While Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera and Jose Reyes may be the top performers in the Toronto Blue Jays lineup right now, it’s important to not overlook the team’s bench, which has quietly been serving as the catalyst for Toronto’s offense.
After the Blue Jays lost Brett Lawrie, Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind to injuries one after another over the course of a month, the team’s offense was expected to stagnate as a result.
After all, Encarnacion had hit .277 with 26 home runs and 70 RBI before going down with a quad strain. Lind was hitting .320, and Lawrie was one of the top clutch hitters on the team, batting .323 with runners in scoring position.
But despite those injuries, the Blue Jays have been able to maintain a top-five offense in the major leagues. Entering play on Friday, Toronto ranked third in the majors in runs scored.
This offensive success has largely come thanks to a deep bench that has been able to provide consistent production and to complement the remaining core hitters in the lineup.
Let’s take a closer look at three of these bench players who have provided such a huge spark to the team.
Munenori Kawasaki, 2B/3B/SS
Munenori Kawasaki gets a lot of attention because of his charming and energetic personality, but what often gets lost is his success at the plate this season.
The 33-year-old has hit .287/.336/.333 in 129 at-bats. The left-handed hitter’s numbers only get better as the game goes along, as evidenced by his .359 batting average during the seventh inning and later.
Defensively, Kawasaki has played all over the infield this season. He’s played second base the majority of the time, but he has also seen action at third base and shortstop.
Kawasaki was called up from Triple-A Buffalo after the Blue Jays had a spate of injuries. But after his performance up to this point, it’s hard to imagine him being sent back down, even after all the other regulars on the team are healthy again.
Juan Francisco, 1B/3B
Juan Francisco may not hit for a very high batting average and he may strike out a lot, but his power has been really valuable for a team that has lost one of the top sluggers in the game in Encarnacion.
In 236 at-bats this season, Francisco already has 16 home runs and 42 RBI. His left-handed power bat has been invaluable for the team when it faces right-handed pitching.
If the 27-year-old Francisco can figure out how to cut down his nearly 42 percent strikeout rate and put the ball in play more often, he has the potential to become an everyday player for the Blue Jays next year.
But for now, the team will take his current production.
Anthony Gose, OF
Once a hyped prospect in Toronto’s system, Anthony Gose’s ceiling at the major league level is probably closer to that of a fourth outfielder at this point.
In a part-time role with the Blue Jays this season, Gose has hit just .243. But because of an improved eye at the plate, he also has 20 walks in 180 plate appearances. This has boosted his OBP to a very respectable .347.
Despite having plus speed, Gose hasn’t been very active on the basepaths and hasn’t developed into a proficient base stealer. He has just 11 steals in 15 attempts this season.
That speed has served the 23-year-old well in the field, though, as he has the ability to get to hard-hit balls in center field quickly and has become one of the top defensive players on the team.
All stats are from Baseball-Reference.com and are current entering play on August 1, 2014.
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