With the MLB season just hours away from kicking off lets have a look at what could be in store for the Toronto Blue Jays this year.
For Toronto the biggest positive is their pitching rotation. Highly touted for the passed two seasons, the five starters of Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, and new comer Jaime Garcia combine to make a stout rotation. All Toronto fans can hope for is the shoulder inflammation of Stroman to disappear, and for the blister problems of Sanchez to also be a thing of the passed.
Should the (significant) injury bug stay away from the Jays’ starters there is no reason that they cannot contend for a wild card spot, or take advantage of the divisional super teams (we’ll get to them in a bit) not meshing as a unit.
The new additions to the team are also something shiny and exciting for fans to fawn over. The outfield has two notable additions of different levels, the veteran Curtis Granderson and the everyday youngster Randall Grichuk.
Granderson brought the pop to spring training, hitting a homerun in his first at-bat as a Blue Jay. His spring ended well, putting up 4 homeruns, a .279 batting average, and .360 OBP. Likely to be used in a committee role in left field, splitting time with Steve Pearce and Teoscar Hernandez. With Bautista now gone Granderson will be a veteran presence and can provide some stability in the clubhouse for the young players on the team.
Grichuk should be Toronto’s everyday right fielder for the season. A new face in right field after long standing fixture and club legend Jose Bautista parted ways with the club, Grichuk adds more athleticism and youthful competitiveness to the outfield. While he wont overwhelm with his power at the plate he can provide middle of the road offence with the upswing of better defence.
New infielders Aledmys Diaz, Gift Ngoepe, and Yangervis Solarte create a new, deep crew to bail out the oft injured duo of middle defenders Devin Travis and Troy Tulowitzki. Diaz should see starting time at SS with Tulo likely to start the season on the DL, but the versatility of all three players will allow for matchup play to maximize their effectiveness.
The bullpen also got a facelift for the Jays following the moving out of the surprising Dominic Leone (along with prospect Connor Greene) to get Grichuk. The Jays added Seung-hwan Oh, and veterans John Axford and Tyler Clippard to fill out the reserves. While not star studded, the Jays bullpen is strong and with the young talents of Osuna, Mayza, and Barnes in the mix they should be deep and economical this season, although another lefty couldn’t hurt.
The Yankees and Red Sox are done messing around.
I could honestly leave it there, but we might as well embrace and explore the probably outcome of the season with these two monsters in the mix divisionally.
New York is fully embracing the Bronx Bombers title as they added Giancarlo Stanton to their impressively powerful team. Stanton will bring his explosive bat alongside Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez who, when combined in the 2-3-4 slots in the line up, will create a baseball Voltron that will not only smash balls out of the atmosphere, but will probably cause a concussive blast radius that will send most of the Jays to the DL.
It’s a horrifying lineup offensively, and if they can get a lead to Dellin Betances in the 8th inning the game will be as good as over as the stone-cold relief pitcher hands the ball off to flamethrower Aroldis Chapman. Their starting rotation isn’t special but they’ll probably just win game 45-9 or something crazy like that.
Boston, on the other hand, will be a more balanced and therefore more scary opponent for the Jays to come up against. They landed their man in free agency with J.D. Martinez eventually signing, and he joins a team stacked in outfield youth and production.
Whats truly upsetting about the Red Sox is how young their positions players are. Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Christian Vazquez, and Rafael Devers. Wow. Mix in vets like Hanley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, and Martinez and you’ll get a pretty damn potent team.
Their rotation also features Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello with Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright all starting the season on the DL. Boston is my pick to win the division this season. They are young, balanced, and have had time to marinade as a unit more so than the Yankees.
Toronto will be duking it out with Baltimore for the third division spot this season, with Tampa Bay falling behind yet again. The Orioles are a lot like the Jays, and not just in an aviary sense. Both teams have good starting rotations, good closers, and can play solid defence. Hopefully these two will be going head to head for the second wildcard spot, to add more intrigue to an already fiery division.
It’s pretty obvious, but when will Josh Donaldson leave the Blue Jays.
He has brought so much excitement to Canada’s team over the passed few seasons and took the team from playoff maybe, to contenders. It’s an ugly situation because it appears to only be a matter of time before he gets shipped out to a team looking to become World Series favourite. Even more ugly is the face that that is probably the best thing for the team.
With Encarnacion a year gone now, the Jays are essentially playing out Donaldson’s contract before cashing in on him. What helps this situation is that prospects in the Jays organization, like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, are apparently on the cusp of the big leagues. With young pitchers on the team and high level prospects close, a Donaldson deal could be for prospects rather than draft picks to speed up this process for Jays fans.
Regardless, the day Donaldson leaves will be a sad one. He has been the focal point of the “new” Jays (despite what Bautista may think) and has brought the joy back to being a Blue Jays fan.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly are all out there now, the only thing left is to play. A strong start, opposite of last season, would certainly make the Jays a more watchable team, not to mention would justify the moves made by Shapiro and Atkins in the Jays front office. I think they could surprise some teams this year, but ultimately will end their own season by dealing Donaldson to a World Season contender.
Only time will tell, and boy of boy am I ready to welcome back the Boys of Summer into the TV rotation!