SB Nation Blog
The Opponent in one sentence
The Blue Jays are in something of a holding pattern as they wait for some top prospects to lead their next potential contender, and in the meantime they are off to a rough start to their 2019 season.
Red Sox 0, Blue Jays 0
Down. The Blue Jays were...fine to start the year when they split a four-game set at home against the rebuilding Tigers. They’ve been less fine since then. In their subsequent two series Toronto lost two of three at home to the Orioles before most recently getting swept in four games by the Indians. They’ve scored one or two runs in five of their last six games.
4/9: Chris Sale vs. Matt Shoemaker, 2:05 PM ET (ESPN)
With Alex Cora turning to a spot start from Hector Velázquez on Sunday to finish the west-coast trip, Chris Sale was pushed back to the home opener. Cora says that wasn’t intentional, and it probably wasn’t, but it works out for the ace and guy who got the last out of 2018 to be on the mound for Fenway’s first 2019 game. We all know what to look for here, as Sale’s velocity only got worse in his last outing. It isn’t going to be the nicest day weather-wise so I certainly wouldn’t expect him to make any massive, eye-opening jump but I’d still like to see him consistently sitting in the 91-93 range at the very least. More important, though, is the command of his secondaries. He was effective as something of a junkballer against the Athletics, and while I don’t think that is sustainable I think it can work while he sorts out the velocity issues. It’s worth mentioning that Sale has been god-like against the Blue Jays over his last two years, tossing 43 innings over seven outings and allowing 11 runs (2.30 ERA) with 64 strikeouts and six walks.
Shoemaker was a new addition to the Blue Jays roster this past winter after having spent the rest of his career with the Angels. The righty had a solid run from 2014-2016, but injuries stopped any ascent he was making in the majors. Over the last two years entering 2019 he had made just 21 starts combined for just 108 2⁄3 innings. He’s on the comeback trail this year north of the border, and he’s off to a good start. Shoemaker has made two starts so far in 2019, totaling 14 innings. He’s yet to allow a run in that span and has 15 strikeouts to just three walks. We should mention that the starts did come against the Tigers and Orioles, though it’s not as if the Red Sox lineup is tearing it up to start the year. Boston last saw Shoemaker back in 2016 when they scored five runs in 4 2⁄3 innings, though obviously with a very different team. The righty will most heavily feature his splitter to go with a pair of low-90s fastballs as well as a slider.
4/11: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Aaron Sanchez
Eovaldi’s first full season in Boston has not gotten off the start anyone had hoped. The righty had the velocity in his last outing, which was nice, but his command is still way off from where it was last year. Even more than the consistent upper-90s stuff, he was able to succeed both in Boston and before that in Tampa Bay because his location was on point. After walking just 1.6 batters per nine innings in 2018, he’s walked six in ten innings to start 2019. The command issues haven’t just translated into walks, either, as he allowed three homers in his first outing of the year and another in his second. Look for the command profile in this outing on Thursday and watch to see how much movement there is from whoever is behind the plate. Eovaldi’s lone appearance against Toronto last year was actually out of the bullpen when he allowed two runs over 3 2⁄3 innings with four strikeouts and two walks
It was three years ago now that Aaron Sanchez broke out in a big way for the 2016 Blue Jays, making his first (and only, to this point) All-Star team and finishing seventh in Cy Young voting. As a 23-year-old at the time, the sky was the limit. Things haven’t gone so well for him since then, as his control has regressed and he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. I have never been able to quit on that potential, and it’s hard to ignore that he’s still in his age-26 season. His first two starts of 2019 have gone well as he’s allowed two runs in 11 innings on 11 strikeouts and five walks. Again, control can be an issue and I’d expect to see some patience from the Red Sox in this game. Also look for ground balls, as Sanchez is among the best at getting them when he’s going well. Sanchez most leans on a mid-90s sinker and also has a four-seamer, a curveball and a changeup. The Red Sox saw the righty four times last year, knocking him around for 13 runs (12 earned) over 23 innings with 22 strikeouts and nine walks.
