Would Jose Bautista's ability to walk be better served in the No. 2 hole with Josh Donaldson hitting third for more RBIs?
-- @TylerTylerson33, Vancouver, British Columbia
Normally I'm not a fan of early-season changes to the lineup, but this is one idea I can get behind, and the reasons you stated are why I like it so much. Bautista's career on-base percentage of .368 is a perfect fit in front of a run producer like Donaldson. I do acknowledge this comes with a little bit of risk, because if there's one hitter in the lineup you want to receive an extra at-bat, it's Donaldson. But I think the upside of Bautista's OBP offsets that enough to justify this move.
With Melvin Upton Jr. being cut, does that open up the door for Dalton Pompey when he comes off the disabled list? Or is he stuck behind Steve Pearce and Ezequiel Carrera?
-- Jemel J., Wayne, N.J.
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The short answer is that there's no direct impact, but that could change over time. Pompey automatically moved up Toronto's depth chart following Upton's departure, but there's no immediate plan for him to join the big league team even when he eventually returns from the concussion issues that plagued him this spring. The decision to part ways with Upton had more to do with increased playing time for Pearce in left field, and the club remains committed to Justin Smoak at first. Same as before, an injury will have to happen for Pompey to get his shot.
A lot of people are calling Richard Urena the heir apparent to Troy Tulowitzki. I saw him a bit in Spring Training, and besides the game on his birthday where he made two errors, he looked good. Do you see him being an impact player on our roster within the next few years?
-- Thomas K., Aylmer, Ontario
That's the hope, but we're not going to know for quite some time. One thing to watch is how Urena develops as a switch-hitter. He began hitting from both sides of the plate in 2015, and it has -- understandably -- been a difficult transition. In '15, Urena's OPS from the right side was an ugly .505, but that number jumped to .604 in '16. That's still well below where it needs to be, but if the upward trend continues, he becomes even more appealing as a prospect. Tulowitzki has four guaranteed years remaining, so there's no rush. But at a minimum, Urena likely will require two full seasons in the Minors anyway. It's a little too early to appoint him as the heir apparent, but there's no denying the potential is there.
How do the Jays improve driving in those runners in scoring position? We were 18th last year with 6.85 runners left on base per game, and it looks like we're trending the same way.
-- Alma, Mississauga, Ontario
There's no easy answer to this question. Small ball, which I'm not a proponent of anyway, won't solve this issue because you bunt somebody over to put them in scoring position. Getting runners on second or third hasn't been Toronto's issue -- it's the lack of execution once they get there. Part of the problem is personnel, because there are a lot of players on this team with long swings and a tendency to strike out. This is a high-risk, high-reward type of offense, and there are going to be peaks and valleys along the way. That was the case throughout 2016, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it will probably be the case again in '17. One thing I do know, though, is that the Blue Jays won't hit .150 with RISP all year.
This old team is a joke. Can we just be honest and admit this team is done?
-- Bob. H., Exeter, Ontario
I honestly don't understand why people feel the need to jump to such extremes. It's obviously not good that Toronto started 1-5, but let's keep things in perspective. The Blue Jays have played six games. They haven't even made an appearance at Rogers Centre yet. Nobody is suggesting that the current record is acceptable, but stating with absolute certainty that Toronto's 2017 season is doomed is absurd. I'm not big on saying "it's early," because an early deficit means there's less margin for error down the road, and that can be costly -- just ask the 2013 Blue Jays -- but even so, let's pump the brakes a little bit. Give this team some time to find its bearings before you completely write them off based on a microscopic sample size. There's a reason a lot of critics picked the Blue Jays to make the postseason.