When I think back to that incredible Blue Jays line-up from 2015 and see the names Ben Revere, Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Troy Tulowitzki, Chris Colabello, Russell Martin, Kevin Pillar, and Ryan Goins, I just assumed it would be a long time before Toronto ever had an offense quite that potent again. How off the mark I might be with such an assumption, because now that Donaldson and Tulowitzki have returned from the disabled list, on top of Kevin Pillar and Justin Smoak discovering some untapped hitting potential, the 2017 Blue Jays offense is starting to look maybe even deeper than it was back in that magical year of 2015 when Toronto went 43-18 after acquiring Tulowitzki on July 28.
Although many of the players from 2015 are still with the Blue Jays, there have been a few key changes with new players being added to the line-up. The biggest change to the line-up being Kendrys Morales replacing Encarnacion in the clean-up spot. It’s tough to say just how much of a difference (if any) having Morales instead of Encarnacion will make, especially with Morales only having played two months so far with the Blue Jays. Morales can certainly hit and has loads of power, but whether he can put-up the kind of numbers Toronto grew accustomed to seeing from Encarnacion will take at least a season to discover. The good news is that even if there’s a drop-off with what Morales provides offensively, it’s not going to be all that different compared to what Encarnacion provided.
Back when Toronto went on that incredible run to wrap-up the 2015 season, they did so with Ryan Goins starting at 2nd base because Devon Travis had that unfortunate season ending injury to his shoulder in July. Not to discount Goins and what he did for the Blue Jays filling in for Travis back in 2015, but from an offensive perspective, Travis might just be the best contact hitter to play for Toronto since Shannon Stewart. The best thing about Travis is that two years ago he was still just a rookie, and now he’s 26 years old and in his physical prime. If what Travis has done in the month of May (.360 AVG, 15 2B, 3 HR, 15 RBI) is any indication of where he currently is as a hitter, he may very well end up amongst the league leaders in batting average come the end of the season.
Probably the biggest change however with this seasons offense compared to 2015 is the improved performance of both Kevin Pillar and Justin Smoak. They’ve looked like completely different hitters this season, and it’s certainly no fluke that they’ve been doing as well as they have.
What made the 2015 offense click was just how balanced the line-up was…from top to bottom, it was stacked. It had speed at the top of the order, three of the most dangerous hitters in baseball batting 2-3-4, and a more than respectable middle and bottom of the order. When it comes to having a balanced line-up, this years team isn’t a whole lot different than 2015, except that yes, the players are all a little older, and that the bottom of the order, especially with a hitter as talented as Travis is even better now, and probably better than any bottom of the order in the history of the franchise.