Will 2016 Toronto Blue Jays platoon at 1st/DH?

What do you do when you have three power bats, but only two positions? The 2016 Toronto Blue Jays will face this situation at 1st and DH

Not every player hits .296 against RHP and .299 against LHP like Toronto Blue Jays Josh Donaldson did in 2015. Some players offer more in the field, while others hit better against certain handed pitchers. It’s these players which makes platoons a great way to get the most out of the 25-man roster.

The Blue Jays have used platoons to their advantage in the past with Garth Iorg and Rance Mulliniks, Ernie Whitt and Buck Martinez, and Fred McGriff and Cecil Fielder.

Bobby Cox used Ernie Whitt and Buck Martinez to generate one of the best offensive seasons of any Blue Jays catcher. They combined to hit .255 with 29 doubles, 2 triples, 27 home runs, and 89RBI.

Once again, Bobby Cox got the most out of Mulliniks and Iorg, neither player good enough to cement an everyday role; however, together they made a productive duo at 3rd base. In 1985 the pair combined to hit .303 with 17 home runs, 48 doubles, 2 triples, 94 RBI, and generated an impressive 1.24 OPS.

Jimy Williams had an embarrassment of riches at 1st in 1987 with Willie Upshaw, Fred ‘the Crime Dog’ McGriff and Cecil Fielder. There was no moving Upshaw from 1st, as he may still be one of the Blue Jays better fielding 1st baseman, so Jimmy Williams used McGriff and Fielder at DH and the odd game at 1st. The two future mashers went on to hit .255 with 34 HR, 23doubles, a triple, 75RBI and 131OPS+.

Current manager John Gibbons of the Toronto Blue Jays is no stranger to using platoons. Gibby’s platooned Frank Catalanotto and Reed Johnson, Orlando Hudson and Aaron Hill (a little), and Adam Lind and anyone who could hit RHP. Gibbons has made the most out players that consistently hit LHP when submitting lineups card. He got +.300BA  from bench players  like Steve Tolleson, Danny Valencia, and Rajai Davis.

Is it possible that Gibbons can somehow make the 1st/DH trio of Edwin Encarnacion, Justin Smoak and Chris Colabello into a three-headed monster in 2016?

Who is on 1st? Who is the DH? Who is on the outside looking?

Of the three players, Justin Smoak posted the best UZR with 2.2, Edwin posted his first positive UZR at 1st with 1.6, and Colabello posted the only negative UZR with -1.0. The stats indicate Justin Smoak should man 1st for the Toronto Blue Jays in ’16.

Double-E hit 30+ home runs for the 4th straight season. At the plate, Edwin is more polished and well-rounded than both Smoak and Colabello. Edwin has generated .277, .262, .279 and .280 ISO between 2012 and 2015. Smoak generated a career best .243 ISO with the Jays in 2015. Colabello also set a career high ISO in 2015 with .198. This indicates that Edwin should assume the DH role for the Jays in 2016.

So where does this leave Chris Colabello, a man who hit .321 with 15 HR and .411 BABIP? Is a repeat of 2015 possible? Can he continue to post high BABIP’s? Can Chris steal at-bats from Smaok, who recently signed for 3.9M? 

John Gibbons ran with Colabello at 1st during the 2015 playoff, so maybe I’ve got it wrong, maybe it is Smoak who will need to fight for at-bats in 2016. One thing is certain, at-bats will be scarce at 1st/DH and it will be Gibbons job to find a way to get these productive at-bats into the game.

*Featured Image: Credit: Arturo Pardavila III -flickr-CreativeCommons

 

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Shaun Doyle

Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.