Marcus Stroman is actually right about Blue Jays problems

Is he loud? Yes. Is he obnoxious? Yes. Did he struggle last season and does he currently not really have a leg to stand on when it comes to negotiating a long term deal with the Toronto Blue Jays? Yes. But, Marcus Stroman is still right.

Marcus Stroman has been going IN on the Blue Jay’s front office for their lack of action in the off-season and their reluctance to reward players, namely himself, for wanting to come and play in Canada.

Stroman hasn’t been quiet regarding the Jay’s offseason, speaking up about lack of veteran presence and the contract commitment issues the Blue Jay’s front office has when it comes to their current players and free agents.

After speaking up at spring training, Stroman’s comments about the team’s lack of veteran presence has been characterized as lamenting the organization, lashing out at management, and saddening because the team is very young. In reality, he just said this:

“I love that the team is young, but I do think there needs to be a balance. There’s a great way for these young guys to learn from the veterans that have been doing this year, after year, after year.”

Scary, isn’t it?

Is Stroman just trying to jockey himself in line for his desired long-term contract extension? It’s a good possibility but not, in my estimation, the real reason behind his media diatribe early in spring training.

While that is viable, I think Stroman could just be looking to ensure the kids on the team have the same opportunity to learn from veteran leaders like he did.

To this day, Stroman still hangs out with Jose Bautista, including an offseason tour of Canada with him. Bautista, a non-Toronto native showed Stroman the ropes when it comes to repping Canada and Toronto. He’s been a mentor to him and also (like it or not) showed him how to bring the swagger to the diamond.

Maybe more important to Stroman’s development as a player was the influence of Mark Buehrle. SI.com has him slotted in as a Hall of Fame candidate when he becomes available in 2020, and his use of timing mechanics and unique delivery certainly have impacted Stroman as a pitcher.

Why the Jays should look at locking down Stroman

The Jay’s should look to lock down homegrown talent like Stroman if they want to bridge the gap between inexperienced squad to playoff contender in the next handful of year.

Not because Stroman is asking for it, but because he’s the type of player that feeds off of negativity and creates chips on his shoulder to stay motivated. He’s speaking out now at his displeasure with how things are currently going in Jays land, but imagine the Jays inked him long term?

He’d be the first and loudest person to credit the team for the decision, he’d be motivated to return the investment, and he’d also become the shining example of why players should come to Toronto. The team cares.

Stroman isn’t an elite superstar, or a Cy Young candidate this season or any other. But he’s a solid pitcher and an enigmatic character who will gladly get in front of a microphone – for or against you. The Jays might as well use him, rather than lose him and anyone else who takes stock in what he’s saying.

The Blue Jays May Have Something in Gaviglio and Borucki

The upside of an injury laden season can be the exposure and emergence of minor league players. Many believed the Toronto Blue Jays biggest bright spot heading into the season would be their starting rotation. This rotation boasted Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, and Jaime Garcia; a starting rotation that mixed youthful swagger with proven veteran experience. However, Toronto’s pitching corps have been hammered by injury this season emphatically deflating that promising rotations effectiveness. But for the Blue Jays there has been a silver lining in this scenario, the emergence of both Sam Gaviglio and Ryan Borucki. First, lets see how these two starters got their shot.

After a 2017 season focused around the word “blister” Aaron Sanchez was sent to the disabled list on June 23rd. Thankfully this injury was not reported as a blister related injury, however it was on his right index finger which is suspicious to say the least. Sanzhez underwent an X-Ray which should have dispelled the idea of this being a blister injury, but the scary thought still remains. Sanchez has missed 16 days on the DL and has just began throwing again with no timetable for a return.

Former BFF of Sanchez, Marcus Stroman has also spent time on the DL for a much more precarious reason than his old pal. Stroman was struggling consistently for quality starts this season. Some blame a nagging shoulder injury that shortened his spring training for the rocky start but when his form wouldn’t round out, Storman was headed to the 10-day DL with “shoulder discomfort.” I’ve hypothesized that this was more of a mental break for Stroman, but regardless of the reason he has looked settled and more technically sound since returning.

