After having a right-hand dominant lineup for many years, the Blue Jays will have more balance and a lot of options for Charlie Montoyo in 2020.
As dangerous as the 2015-16 Toronto Blue Jays teams were, there will still flaws in their All-Star lineup.
Part of the problem was that they were too reliant on the home run ball, which became more evident during the playoffs. Another more subtle issue was that the Blue Jays were almost all right-handed hitters, and it’s been that way for a while that. However, that’s going to change in 2020 and Charlie Montoyo should be able to offer a lot more balance on his lineup cards.
While the offence has lacked much hitting from the left side in recent years, with a few exceptions of course, there could be several options in the lineup and off of the bench. To begin with, Travis Shaw was signed as a free agent in late December, and he’s expected to hit somewhere in the lower-middle half of the lineup, possibly fifth or sixth depending on how he’s performing. He’s projected to be the everyday first baseman, at least to start the year, but he’ll likely sit against southpaws on occasion as well.
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Shaw won’t be alone either, as the Blue Jays will return Cavan Biggio to start at second base, and have at least three or four more players that could be fighting for playing time. Rowdy Tellez will look to make the team out of Spring Training and earn at-bats between designated hitter and first base, and Derek Fisher will look to secure his spot on the outfield depth chart as well, especially as he’s out of minor league options. Despite last week’s “mishap”, Reese McGuire‘s role with the team isn’t expected to change and he’ll offer a left-handed stick from behind the plate, and Joe Panik will also compete to make the Opening Day roster.
With more hitters from the left side, Montoyo has the option to keep enough balance so that teams can’t utilize their bullpen specialists quite as effectively. That’ll especially be the case this year now that a new rule has been implemented forcing relievers to face at least three batters, or finish the inning, and it could help the Blue Jays get a few more favourable matchups.
For the sake of a visual example, Montoyo could roll out something like this:
1- Bo Bichette (SS- RH)
2- Cavan Biggio (2B- LH)
3- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3B- RH)
4- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (LF- RH)
5- Travis Shaw (3B- LH)
6- Teoscar Hernandez (RF- RH)
7- Rowdy Tellez (DH- LH)
8- Randal Grichuk (CF- RH)
9- Reese McGuire (C- LH)
That would still leave you Derek Fisher on the bench, as well as right-handed hitters like Danny Jansen, Brandon Drury, and Anthony Alford, and there would only be one spot in the order with back-to-back right-handed hitters. You could always play with that too, but I don’t see how the Blue Jays will roll with anyone but the top four I have listed above, nor should they in my opinion.
It’s a subtle difference, but after years of watching the Blue Jays line up Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin, Chris Colabello, Kevin Pillar, Devon Travis, and more, it will be helpful to have more balance available. Back then Justin Smoak was pretty much the only one breaking up the right-handed theme, but there was enough talent for the Blue Jays to get away with it.
That could and likely will end up being the case with this new generation of Blue Jays as well, but wouldn’t it be better if you could have both? They’ll still need their left-handed hitters to perform well in order for any of this to matter, so the pressure will be on Shaw to bounce back from a dreadful 2019 campaign, and for guys like Tellez, Fisher, and McGuire to establish themselves as big league regulars. And most or all of them can be league-average or better contributors, it adds another dimension to an already dangerous group of hitters.