Blue Jays: Projecting the lineup when Josh Donaldson returns

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 2: Josh Donaldson
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 2: Josh Donaldson /

The Blue Jays offence hasn’t been all that bad without their best hitter in Josh Donaldson. What might their lineup look like when he does return?

Trust the Blue Jays to mess with expectations of the team and keep fans guessing. What I mean by that of course is the way that their offence has performed, now tied with the most home runs in the American League, and the struggles of the rotation, which was supposed to be their strength.

Whatever the formula, the Blue Jays are now 17-12 after Tuesday night’s victory against the Minnesota Twins, and once again there were encouraging signs from the 2018 version of this team. Even with a different look than we’ve expected, like the absence of Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki to injury, and Devon Travis who was optioned to Triple-A, the performance has been better than expected.

There is some good news on that front however, as Josh Donaldson looks poised to return to the lineup in the not so distant future, as he was playing third base during his rehab assignment last night as well, and a positive step in his recovery from shoulder soreness, or dead arm, or whatever it is exactly.

If I were a betting man, I would guess that Gift Ngoepe will return to Buffalo once Donaldson is ready to go, and that’ll solve the roster situation for the short term. Much has been made of what the Blue Jays will do with Teoscar Hernandez once Donaldson returns, and one less bat is needed in the depth chart. That situation has also been eased with the injury and DL stint for Randal Grichuk, who is expected to be out for at least three weeks with a knee injury.

With that in mind, what might the Blue Jays lineup look like when Donaldson does return? Keeping in mind that a lot could change before then, but I’m going to make a guess that the “Bringer of Rain” is back before the end of the week, and that things might look something like this:

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1- Curtis Granderson (LF)

2- Teoscar Hernandez (RF)

3- Josh Donaldson (3B)

4- Justin Smoak (1B)

5- Yangervis Solarte (2B)

6- Kevin Pillar (CF)

7- Kendrys Morales (DH)

8- Russell Martin (C)

9- Aledmys Diaz/Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (SS)

This is just my guess on how John Gibbons will line things up when Donaldson returns, and it’s entirely possible that I’m way off here. A lot could depend on how Hernandez performs until Donaldson returns as far as him maintaining the second spot in the order. I do like the position it puts Hernandez in though, as he’s bound to see a lot of fastballs with Donaldson looming behind him, and the 2015 AL MVP still has plenty of protection with Justin Smoak hitting fourth.

It allows you to slide Solarte down one spot, and also keep the red-hot Kevin Pillar in the top six, at least for now. Kendrys Morales showed some life with the bat on Tuesday night and could eventually move up, but for now he likely hits the bottom third, at least until he gets things going at the plate on a regular basis.

Maybe Gibby returns Donaldson to the two-hole in the lineup, but he has always had a tendency to ride the hot hand, and I’m guessing that means Hernandez will stay right where he is, at least for now. Add in the fact that he’s got a little bit of speed, and he’s not a bad fit there for other reasons as well, and obviously Donaldson’s return adds a whole other dynamic to the Blue Jays’ offence.

Next: Grichuk's DL stint is a blessing in disguise

It’ll be fun to see how it all plays out, and maybe even more so later in the year when the likes of Travis, Grichuk, and Tulowitzki all make it back eventually. Having too many big league worthy players is definitely not a bad thing.