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Who is the Ideal "Leadoff" Hitter for the Toronto Blue Jays Lineup?

Maximizing Josh Donaldson's (and to a slightly lesser extent Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion) potential productivity has been on the mind of fans recently resulting in the questioning of Troy Tulowitzki as the #1 guy in the lineup.

Will the Blue Jays make a lineup change trying to maximize Josh Donaldon's production?
Will the Blue Jays make a lineup change trying to maximize Josh Donaldon's production?
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

If you've spent any time paying attention to the discussions surrounding the Toronto Blue Jays in recent weeks you may have found yourself reading a discussion about leadoff hitters.

Specifically, whether or not Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is an ideal leadoff hitter in this lineup.

The question seems silly. As we all know, "leadoff" is only meaningful in the first inning and changes every inning after. But when people discuss "leadoff hitter", they aren't just talking about the concept of the hitter batting in the #1 position.

So, in essence, what people are actually talking about is who would be the ideal choice to hit in front of MVP candidate third baseman Josh Donaldson. Which hitter, placed ahead of Josh Donaldson no matter where he hits in the order or the inning, gives the team the best chance to maximize his opportunities to produce runs? In short, putting him in a position with constant runners on base to drive in.

Donaldson, brought over in the off-season trade that sent Brett LawrieKendall Graveman and others to the Oakland Athletics, has been nothing short of spectacular. In fact, he presently leads the league in RBI's with 100. And yet, the question can still be asked; Are the Jays doing everything possible to put him in a position to drive in runs?

How many more could he drive in with a different hitter batting in front of him?

This article will take a look at all of the players in the starting lineup (with exception of Donaldson, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion, the latter two of which serve as protection in the order against teams walking or pitching around Donaldson) to discuss who could be a serviceable bat ahead of JD.

(Please Note: The title I give them is of no reflection of their true talent, the abilities they present, and should not be taken as anything more than a title to differential them from one another.)

Troy Tulowitzki - Shortstop - The Best Talent
The Case For:
The case for is easy. Tulowitzki is the best hitter of all those who will be discussed in this article as potential #1 lineup guys. His career .370 OBP sits 18 points higher than his closest rival (Russell Martin) while his wRC+ of 123 is the best by 15 points (Chris Colabello's 108). If the discussion is who is the best hitter, the answer is Tulo.

The Case Against:
For what little it may matter considering the SSS of 105 PA's his career hitting at the top of the order isn't particularly good. A .207/.305/.348 (85 wRC+) line which has been a .218/.320/.368 slash with a 94 wRC+ this season (100 PA's). Also, his baserunning as ranked by Fangraphs is the worst (worse than Martin's, Pro Rated it is worse than Cola's as well). Not sure how much that matters but it has to be mentioned.

Ben Revere - Left Fielder - Slap Hitting Singles Guy with Speed
The Case For:
The speed is probably the top reason to consider Ben Revere as the leadoff hitter. While his career OBP is unspectacular (Career .326) he's been getting on base a good amount this season (.334) and following four rough games to start his time in Toronto has had a .345/.397 BA/OBP (.426 BABIP, for those wondering) in his past 64 PA's. His walk rate has been 7.8%, up from his career norms, and his K rate is miniscule at 9.3% for his career. Also, as indicated previously, his 26.7 BsR is by far the best.

The Case Against:
The obvious being that his OBP is nowhere good enough even assuming his .334 is true talent. Even a struggling Tulo has a .327 OBP since coming to Toronto 101 PA's ago and has a career track record of being better. Also, Ben Revere's BsR, which his selling point, is also completely neutered in Toronto. He has not attempted a stolen base in his 20 games and hitting him ahead of Josh Donaldson won't likely turn that around, any.

Russell Martin - Catcher - The "He's Done It Before" Guy
The Case For:
He has actually hit leadoff before. He has a .238/.365/.367 (104 wRC+) hitting at the top of the order, he has a career .352 OBP which, though not the top, is actually good for 2nd. His baserunning is ranked as a -12.2 (Tulo's is -12.4 but he has played 200 less games) which is pretty much 2nd in this list. So, not Ben Revere, certainly, but neither is he Tulo or Colabello.

The Case Against:
He's been struggling the same way Tulo has (actually, considerably worse) and it may just be a lateral move. Assuming all four guys on this list are (or become) the #1 starter at their position Martin will likely see a lot of time off between now and the playoffs (part because of injury, part because of report between Navarro and Estrada, and who knows what'll happen with Thole/Dickey) so every three or four games you'd have to put someone else ahead of JD. If you are going to have to slide Revere, Cola, or Tulo up once a week you may as well just play them there all the time.

Chris Colabello - First Base/DH - The Dark Horse
The Case For:
To be fair, I wasn't the one who first suggested this. I want you all to remember that this wasn't my proposal but I will run with it. Now, I'm going to start talking and at first this isn't going to make any sense to you, but the more I talk the more you'll begin to see what I'm saying makes sense.

Starting with his OBP which is, for the season, better than anyone else's being discussed by nearly 30 points. Even factoring in a time where his BABIP hasn't been gaudy (.338 his last 105 PA's) he's more than got on base at a strong rate (.352) and has shown the ability to drive balls and hit for power (.537 slugging in his last 105, 521 for the season). The overwhelming majority of his contact has been Medium to Hard (84%) vs. 82.8 (Tulo), 82.3 (Martin), and 78% (Revere). And finally, his spray chart suggests he is better at hitting the ball the other way (27% to 22.2 for Tulo and 24% for Martin) which opens up the idea that you can hit and run Revere, opening up a hole on the right side for Cola and his long reach to poke a ball the other way. Finally allowing Revere to start running again (note on this later). Oh, and I suppose the biggest case for is it would #FreeChris and we'd finally play our optimal offensive lineup.

The Case Against:
The SSS of it all makes all of the numbers above needing to be taken with a grain of salt. They don't prove nor disprove the idea that he is a good hitter, and definitely not one who should hit above Donaldson. All they do is suggest more information is needed and there is potential. His base running isn't great (Pro Rated it probably ends up somewhere between Martin and Tulo. It would also mean playing him more which may, though possibly won't, but likely will constitute some drop in defensive ability from the 1B position (But that is all for a different set of articles). Also, it is the very least likely possibility as Cola certainly appears to have fallen out of favour with Gibby (or, perhaps Gibby just really loves having him as a PH option).

Dioner Navarro - Catcher/DH - The Out of Left Field Option
The Case For:
A case can be made for Dioner Navahahahahahaha, I'm just kidding. No.

Now, I don't know if a change has to be made from having Tulowitzki hit above Josh Donaldson. My gut says he's probably the best option. But, if one did have to be made I'd be intrigued by the situation I discuss with Colabello. Revere, hitting ahead of Tulo and JD (nevermind Bautista and Encarnacion) probably makes him or Manager John Gibbons gun shy trying to run him. Having a Colabello at the plate, someone who isn't struggling and isn't one of the teams star players could be what is needed to push Gibby to give him the green light (assume, and we don't actually know, he hasn't already).

What do you think? Do we stay with what we're doing? Mix it up with the speedy slap hitter? Or go crazy and put the BABIP God's to the test?