Leading off …

There’s no question there are a plethora of issues that need to be resolved by Jays’ manager Cito Gaston prior to Opening Day. But outside of filling the final three spots in his pitching rotation, Gaston will need to decide on a lineup – and hopefully one that can produce more offense than the 2008 squad – a team that finished 11th in the American League in runs scored.

Easily the biggest challenge this year will be finding a consistent leadoff man. Gaston says he will not use Alex Rios there – instead, using the 28-year-old in the No. 3 slot in front of Vernon Wells. According to the Globe and Mail’s Jeff Blair, Gaston will primarily use Marco Scutaro at the leadoff spot. But, as of right now, it is unknown who will bat first when John McDonald gets the start at shortstop in place of Scutaro.

Perhaps it was an easy choice for Gaston to peg Scutaro as his leadoff guy. But that’s likely because there’s no one else to fill the role. Last season was the first in which the utilityman saw any sort of action in the leadoff position. In 25 starts, he batted .275 (28-for-102) with a .353 on-base percentage at the leadoff spot. For his career, Scutaro is 33-for-129 (.256) with a .340 on-base mark over seven seasons in the big leagues.

Very marginal numbers. But who else is there?

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3 Responses to “Leading off …”

  1. Jay B Says:

    Todd,

    i don’t think they have to fill 3 spots. with mcgowan back scheduled back for may, or shortly thereafter, and janssen being stretched out as a starter, it’s really only the 5th spot that needs locking down, and that really isn’t an issue exclusive to the jays…many teams head into camp with open competition for the back end of their rotation, and with the arm stockpiling the jays have done in the past few yrs, and with the low risk high reward signings they made in the offseason (namely matt clement), i think too much is being made of this.

    janssen was pegged for the rotation last season before the injury, which is the only reason litsch got the job…and that turned out just fine…purcey is 4yrs removed from being a top 15 pick, and is probably ready for the bigs, as he showed in a couple of starts last yr, while cecil, richmond, and the romeros continue to be options for the back end of the rotation, along with the aforementioned clement…i’m discounting maroth entirely.

    sure the rotation hasn’t been finalized, but it’s not for a lack of options…we’re not going to be the best staff in baseball, but with an $86M payroll, to be middle of the pack is understandable…

    our offense will be fine, in my opinion…there was a statistically relevant turn around in the offense after cito and tenace took over, and changed the hitting philosophies from the previous regime…guys aren’t getting in trouble for swinging early in the count, or not looking to take the ball the other way, as they were when denbo was the hitting coach…by all accounts, the philosophy that was instilled in them was flawed and myopic, but there’s no lack of offensive talent in the line up, and i think it’ll carry the team to a .500 record…

    it’s the first year in a long time that they go into a season not being expected to compete with the likes of the sox, yanks, and now even the rays, so who knows what a loose, ‘nothing to lose’ bunch can do…it’s going to be an interesting year, and i’m saying it won’t be a let down…they won’t win the penant, but they’ll command respect…

  2. Jay B Says:

    also, i would think that joe inglett will get a lot of time as the leadoff hitter considering he’ll be spelling 3 different infielf positions, and LF, so he’ll be in the line up pretty often…

    he was damn good in that role last yr…

  3. TD Says:

    Jay B,

    I certainly agree there are many options to round out the rotation. It’s just unfortunate that they’re being looked at to fill three spots instead of the No. 5 spot, for example. I think you’re a little too confident in McGowan’s return in May. I’ve heard June now, and it’s certainly a situation where we can’t expect him to come out firing on all cylinders anyways.

    I just think it’s a hard pill to swallow that your No. 2 guy to start the season is a 23-year-old who was perhaps an overachiever last year. And combine that with Purcey, who has a total of 12 big-league games under his belt, and then a patchwork to fill out the rotation, and all of a sudden it becomes hard to find wins. Here’s hoping Clement can be a great comeback story …

    There’s no question the offense will perform better than last year. J.P. was probably right when he said the following recently: “I can’t believe we’ll hit like that two years in a row.” A healthy Aaron Hill will help for sure, and I expect Rios and Wells (once he’s healthy) to finally put up big years together at the 3 and 4 spots.

    Finally, I think you’re right about the lack of expectations being a good thing. This ‘nothing to lose’ attitude may be just what the team needs to have a surprising season.

    Oh, and one thing about Inglett … he started 54 games in the leadoff spot last year, hitting .283 (65-for-230) with a .337 on-base percentage. He also struck out 34 times compared to 15 walks while leading off. The fact of the matter is, the Jays haven’t had a prototypical leadoff guy in years, and it’s basically been a case where they put the best they’ve got there. Personally, I liked Rios there, but Gaston wants him to hit in the #3 spot in front of Wells.

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