In 56 games with the Blue Jays, Ben Revere hit for an impressive .319 AVG and established
himself as a wonderful option for Toronto’s lead-off spot. (Photo courtesy of Keith Allison)
The past two seasons has been one big revolving door when it comes to the lead-off spot for the Blue Jays. Beginning in 2015, the list of players who have regularly hit lead-off for Toronto includes Jose Reyes, Troy Tulowitzki, Ben Revere, Kevin Pillar, Jose Bautista, Devon Travis, Ezequiel Carrera, and god help us, even Michael Saunders.
Except for the short amount of time that Reyes and Revere were with the team in 2015, the Blue Jays have been without a prototypical lead-off hitter the past two seasons. Even when Toronto actually acquired a player tailor made for leading off, Ben Revere, they didn’t even know how to get the most out of him in the beginning as they decided to go with Tulowitzki in the lead-off spot (a player with 1 game of experience batting lead-off) rather than Revere, someone with 458 games experience under his belt leading off. Just like it takes a special pitcher to be a closer and close out games, the same thing rings true for being a solid lead-off hitter. A good lead-off hitter has to want to be in that spot, because they know with their ability to get on base and aggressiveness on the base paths, that they’re the ideal player to get things rolling along and really set the tone for the offense.
Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Bautista don’t have the mind set to be a lead-off hitter, and when you bat them out of their familiar place in the order like the Blue Jays did in 2015/2016, they end up feeling out of place at the plate and don’t do nearly as well. In 26 games batting lead-off, Tulowitzki hit for a .227 AVG, and Bautista didn’t fair much better this past season hitting at the top of the order.
As meaningless as it might seem, the Blue Jays need a prototypical lead-off hitter in 2017 who brings an energy and great speed to this line-up. I’m tired of Toronto experimenting with the lead-off spot with players not adept at playing that role. I thought Pillar might be a good fit when they tried him in that spot to begin the 2016 season, but he didn’t feel at all comfortable hitting at the top of the order. And as solid a hitter as Devon Travis is, he’s not a lead-off hitter either and would be much better suited batting second in the order, with Donaldson hitting third.
Before the Angels signed him to a very reasonable 1-year $4 million contract, I figured Ben Revere to be the perfect fit to come back to the Blue Jays and once again bat lead-off for them. Considering how little Revere signed for with Anaheim and Toronto being without a solid lead-off hitter, it leaves me wondering what Blue Jays management plans to do about the lead-off spot. If Toronto thinks Travis is their lead-off hitter of the future, they need to go back to the drawing board, because what Toronto needs in the lead-off spot is a grinder and someone who enjoys using their legs to make things happen on the bases and set the table for Toronto’s best hitters…Travis, Donaldson, and Morales.