Jamie Garcia, the depth fifth starter in the Jays rotation was been underwhelming in his young Blue Jays career. Garcia’s ongoing left shoulder injury (inflammation) has stripped the most basic necessity for a starting pitcher – inning eating ability. Without playing Garcia is allowing his 6.16 ERA sit stagnant and while it isn’t growing, Garcia is losing time in the season to shrink that number down. Gibbons is flirting with the idea of a bullpen demotion for him when he returns.

With adversity comes opportunity, and for two Blue Jays pitchers that has happened at differing positions in their careers – first Sam Gaviglio.

Sam the winning record man, as he was so affectionately called, is now in search of a new nickname since falling to 2-2. Despite his record evening out, Sam Gaviglio has been a pitching positive in the struggling rotation for the Blue Jays. Gaviglio is currently sporting a 3.81 ERA with a WHIP of 1.231. These numbers are not elite, however Gaviglio is showing better stuff than he has in his previous stints with the Royals and Mariners. Gaviglio is leaning into his skill, mixing speeds well, and gets tricky movement on his fastball. He isn’t trying to overwhelm batters with speed, but is getting strikeouts (51SO in 52IP) with his deceptive pitch selection and execution.

At 28 years old Gaviglio is more so looking for MLB stability than his ‘big break’ into the league. The shakiness of Toronto’ starting pitching has been a blessing for him, affording him opportunity without any mounting pressure to perform. If he can keep it on the right track Gaviglio could be a solid bottom rotation pitcher for the Jays this season and into next year.

Recent call up from the AAA Buffalo Bisons, leftie Ryan Borucki is turning heads in the major leagues. The 24 year old has a terribly unjust record at 0-1 in three games played, as he has pitched 20 innings in the majors with just 19 hits and 5 earned runs to his name. Borucki has not been given an easy ride either having his major league debut against the reigning World Series champion Houston Astros, followed by games against the Detroit Lions and New York Yankees.

With only two runs supporting him across all three starts COMBINED, Borucki’s record should be ignored. Instead his 2.25 ERA, 20IP, and 16SO should be the focus. Like Gaviglio, Borucki has a deceptive delivery allowing him to get solid results from a low 90’s fastball. In a Buerhle-esque style Borucki works quickly and mixes pitches well, focusing on location with both his fastball and cheeky change up.

He has yet to face a lot of adversity, but with the elite competition he has faced that is not a strike against him, but rather a credit to him. As is the case with a lot of new pitchers, it can take major league hitters some time to adapt to unfamiliar faces. For Borucki, his delivery offers some reprieve from the eventual catch up. Low hands, high leg kick, a 6’4″ frame, all from a left handed pitcher keeps his pitch selection hidden and should keep batters guessing.

Both Gaviglio and Borucki have benefitted from the injuries that have plagued the once believed to be elite starting rotation of the Blue Jays, but in different ways. Gaviglio is seizing the opportunity to reestablsih himself as a depth pitcher who can eat innings and get results. While Borucki is looking for a a more Teoscar Hernandez style stay in the majors – get your opportunity and run with it. For both they seem to be better options than the pitchers they are replacing, and with Marco Estrada leaving his last start with back discomfort (a long nagging injury) there could be more opportunity in the near future for these two pitchers.

Jays Beat Nats, Nats Beat Yanks = Jays Best Team in AL East?

I’m just asking for a friend, but I think that the Jays may be the best team in the American League based off of the transitive property – don’t blame me, blame science! But seriously, what is going on with the Blue Jays? It’s a small sample size but the Jays have gone 7-3 in their last ten, sweeping the Orioles and Nats, while getting swept by the Rays in Tampa (obviously).

A few reasons that the Jays have had a recent turn in form are: Devon Travis, Randal Grichuk, Yangervis Solarte, and Marco Estrada.

Devon Travis, a career bandaid player, was recalled from a minor league rehabbing stint on may 22nd. A man possessed since returning, Travis has been hitting .538 avg. in his last seven games, including two home runs and five RBIs in that stretch. This brings his season average to .238 and home runs to four with 11 RBIs, emphasizing the impact his most recent 13 at bats have had on his season total 122 at bats.

