John Farrell, the Blue Jays’ new manager for the 2011 season, believes fully in having a set batting order.
He believes in having a system of attack to go against each pitcher and thinks it is important for the players to know where they are playing and what is expected of them.
The game on Wednesday against Philadelphia might have shown the first representation of Farrell’s vision.
The performance of speedy Rajai Davis in Spring Training has solidified his spot of the top of the order. Davis was brought in by Alex Anthopoulos this winter to provide a speed element to the lineup, but he has surprised this spring with his consistent hitting as well as some impressive power.
Davis has a .281 career batting average, so he is good at making contact, but that hasn’t always been converted to getting on base as he only has a .330 OBP for his career. He also traditionally hasn’t started well in spring, but now that he is with the Toronto Blue Jays, he is outperforming both his previous spring stats as well as his regular season stats.
This usually suggests that he will come back to Earth once the season starts, but there is always the chance that he could have a bit of a breakout with the Blue Jays, in terms of expanding his offensive capabilities.
Another Jay who has impressed this spring is Yunel Escobar. He hasn’t put up home runs or stolen bases, but his consistent hitting and ability to get on base makes him a solid choice for second in the order.
Escobar just needs to continue what he has been doing to allow for the chance for Jose Bautista or Adam Lind in the third and fourth spots, respectively, to hit him home.
The return of Aaron Hill to the lineup allowed Farrell to slot him in at the fifth spot, providing more protection for Bautista and Lind with yet another power option. Even in a year in which he struggled at the plate, Hill still managed to hit 26 home runs last year.
Of course, what the fans and the rest of the league learned last year, is there is power right through the Blue Jays’ lineup.
In the sixth and seventh spots are Edwin Encarnacion and Travis Snider. Encarnacion leads the Jays this spring with four home runs and has a career .453 slugging percentage.
Snider, who still has only had 183 games as a Blue Jay, managed to hit 14 home runs and 20 doubles in 82 games last year.
With a full year of being healthy, who knows what the young outfielder is capable of?
Finally, two rather unknown qualities fill in at the eighth and ninth spots, new arrival Juan Rivera and rookie catcher J.P. Arencibia.
Rivera is the veteran outfielder acquired from the Angels in the Vernon Wells trade. He has a .280 career average and a .461 slugging percentage, which are solid, but it is the inconsistency from year to year that is a concern.
Arencibia lighted up the Pacific Coast League last year, so will get his chance to prove himself this year. He has struggled at the plate in spring, but his defensive game is improving and he has shown a strong arm in throws to second.
Hopefully, the fans will show patience with the rookie backstop, and give him a chance to work through any struggles that are bound to happen with any rookie.