Predicted Opening Day Lineup
Jose Reyes, Shortstop. Switch Hitter.
Melky Cabrera, Left Fielder. Switch Hitter.
Jose Bautista, Right Fielder. Right-Handed Hitter.
Edwin Encarnacion, First Baseman. Right-Handed Hitter.
Adam Lind, Designated Hitter. Left-Handed Hitter.
Brett Lawrie, Third Baseman. Right-Handed Hitter.
Colby Rasmus, Centre Fielder. Left-Handed Hitter.
Dioner Navarro, Catcher. Switch Hitter.
Ryan Goins, Second Baseman. Left-Handed Hitter.
Moises Sierra, Outfielder. Right-Handed Hitter.
Maicer Izturis, Infielder. Switch Hitter.
Erik Kratz, Catcher. Right-Handed Hitter.
The Blue Jays lineup should be one of the team’s biggest strengths and will play a huge role in determining the team’s position in the standings this season.
Though the loss of speedster Rajai Davis means that the Blue Jays likely won’t be stealing as many bases this season as last year, the offense should continue to be a nice blend of power and speed.
Reyes should be the perfect table-setter at the top of the lineup with his ability to get on base and have game-changing speed on the base paths. He’ll need to stay healthy though, as he only played 93 games last season because of an ankle injury.
Cabrera will be looking to bounce-back after playing only 88 games in an injury-plagued season last year, where he dealt with a benign tumor in his spine and lost most of his mobility. When healthy, Cabrera has the ability to make contact and get on base at a good clip at the top of the lineup. While he won’t be a dangerous base stealer, he should have enough speed to score from first on a double or go first-to-third on a single.
Bautista will also be heading into the season looking to stay healthy, as he played just 118 games last season because of a hip injury. The 33-year-old slugger will look to be one of the dominant run producers on the team and should be a threat to hit at least 35 home runs if he stays healthy.
Encarnacion was the best overall hitter on the team last season, as he hit .272/.370/.534 with 36 home runs and 104 runs batted in. He’ll look to continue that success this season. It’s worth noting that Encarnacion did spend time on the DL towards the end of the season last year, as he underwent surgery on his wrist. According to both the 31-year-old and the team, his wrist has felt just fine during spring training and he should be 100 percent healthy going into the 2014 regular season.
While Lind should be a middle of the order bat for the Blue Jays on most nights during the regular season, expect him to get platooned when the team faces a tough lefty on the mound. With consistent playing time, Lind should hit at least 20 home runs again this season.
Lawrie has struggled to hit big league pitching following his excellent rookie year. The Blue Jays hope that this is the season where he finally breaks out. By keeping him sixth in the lineup, the team would ensure that he won’t be facing additional pressure to perform. Staying healthy is also key for the third baseman, as he played just 107 games last season due to various injuries.
Rasmus had a breakout year last season and would probably be hitting much higher in the lineup were it not for Blue Jays manager John Gibbons’ preference to split the right- and left-handed bats in the lineup. Last season, the center fielder hit .276/.338/.501 with 22 home runs, 57 runs scored and 66 runs driven in. Heading into a contract year, Rasmus can guarantee himself a big payday if he puts up similar numbers this season.
Navarro is the only new addition to the lineup from last season, replacing the departed J.P. Arencibia. The 30-year-old Navarro is a well-travelled veteran and the team hopes that he can provide a more consistent approach at the plate than the strikeout-happy Arencibia. Considering that Navarro hit .300/.365/.492 in a part-time role with the Chicago Cubs last season, the offense would receive a real boost if he can put up similar numbers again this season.
Because of the question marks in its starting rotation, Toronto will likely carry eight relievers in its bullpen. This means that the team will only have a three-man bench. This won’t be ideal, as Gibbons won’t have a lot of flexibility to make substitutions during late-game situations.
Looking at the bench itself, Sierra should be a decent option, as he has the ability to hit and has a good arm from the outfield. He hit .290/.369/.458 in 122 plate appearances with the team last season.
Izturis is a veteran who has the ability to play multiple positions on the infield, albeit with limited defensive skills. While he has decent career averages with the bat, Izturis really struggled at the plate last season, as he hit just .236/.288/.310 in 399 plate appearances.
Kratz should be catching every fifth day at the minimum during the regular season, as Navarro won’t be catching knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. The 33-year-old has looked impressive with the bat this spring training and no doubt he’ll be asked to take on a bigger workload if Navarro struggles as a starter.