By: Ian Hunter
Canadian Baseball Network
Ever since Ben Revere was traded by the Blue Jays, they have been on this eternal search to find a new leadoff hitter. It turns out the best candidate may be right under their nose, and his name is Josh Donaldson.
David Schoenfield of ESPN tabled this idea a few weeks ago, penciling Josh Donaldson at the top of the Blue Jays' order. It's a pretty ingenious idea if you think about it ... having one of your best hitters at the very top of the lineup.
If it isn't going to be Troy Tulowitzki or Kevin Pillar, then why not Josh Donaldson?
The Blue Jays could solve their leadoff hitter conundrum by simply moving everybody up in the order and batting Donaldson first, Bautista second, Encarnacion third and potentially Tulowitzki at cleanup.
It may not fall in line with the typical construction of a batting order, but the Toronto Blue Jays are not the typical offensive team. They club home runs at an astronomical rate and thus outscored their next closest opponent by 127 runs last season.
2016 looks to be more of the same from the Toronto Blue Jays, which is why someone like Ben Revere was dispensable. He fit the mold as the prototypical leadoff hitter, but the Blue Jays really didn't need someone like Revere in their lineup.
Hitting ahead of the likes of Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista didn't afford Ben Revere the ability to display his speed; which is one of the main strengths he brings to the game.
It all circles back to having Josh Donaldson as a prime candidate for the Blue Jays' leadoff hitter. The truth is, it doesn't really matter who bats first for the Blue Jays, because they'll only ever lead off once per game.
But those additional plate appearances do add up over the course of a season. In 2015, the Blue Jays leadoff hitters accumulated 763 plate appearances, followed by 742 PA's for the number two hitter, and 720 PA's for the number three hitter.
If the Blue Jays could give an additional 20-40 plate appearances to anybody in their lineup, wouldn't it be Josh Donaldson; the reigning AL MVP?
The Bringer of Rain was phenomenal batting in the two spot during the 2015 season. But if the Jays have the ability to extract even a tiny bit more out of Donaldson at the top of the lineup, they absolutely should.
Not much would change from Josh Donaldson's perspective; he'd simply bat one spot earlier in the game. And if Kevin Pillar moves down to the bottom of the order, he becomes a pseudo leadoff hitter ahead of Donaldson anyway.
Bautista, Encarnacion and Tulowitzki would also bat one position higher in the lineup. If it's for the greater good of the team, these guys should all be on board with any potential batting order changes.
Moving them up in the order also gives them more at-bats as well. And with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion potentially going into free agency, you'd think they would want every opportunity to pad their statistics during their contract year.
It's a solution that really works out well for everyone. The only caveat being this; it creates a bigger void at the bottom of the Blue Jays' lineup. But how many teams around the league have the luxury of owning 7-9 hitters which strike fear into opposing pitchers?
If Toronto's bottom third of the order includes Michael Saunders, Ryan Goins and Kevin Pillar, they could certainly do much worse. In fact, Saunders/Goins/Pillar seems like a pretty respectable 7-9, especially if Michael Saunders new-found power is something that sticks.
Understandably, there may be some apprehension to move Josh Donaldson into the leadoff spot simply because he performed so well hitting second for the Blue Jays last year. "Why mess with a good thing?" is a common response. Keeping the lineup status quo is the method which would disrupt the apple cart the least.
But by shifting Donaldson and everyone behind him up one spot in the lineup, the Blue Jays actually have the potential to do even more damage in 2016.