Yangervis Solarte has just been more of the exciting, electric player he has been since coming to the Jays. His average is sitting at .258 with a .310 on base percentage, virtually mirrored in his last seven days at .286 avg and .286 obp (all evens out, right?). He is handling the job of team slugger, with three home runs, even if they are coming with no one on base, four RBIs. He seems to be the pulse of the team and has now officially surpassed Ace as team mascot – just watch the dug out when anyone hits a bomb, their hands up dancing just like Solarte was doing in April! He may be an important piece for more than just his on field performance as any contending team could use his switch hitting bat, and infield utility defence.

Randal Grichuk, MY GUY. Since coming off of the DL on June 1st he has been more than advertised when he was brought in to the Blue Jays fold this off season. In June, fresh off the DL, Grichuk has been hitting .326 avg. with 3 home runs and 5, yes 5, home runs. He has been lights out and seems mentally refreshed since coming off his injury rehab. Is it sustainable, well I previously say no, but I guess we’ll see, won’t we! Grichuk is up to .196 .avg on the season, and 7 home runs. He has turned his game around and as long as he can keep it close to this form for the rest of the season, Toronto and the fans are the real benefactors of his improved and exciting play.

Marco Estrada has been a real mixed bag as a pitcher this season, and it has been a mix of “what type of bad is Estrada going to be?”, not “will he be good or bad?”. However, the former pitching ace has seemingly turned his form in June, posting a 1.45 era and going 2-0 in 3 starts. It’s hard to say what has been effecting Estrada’s game last season and leaking into 2018, however whether it is mental clarity or mechanical reworking that has settled him down in June, Estrada is finally pitching like he can and is actually helping his team get closer to winning.

A few shoutouts for great play are J.A. Happ and Teoscar Hernandez. Happ has been great as he has been all season, locating his fastball and mixing pitches like the vet he is. Teoscar on the other hand, always seems to have a homer run or timely hit loaded in his bat for Jays fans to get excited about. Outside of these two, and another plus to the Blue Jays is the long coming return of Marcus Stroman. It will likely see Sam Gaviglio sent back to the minors, but that may be for the best as he has struggled in his last two starts.

Any way you cut it, the Blue Jays are playing some exciting ball right now and giving the fans something to stick around for. I’ll gladly take a team that can sweep elite and terrible opponents while mystically being befuddled in the league’s shittiest stadium for no apparent reason. As long as they win some game and crank some dingers, that all we want for this season now!

So… Is Marcus Stroman a Bad Pitcher?

The sample size is bigger now, but it still isn’t looking too good for the thought-to-be Toronto Blue Jays Ace Marcus Stroman. Seven starts so far this season and five charged losses to his name is hard to argue with, but everyone knows win-loss can be deceiving… so lets delve a little deeper.

What tends to tell a better story is some fancy stats like earned run average, and for Stroman it ain’t pretty. 7.71, a tough stat to explain away. Errors removed, the ERA for Stroman tells quite the tale. He cant seem to retire batters when he needs too and its coming back to hurt him. Poor pitch location and steering of his pitches is causing him to miss his spots, which hitters are punishing him for.

Two stats that reflect this, and are inflated this year contributing to his increased earned runs allowed are his home runs/9 innings, and walks/9 innings.

Both of these stat categories are higher than they have been in Stroman’s career. 1.2 HR/9 is .3 points higher than his previous season and has been an issue for the pitcher. Likewise, Stroman is walking an increased amount of batters this season, too. 4.3 walks/9 innings is completely unsustainable and is a major factor in his struggles – men on base = flirting with disaster.

Much like real estate, pitching is all location location location, and Stroman is struggling to find it. You can see in his very physical frustrations mid game the problem is mechanical, but could become mental in no time.

The silver lining for Stroman is that in his career he has never thrown as many strikeouts as he has so far this season (per nine innings). He is .1 points over his career best SO/9 which he threw in his first season as a Blue Jay starter, when batters didn’t know what to expect from him. What this means is basically when he can locate his pitches they are deadly, it is just a matter of getting his rhythm back and getting his delivery location dialed in.

