Let's play a quick and simple game (feel free to play along in the comments if you disagree with my takes). We're going to go through each position player on the Blue Jays roster and guess if they'll end the season with a higher or lower OPS than they have right now. Nothing too complicated. Just a quick snapshot of who the over and underachievers are a month into the season.
Well leave out Chris Colabello and Matt Dominguez for now since Colabello won't be on the team again until late July (if at all), and Dominguez only has seven plate appearances so far. That leaves us with 12 players to evaluate.
Here we go:
Russell Martin: .383 OPS - OVER
Easiest pick here. Martin is under performing his career OPS line by nearly .400 points. While it's possible he's declining at the plate and his contract could be a mess by the time it's over, we should expect a significant improvement from what we've seen in April, and quite frankly, the Blue Jays need this to happen considering their suspect depth at this position.
Justin Smoak: .667 OPS - OVER
He's had such an odd season so far. In 40 plate appearances, he's only put the ball in play 11 times. While his on base percentage is likely to come down (there's no way he can keep walking at a 25 percent clip), he's also likely to start hitting a few balls out of the park. Only once in the last five years has Smoak failed to hit at least 15 home runs, and he hasn't hit any so far in 2016.
Ryan Goins: .432 OPS - OVER
He's showing signs that the strides he made at the plate in the second half of last year were a mirage, but he's also not this bad. Still, the real improvement here might comes when Devon Travis returns and sucks up a large chunk of his plate appearances.
Troy Tulowitzki: .663 OPS - OVER
He doesn't seem to have the bat speed he did before the hip surgery that ended his 2014 season (and that breaks my heart), but he's also still a much better hitter than he's shown in a Blue Jay uniform so far. With a strong walk rate and a BABIP over 100 points below his career average, we should start seeing more offensive production out of Tulo soon.
Kevin Pillar: .645 OPS - OVER
Part of Pillar's offensive profile has come as expected; namely his decent batting average and low walk rate, but what we haven't seen much of from Pillar this season are extra base hits. In 2015, Pillar quietly racked up 45 of them (including 31 doubles). Right now though, he only has five extra base hits, and from a pure energy standpoint, I think this lineup misses watching him gracefully fly around the bases.
Edwin Encarnacion: .739 OPS - OVER
He always seems to be a slow starter (his career April OPS is 78 points below his career average OPS), and this year feels like just another verse of the same song. Encarnacion's finished the last four straight seasons with an OPS over .900, and while I don't know if he'll do that again, there's no reason not to expect him to heat up with the weather.
Josh Donaldson: 1.016 OPS - UNDER
Last year he won the MVP with a .939 OPS, and while he's likely to contend for that award again, I think he'll end up doing it with a three digit OPS marker.
Michael Saunders: .905 OPS - UNDER
Not much to discuss here. His hot streak has been fun, but nobody in their right mind can think Saunders will close the season with numbers in this neighborhood.
Ezequiel Carrera: .864 OPS - UNDER
He's been a nice April story, and he's earned himself more short terms at bats, but like Saunders, only a fool could believe he'll continue at this clip.
Darwin Barney: .748 OPS - UNDER
He's been a decent find for the Blue Jays in this role, but nothing in his career suggests he's going to hold an OPS over .700 once the plate appearances start to pile up. By summer, Ryan Goins is likely going to be in his role.
THE TOO CLOSE TO CALLS
Jose Bautista: .913 OPS - TOO CLOSE TO CALL
Bautista is just an amazingly consistent hitter. His career OPS as a Blue Jay is .921, and he posted the exact same .913 figure he has this year in 2015. While I still wouldn't hand him a five year contract, I do trust him to keep putting up these kind of numbers for five more months.
Josh Thole: .551 OPS - TOO CLOSE TO CALL
It's sad that I can't put an OVER on this one, but Thole really is this bad at the plate. His career OPS is .632, but it's been .542 since joining the Blue Jays (and dipped to as low as .495 last season). What you see is pretty much what you're going to get here, and it just underlines the importance of Russell Martin breaking out of his early season slump and then staying healthy all year.
So that leaves us with six "OVERS", four "UNDERS" and two "TOO CLOSE TO CALLS." That's a good sign, but not a great one for an offense that currently ranks mid pack and was projected to be the top dog of the AL.
This of course isn't an exact science, and it doesn't account for the amount we can expect a player's OPS to rise or fall, but it does provide us with a brief snapshot of where we can expect things to go from here.
In short, this offense is better than it's shown so far, but there's also some troubling signs that it might not be quite as good as many of us thought going into the season.
In order for the bats to be running on full steam by the summer, the following five things need to happen:
1) Troy Tulowitzki's BABIP needs to correct itself.
He's been getting really unlucky, but I'd also like to see more balls in the gap so this thing is more likely to correct itself back over .300 and not to something like .270. It would be great if Blue Jay fans got experience the complete game Tulo that made Colorado fans fall in love with him.
2) Russell Martin needs to get on track.
This might be the most important one, because if Martin's not going to produce, the Blue Jays have a black hole at this position.
3) Devin Travis needs to come back.
If he can return and produce at anywhere near the level he did last season, he will solve a bunch of problems for this offense. Pushing Goins into a super utility role will hide some of his warts and make the lineup that much deeper.
4) Dalton Pompey needs to be called up.
This has been talked about a length in the comments, but a Pompey call up, whenever it happens, will create a domino effect on the roster that will put both the offense and defense in a better position to succeed.
5) The injury bug needs to stay away.
This one is obvious and is somewhat true with every team, but if the Blue Jays suffer two or three large injuries from the big bats in this lineup, they simply don't have the resources to keep that from becoming a crippling loss.
I don't know if we can get all these things to happen, but as long as we get No. 5, we should have at least three (and probably four) of these things in place by June, and if that's the case, I'm sure we'll all feel better about this unit than we do right now.