Baseball is back! We think. Each day, SportsIntel’s Matt DeSaro will take a look at two of the 30 teams in Major League Baseball as we head toward MLB Opening Day in late July and we continue today in the AL East with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The owners and players agreed in late June to stage a 60-game season, beginning July 24. There are still many hurdles to overcome in this COVID-19 landscape, but for now, the teams are gathering for “Summer Camp,” a Spring Training reboot crammed into three weeks.
MLB Opening Day – Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto Blue Jays | O/U 26.5 Wins | +10000 to win World Series
One thing that any successful sports team, no matter the sport, needs to have is an identity. Are we a team that plays hard on offense? Are we focused on hard nose defense? Maybe our strength lies in less quantifiable terms such as the way we mesh as a team.
The Toronto Blue Jays have none of these.
Toronto is a team that has been constructed with little to no direction and has therefore left this team in limbo as to who they really are. The Blue Jays have ridden this rudderless ship for a few years now and can’t see that changing in 2020 ahead of opening day. Not sure where they are heading.
After back to back campaigns which saw a pair of ALCS appearances in 2015 & 2016 this team has finished with less than 75 wins the last two years and no better than 35 games removed from first place.
That is a massive void.
This has left not only a gaping hole in the standing but also the stands. Attendance at the Rogers Center dropped by almost 1 million in 2018 and another 600k last year. Maybe the fact that fans have no players to root for really. It’s a revolving door in Toronto. One which saw 63 position players and 34 pitchers make appearances last year.
All this is to say that not only are the Blue Jays a bad team but they are lack any star power or excitement. They overhaul their roster constantly and have seen their rebuild stall in the last two seasons. They are teetering dangerously on the edge of relevance and this might be the year they fade even further.
Offseason Acquisitions: Brian Moran, Rafael Dolis, Joe Panik, Caleb Joseph, Jake Petricka, Ruben Tejada, Travis Shaw, Shun Yamaguchi, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark, Justin Miler, AJ Cole, Phillippe Aumont, Chase Anderson, Anthony Bass.
Offseason Losses: Derek Law, Luke Maile, Ryan Tepera, Jason Adam, Clay Bucholz, Devon Travis, Clayton Richard, Buddy Boshers, Justin Smoak, Chad Sparbernger, Breyvic Valera, Richard Urena.
What Does Toronto Do Well?
The Blue Jays do nothing well. Unless you count losing. But they did make some significant additions to their pitching staff which should give them a boost in 2020 before MLB opening day kicks off the season. So they could do well on the mound this year.
The most powerful addition to this team is that of lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu who was signed away from LA in the offseason. He led the MLB in ERA last year and was truly a force to be reckoned with for the Dodgers. He is unlikely to repeat his Cy Young caliber season for Toronto, but it’s a big step up from the scrubs they were rolling out last year.
Chase Anderson and Tanner Roark also look to make contributions to this team. The trio will add some much-needed stability to the rotation after using 21 different staters in 2019. This cause them to rely on an opener and we all know that is not a long term solution to rotation troubles.
Toronto has a lot of young arms, but until they can prove their worth at the Major League level, its all guesswork in Toronto.
Where Can They Improve?
Oh boy, where to begin?
The Toronto Blue Jays in 2020 need help in the outfield ahead of MLB opening day, especially in center field. The Jays say seven different guys play center in 2019, the most since 2014 before Kevin Pilar took over. Their current roster of Randal Grichuck, Lourdes Gurriel Jr, Billy McKinney, and Derek Fisher all bring a specific skill set to the position. But none will blow anybody’s socks off with their play this or any year. Each of them needs to improve both on offense and at the plate, not something you want to hear about the backbone of your outfield. If you could melt these guys down and make one good player things might be looking up. But alas, the Blue Jays will be stuck starting one of these guys each night.
Their bullpen, much like other struggling teams, needs a lot of work to be competitive. Ken Giles is expected to start the year as closer, which is fine. But he is also one of their few precious trade chips and could find himself shipped out of town before the trade deadline. Beyond that, the Jays don’t have a whole lot to feel good about. They will likely bring in some aging vets to compete yet again, but that is not a solution long or short term. Prepare for the Blue Jays to blow a lot of the early leads they manage to scrape together this year.
Blue Jay Season Prediction Ahead of Opening Day
This is a tough nut to crack. While on paper I think this team is mostly awful, it doesn’t take much to win games in this league. It’s a pretty big uptick from last year, but I think the moves they did actually make will have a positive impact. Ryu is one of my favorite players in the game, and if he can stay healthy, he could contend for the ERA title again in 2020. The supporting cast is not glamorous, but the Jays did an admirable job in filling gaps the best they could. Thornton, Pearson, and Yamaguchi all bring youth and upside to this team and if all work out, could become impact players in the MLB over the next few seasons.
I hate to back big leaps by bad teams, but something is tugging me to feel optimistic about this team. In a move I would not have expected when I sat down to write this, I will be recommending to bet the Blue Jays over 26.5 wins as they made strides to pull themselves out of the basement this year.
C – Danny Jansen
1B – Travis Shaw
2B – Cavan Biggio
3B – Vladimir Guerrero Jr
SS – Bo Bichette
LF – Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
CF – Derek Fisher
RF – Teoscar Hernandez