What should motivate Stroman (if not his own teams success) is his online presence. No one has a bigger chip on their shoulder in the majors than this guy. It comes from a long history of being too small, and succumbing to injury. The natural hype man loves adversity and good Lord has he had his share this season, but he knows how epic the climb back to the top will be when he does it. That’s his motivation… oh and how much money he’s throwing away in the impending arbitration ahead of him after this season.

Good pitchers have bad season, it happens. What is positive is Stroman’s new mantra this season, “Never panic, just manage.” He’s still active in the dug out, still hyping up his teammates, and still showing up to game every time its his start.

So no, he isn’t a bad pitcher. He’s just pitching like one.

After an AL beat down streak, Blue Jays smack back at Twins

With the series finale slated for a matinee affair on May 2nd, the Toronto Blue Jays have seemingly bounced back after getting taught some tough lessons against the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, against the Minnesota Twins.

Resilience will need to be a a key factor in the Blue Jay’s character this season if they want to hang around in the playoff race. But, as it stands the Blue Jays are doing what playoff contenders do – beat the mediocre teams and hang with the good ones.

The once thought to be strength of the Jays, the pitching rotation has shown a few chinks in the armor so far. Marco Estrada and the long ball, a tale as old as time, has been an issue this season.As well, Jaime Garcia looking for consistency in his pitching, especially against players who will make you pay. But both are nothing in comparison to the often outspoken and now under performing Marcus Stroman.

He just doesn’t have it this year – yet. Five games started, three loses, and no wins to show for it this season, Stroman is sporting a pretty damn bad ERA: 8:88. Maybe an Eric Lindros fan but more likely just an under performing pitcher, Stroman brings the heat on himself in this situation constantly talking about himself on social media. I’m not condemning the use of social media for athletes, I actually love it, but there is an expectation when you’re on it constantly talking yourself up – walk the walk, now Stroman.

I do think he’ll get it figured out, he’s simply too good not to, but the longer he takes to get his head on straight, the longer the Jays will have to wait to take another step forward.

For positives, the Blue Jays have a legit Cy Young contender on the team (so far this season, obviously). J.A. Happ, maybe the quietest player on the Jay’s roster has, quietly (how apropos) strung together ELITE numbers this year. 4-1 in 6 games started, 3.50 ERA, 12.5 strike outs/nine innings, 1.028 WHIP, and a total of 50 strike outs. Happ is pulling his weight in the rotation and setting a terrific example of veteran talent making an impact.

To go along with team resiliency, the Blue Jays have plugged players in for injured or under performing starters and had really positive results. Donaldson on the DL, Grichuk on the DL, Travis demoted to the minors, Gift Ngope not earning his spot on the bench, all have been mitigated by squad players stepping up and producing.

The infield is comfortably being patrolled by Smoak a stalwart and everyday first baseman, 2nd base covered by rookie call up Lourdes Gurriel jr. who is comfortably settling in the big leagues, Aledmys Diaz playing almost everyday at SS, Yangervis Solarte being a productive and serviceable 3rd baseman, while Teoscar Hernandez, another young call, up has cemented himself on the big league club.

They Jay’s aren’t bad – a point I will continue to stress as long as they keep proving me right. I never thought they would be, but I did think that they would have had to rely on three players to have big season: Travis to reestablish himself after injury layoff, Donaldson to prove himself in a contract year, and Grichuk to prove the Cardinals wrong for moving on from him. All three have been bad, or injured… or both, and yet, the Jays keep producing.

Until they stop acting like they’ve been here before, the Blue Jays are ready to continue shocking the league – the most recent lesson they have learned is the importance of resilience, and at the poor old expense of the Twins, too!

 

Jays Lose First Series Of The Season

The bubble has popped, the bandwagon is losing members, and the season is over – The Toronto Blue Jays have lost their first series of the season.

Wait. Its just April, and its still five full series that they hadn’t lost. Things are actually pretty damn good in Blue Jays land right now, and the problems they have should be reasonable enough to over come!

The Jays had two issue that rared their head in this second four game series against the Yankees, one a surprise and the other a condition of their random offence: starting pitching, and men left on base.