Clay Buchholz gets more undeserved hatred from Red Sox fans of any player I can remember, but I’ve fought that battle and lost for about a decade now. The righty has been off the club for a couple of years at this point and was surprisingly solid in a half-season’s worth of starts with the Diamondbacks last year. He’s currently out of action right now, as he has been so often in his career, but he could make his debut shortly after this series concludes.
Notable Position Players
Justin Smoak has missed three of Toronto’s last four games with a neck issue that is apparently worse when he hits from the right side, so he may at least miss the first game of this series. That would be good news for Boston, as Smoak is the best hitter on the pre-Vladito Blue Jays.
Randal Grichuk just received a surprising extension from the Blue Jays, so he’ll be manning a corner outfield spot here for the foreseeable future. The former Cardinal isn’t going to wow anyone with his plate discipline, but when he makes contact it is often very good contact and can go a long way. Just don’t hang one to him.
Rowdy Tellez made his major-league debut last season and has been playing on a near-every day basis for Toronto to start 2019. The early returns have been very three true outcomes-centric, though that will likely change as the sample gets larger.
Billy McKinney came over from the Yankees last year and impressed over 36 games in the majors to close out 2018. He’s Toronto’s starting right fielder now, but it’s been a tough start to 2019 as the quality of contact just hasn’t been there.
Lourdes Gurriel is a personal favorite of mine, but he’s been dreadful to start the season with a .074/.138/.111 line. It’s just eight games, though.
Brandon Drury has had a rough couple of years after two underrated seasons with the Diamondbacks. The infielder is back in an everyday role this year but is off to a terrible start through ten games.
Teoscar Hernandez is basically the same player as Grichuk with less experience and he wasn’t taken one pick before Mike Trout.
Danny Jansen has the potential to be a rare figure in this league as a catcher who can hit. He hasn’t done so in his first eight games this year, but he was solid in the majors down the stretch in 2018 and was very good over the last two years in the minors.
Freddy Galvis is off to a scorching start this year with a bizarre amount of power, but he’s generally been a below-average hitter over his career with good speed and defense. He also hasn’t missed a game since 2016.
Ken Giles was once one of the most promising young relievers in all of baseball, but he’s had some bad stretches that have lingered in each of the last two years that brought his stock way down. Now in his first season with the Blue Jays he’s a strong bounce-back candidate, and he’s off to a great start this year. Over 4 2⁄3 innings to start 2019 he has yet to allow a run with eight strikeouts and no walks.
Joe Biagini is the top set-up arm in Toronto’s bullpen, and the converted starter had a rough go of it last year. He doesn’t have the stuff typically associated with this role (though he does have seven strikeouts in 4 2⁄3 innings so far this year) and has had major issues with the long ball throughout his career.
Tim Mayza is the top lefty here and has held lefties to a .218/.269/.287 line over his career with a 30.5 percent strikeout rate.
Elvis Luciano doesn’t play a particularly big role in the Blue Jays bullpen but he’s notable as the first player to appear in a big-league game born in the 2000s. Death is coming for us all.
Buchholz, as mentioned above, is out right now as he works on conditioning. He should return this weekend.
Devon Travis has a small tear in his knee and was placed on the 60-day disabled list prior to the season. He’ll be out until at least June.
Ryan Borucki was quietly very solid as a rookie last year but will be out until at least the end of this month as he deals with inflammation in his elbow.
Ryan Tepera is also dealing with a sore elbow but he should be back at some point within the next week or so to help the Blue Jays bullpen.
David Phelps underwent Tommy John surgery prior to the 2018 season and the Blue Jays are hoping to have him back at least for the second half this year.
Dalton Pompey suffered a concussion late in spring training and it was bad enough that they recently moved him over to the 60-day IL. Head injuries are obviously scary, so it’s good to see caution being used here.
Clayton Richard was supposed to be ready to go to start the year but shortly before his first scheduled start he was shut down with a knee injury. He’ll be out for a few weeks.
Jonathan Davis is out with an ankle injury and could be out until early May.
The weather isn’t looking great for the home opener on Tuesday, though it doesn’t appear in danger of being cancelled. There may be some showers during the day, but most of the precipitation should hold off until after the final out. Still, it’s going to be on the colder side in the low-to-mid 40s and cloudy. Thursday looks to be better, but still a bit chilly.