Predicting the Blue Jays’ 2018 opening day batting order


Toronto Blue Jays' Justin Smoak, left, is congratulated by Josh Donaldson after hitting a home run. (Carlos Osorio/AP)

Following the acquisitions of Aledmys Diaz, Yangervis Solarte, Curtis Granderson and Randal Grichuk, the Toronto Blue Jays appear to have finished the bulk of their position player shopping this off-season.

With spring training fast approaching, we decided to take a stab at predicting what the Blue Jays’ batting order will look like on opening day against the New York Yankees on March 29. Keep in mind more moves could be made between now and then, and injuries are always a realistic possibility leading up to the season.

vs. RHP

2B – Devon Travis (RH)
3B – Josh Donaldson (RH)
1B – Justin Smoak (SH)
DH – Kendrys Morales (SH)
SS – Troy Tulowitzki (RH)
RF – Randal Grichuk (RH)
LF – Curtis Granderson (LH)
CF – Kevin Pillar (RH)
C – Russell Martin (RH)

When healthy, Travis is Toronto’s best option at leadoff. He hasn’t been able to consistently draw walks to this point in his career, but his gap-to-gap hitting ability means he will still be able to get on base at a good clip. Travis and Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins both indicate he’ll be ready for spring training, so pencilling him in atop the order is a no-brainer.

The second and third spots in the lineup are also locked in. Donaldson remains one of the most fearsome hitters in the game, while Smoak will look to build on an all-star 2017 season in which he hit 38 home runs.

Despite an underwhelming debut campaign for the Blue Jays in the wake of Edwin Encarnacion’s departure, Morales remains the team’s best option at cleanup. The Cuban slugger did manage to hit 28 home runs last season and Toronto will be hoping he can improve on his .753 OPS in his second year with the club.

Look for Tulowitzki, who hasn’t played since an ankle injury ended his season early on July 28, to start in the five-hole but potentially drop down a spot or two as the year wears on. Gibbons could lean on familiarity early and make the newly acquired Grichuk earn himself a higher spot in the order. At this point Grichuk offers more power potential, but could take some time to adjust to a new league.

Granderson, another new addition to the Toronto outfield, is slotted in at seventh as a way to break up the two right-handed batters on either side of him. The veteran will be 37 when the season starts, but the Blue Jays are gambling that the bat that connected for 26 home runs in 2017 still has some pop.

The bottom of the order features a pair of fan-favourites in Pillar, the human highlight reel, and Martin, the bearded Canadian catcher. Pillar gets the nod in the eight-spot because that is statistically his most productive spot in the lineup. Gibbons also hit Pillar ahead of Martin towards the end of last season. Martin’s batting average leaves something to be desired, but he still managed an OBP of .343 last year. That ability makes him a strong candidate to bat ninth and flip the lineup over for the big bats at the top.

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

vs. LHP

2B – Travis (RH)
3B – Donaldson (RH)
1B – Smoak (SH)
DH – Morales (SH)
SS – Tulowitzki (RH)
LF – Steve Pearce (RH)
RF – Grichuk (RH)
CF – Pillar (RH)
C – Martin (RH)

No major changes here, except Pearce fills in for Granderson in left field as the other half of what figures to be a platoon. Pearce slots in ahead of Grichuk in the six-hole due to his superior career OPS against lefties.

The switch-hitting Smoak and Morales will also turn around and bat right-handed against southpaws.

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