As far as pitching goes, Toronto is missing a big piece of the puzzle which is Marcus Stroman. Yet to win a game this season, Stroman is taking a lot of heat for being more focused on his personal brand over his pitching abilities. Sure, height doesn’t measure heart, but earned runs will kill a starting pitchers confidence – and Stroman is leading the team in earned runs and has posted a 8.55 ERA.

He looked better in his last start but ‘looked better’ isn’t providing results for the Jays. Stroman is the ultimate competitor and wants to be winning baseball games, but until he starts doing that he isn’t going to be playing on a playoff contending team.

Outside of Stroman, Estrada has been a concern. He has a 5.32 era and has the narrative of nagging back issues constantly being brought up. He has been saved in his win/loss record by late game pushes by his teams offence, but hasn’t given his team a chance to win on a regular basis. Biagini was solid in his spot start and provides the Jays an option if Estrada’s back issues flair up, but a good Marco is better than a good Biagini.

As far as offence goes, Toronto has nothing to complain about from their team. No one really thought they would be playing for much this season, but now it seems like the Jays want to make it to the post season. The biggest issue that should get rectified sooner rather than later is men left on base. The Jays rank 6th in men left on base with a per-game average of 6.76. In their last three games against the Yankees this bloated to 7.67.

It’s an issue that has seemed to follow the Jay’s around in recent years. It was a symptom of the home run dependent offence they had relied on for so long. That is why I am not too too concerned about it at this point. The home runs will still come, but the success Toronto has had this season was around getting on base, and getting clutch hits. Not to mention taking walks, stealing bases, and moving runners forward. To remedy the men left on base stick to what you know – hard hit balls and not trying to push everything out of the stadium. Capitalize on the damn shift, too!

Two big ole’ bright spots are Teoscar Hernandez (yes, still), and Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

Teoscar has improved his HR count to three in just eight games this season, and has 10 RBIs. He is really really potent right now for the Blue Jays and adds pop to the #2 spot in the order with Donaldson out. No chance he gets sent down when Donaldson gets back off the DL – looking at you Randal Grichuk.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr., a name few are too familiar with is the brother of the Gurriel in Houston who just won the World Series. The 24-year old infielder from Cuba was nestled right behind Vlad jr. and Bo Bichette on Toronto’s farm system rankings and got the call up in game two of this series. Hitting in the nine spot, Gurriel nabbed two hits and three RBIs in his first game. He is hitting .273 avg in eleven appearances. Yet another bright spot in the youth department for Toronto.

Almost a month into the season Toronto sits second in the AL East with a 13-6 record, 1.5 games up on the Yankees. With some stable performances Toronto can absolutely continue on this track of possible post season success!

 

Don’t Look Now, But The Blue Jays Aren’t Terrible

Early in the season? Yes. Small sample size? Mhmm. Probably going to jinx it? You bet. Doesn’t matter though, these Blue Jays are pretty damn good! With four series now gone, the Toronto Blue Jays have yet to lose a series this season and possess an unlikely 8-5 record.

What makes this more impressive is the competition they’ve played against – two divisional rivals in the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles, another rival in the Texas Rangers, and the Chicago White Sox. So how have the Jays been winning games?

Starting Pitching 

Always believed to be the Jays strength, their starting rotation has been pretty impressive. Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ, and Jaime Garcia have been next level, with Stroman and Estrada looking just okay.

Sanches: 19.2 IP, 13 SO, ERA 3.66, Games Started: 3, Wins: 1, WHIP 1.424
Happ: 16 IP, 23 SO, ERA 3.94, Games Started: 3, Wins: 2, WHIP 1.313
Garcia: 11.1 IP, 12 SO, ERA 3.18, Games Started: 2, Wins: 1, WHIP 1.147

These three have been stellar, all with double digit strike outs and registered wins. Their ability to go deep in games allows for micromanaging of the bullpen as well, limiting the overuse of the reg-tag relievers the Jays have assembled.

In game two of the Baltimore series Aaron Sanchez carried a no-hitter into the 8th inning. His control was on display, and ability to mix speeds to keep hitters guessing multiple times through the order was exciting to see. Hopefully the blister issues are behind him now (knock on wood) and the Sanchize can return to form.

For Happ and Garcia it is just business as usual for two veteran guys. Locate pitches well, use that lefty starter advantage, and when hit keep the ball on the ground of popped high to get outs.

