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Catching up with the American League East: Toronto Blue Jays

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There is a ton of young exciting talent on this roster. But are they ready yet?

MLB: Spring Training-Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next few days, we will be taking a look at the Red Sox competition in the American League East and digging into what their roster look likes. Obviously the world is throwing a wrench into our normal schedule, but there doesn’t seem like there will be any changes between now and whenever the season does start, so this look should still be relevant whenever the season does start. With that said, given that we don’t know when the season will start I will be taking some liberties when applicable to decide whether or not injured players will be healthy by the time the season begins. Today we look at the Blue Jays.

Offseason Additions

Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHSP; Travis Shaw, 1B/3B/2B; Chase Anderson, RHSP; Tanner Roark, RHSP; Joe Panik, 2B; Shun Yamaguchi, RHRP; Anthony Bass, RHRP; Rafael Dolis, RHRP

The Blue Jays were fairly active this offseason on the free agent market. Most of these were bargain bin shopping or at least close to it, but they did make one legitimate splash. It’s no secret that pitching is the big need for the Blue Jays at this point, and they nabbed one of the best starters on the market with Hyun-Jin Ryu. There are some durability questions here as well as a little of doubt about how he will adjust from the NL West to the AL East, but his track record suggests that, when healthy, he’ll be outstanding. Along with him, like I said, it was a lot of solid signings without standouts. Shaw and Panik help the infield, and then every other addition will bring a little more, and much needed, stability to their pitching staff. It’s a part of the roster that is upgraded by merely getting average players.

Offseason Losses

Justin Smoak, 1B; Clay Buchholz, RHSP; Derek Law, RHRP

There weren’t a whole lot of significant losses this winter. Smoak is there biggest one, and even he is coming off a down season. The first baseman, who’s being replaced by Shaw mentioned above, signed with Shaw’s former team in Milwaukee and is, I think, a good bet at a bounce-back. Buchholz and Law, meanwhile, would be downgrades compared to the players currently projected to make their Opening Day roster anyway.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Toronto Blue Jays Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

Lineup

C: Danny Jansen

1B: Travis Shaw

2B: Cavan Biggio

SS: Bo Bichette

3B: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

LF: Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

CF: Randal Grichuk

RF: Teoscar Hernández

DH: Derek Fisher

The Blue Jays lineup is perhaps the most fun group in all of baseball if you are into young players who also bring you back to their childhood. Guerrero is already the face of this franchise despite a somewhat disappointing rookie campaign. The sky is still the limit for him and he’s likely going to be a force sooner than later. Gurriel is among the most underrated players in baseball in my view, and is also underrated in the son-of-a-former-stud department. His father was one of Cuba’s top players. Then there’s Bichette and Biggio, who both showed enough in their first taste of the majors last year to expect big things in the future. This core is likely a year or so away, but this year is going to be fascinating for their development. The rest of the lineup is a step behind, though don’t sleep on Jansen as a potential post-hype sleeper.

Bench

Reese McGuire, C; Joe Panik, 2B: Brandon Drury, UTIL; Anthony Alford, OF

For a team that is not really expected to contend in their current state, the Blue Jays actually have a really interesting bench. McGuire is a post-hype sleeper in his own right and may help give the Jays one of the sneaky best catching tandems in the game by the end of the year if things go well. Panik isn’t too far removed from being a key cog in the Giants lineup. Drury is a solid platoon player who can fill multiple positions. Alford is a former top prospect who is a couple years removed from his last good season at the plate in the minors but still provides good speed and defense and has some upside in the bat if he can figure out how to make more contact.

Rotation

  1. Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP
  2. Chase Anderson, RHP
  3. Tanner Roark, RHP
  4. Matt Shoemaker, RHP
  5. Trent Thornton, RHP

The Blue Jays rotation is what is likely to hold them back this year, alongside some potential issues with inexperience on the other side of the ball, but if you squint it’s not impossible to see a path to productivity here. Ryu, as mentioned above, is very, very good when healthy. Anderson and Roark have pretty consistently been league-average. Shoemaker was rolling last season over his first few starts but then a torn ACL ended his season after just five starts. Thornton was solid average as a rookie in 2019 and a step forward could feasibly make him a solid mid-rotation arm on a good team. Then, there’s Nate Pearson, who wowed everyone in spring training. The top prospect wasn’t expected to make the majors for Opening Day before baseball paused, but he should pitch sooner than later and has a real chance to make an impact whenever he does.

Bullpen

Ken Giles, RHP

Shun Yamaguchi, RHP

Anthony Bass, RHP

Sam Gaviglio, RHP

Jordan Romero, RHP

Rafael Dolis, RHP

Thomas Pannone, LHP

Wilmer Font, RHP

Bullpens are always volatile, but this does not look like a great group on paper. They have real talent at the very back with Ken Giles being one of the more talented relievers in the game. That said, he’s also been frustratingly inconsistent at times in his career, so even he is no sure bet. Yamaguchi is an unknown coming from the NPB, but he has a chance to be a difference-maker as well. Beyond that, there’s not a whole lot that stands out.

Parting Thoughts

The Blue Jays are more likely to be a contender in 2021 than they are in 2020, but this is a team to watch and it’s not totally crazy to see them fighting for a wildcard if this season does happen. They need some big steps forward in their lineup and health in their rotation for that to come to fruition. I wouldn’t bet on them, but crazier things have happened.