knows how to get on base even when he’s struggling to pick up a hit, and he also runs pretty well, especially for someone about to be 37.

Martin slides up to the sixth spot, and Solarte hits 7th, providing the same righty-lefty alternative that existed in the first example. Diaz and Pillar round out the order, both of whom have the potential to perform better than eight or nine hitters.

Chances are good that Gibbons will play around with the batting order throughout the season, especially as he has to navigate through injuries and allowing for day’s off for his veteran squad. There are also others like Steve Pearce who will undoubtedly see time against left-handed pitching, and also Ezequiel Carrera, if the Blue Jays find a way to keep five outfielders, who will need to get into a few games as well.

The bottom line? This group is much deeper than the last few years, and should be able to withstand injuries without as big of a drop off. That was the goal for Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro when the offseason began, and all things considered I would say it’s mostly mission accomplished.

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How would you draw it up if you were in Gibby’s chair? There is no wrong answer, and my guess is it’ll be awhile, if ever, before the Blue Jays decide on their most effective lineup.