Unlikely Offensive Production

The Jays have also benefitted from getting offence from all over their order. Only one player, Gift Ngoepe, has yet to register an RBI, while ever rostered played has a hit.

Home Runs, an area thought to be dominated by Smoak and Donaldson does feature the two offensive giants at the top, however they have some unlikely company. Donaldson is tied for the team lead with three home runs with Steve Pearce and Aledmys Diaz. Yes you read that correctly. Pearce, who went back-to-back-to-back games with home runs has given himself a chance at capitalizing on the revolving door in left field. When not relied upon (see 2017 Blue Jays) he is a great bench player with utility defence and pop in his bat.

Diaz, who is likely to be the Blue Jays starting shortstop for the majority of the season, has been a solid surprise this season. With his latest home run coming in the last game against Baltimore, he has spread out his long balls this season. He is only hitting .206, but did see some time off due to an injury knock. The Jays don’t need him to be a .300 hitter if their big guns keep up their production, which does take pressure off of him to perform.

Another offensive surprise has been Luke Maile. The backup catcher has strung together some nice offensive numbers this season in limited at bats (15). With six hits he sports a .400 batting average, with three doubles and four RBI’s. This eases the pressure on Martin to play every game, as Maile has shown early that he can be relied more so than last season.

 

Despite the early season success there are a few areas that may become bigger issues for the club.

Randal Grichuk

Brought in via trade with the St. Louis Cardinals for two pitchers, Grichuk has struggled MIGHTILY at the plate so far this season. Like, he’s been really really bad. In 39 at bats he has three hits, a .077 BA, and a .140 On Base Percentage. He was never brought in to be a bog production guy, but rather a solid defensive right fielder. He has been fine defensively, but with numbers this bad he has become a liability in the line up.

Baltimore pitchers originally targeted his inability to hit the high fastball, this quickly devolved into ‘just throw the ball down the middle and see if he can hit it.’ He could not. He was given a game off to mentally rest. This resulted in a long double to centre field, but he has gone cold again since then. The Jays need to get their right fielder’s bat sorted soon, or he will not be able to recuperate his numbers this season.

Josh Donaldson

This one is two-pronged. The all-star third baseman has been a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on the field. Offensively his is on a great pace for the season – three home runs, eleven hits, nine RBI’s, and a .352 OBP. But, defensively his is a shell of his former self. He blew Aaron Sanchez’s no hitter with a ground ball that bounced through his legs, and on top of that, cant seem to throw to first base.

The “dead arm” incident is also still ongoing. Post Baltimore series, which saw Donaldson sit the last game, Donaldson said there has been no improvement in his arm despite still playing third base. He was initially transitioned to DH as it didn’t effect his swing, but after returning to 3B it was assumed it was better. Wrong-o.

Donaldson is going to be a problem for the Jays this season. He knows they aren’t going to sign him, but that doesn’t mean they are going to trade him either. It is a worst case scenario, really, but it seems likely if the team keeps playing as well as they are. If they Jay’s remain a fringe playoff team fighting for a wildcard spot then they can’t trade away one of their offensive leaders. But, if the Jays struggle it will likely be on the back of Donaldson not being able to produce. If that is the case he won’t get any sort of return to help the Jays rebuild quickly.

What a conundrum.

Despite the weariness of two key players who feature for the team regularly, the team is still doing really well. And that is really the most important part when trying to understand the success the Jays have had this season so far – its a team effort. Not Bautista’s team, or Edwin’s team, but just a team effort. Yangervis Solarte and Kevin Pillar supporting the likes of Smoak and Donaldson offensively. While Granderson improves the clubhouse filled with youth players, and produces on the field as well.

If the Jays are destined to be a successful team this year it will be on all of their backs, not individual players. They have shown resiliency this season so far, scoring the most runs from the 7th inning on in the MLB, not quitting when behind and closing out winning games.

It should be interesting to see how it plays out, but one thing is for sure, this team is a lot better than the 2017 Blue Jays.

Toronto Blue Jays Season Preview: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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.

The Good

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 Bad

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.

The Ugly

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!