As we get closer to the start of the season, we are going to spend some time focusing on the opponents on the Red Sox schedule for 2020. In this strange season, Boston will be playing only nine teams, so we will go one by one and look at each individually. Today, we look at the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays are arguably the most interesting team in this Eastern cluster and the one most likely to move up a tier in my estimation. They are still among the worst teams in the group, but they have a ton of young talent that has some experience under their belt and in a short season could feasibly put it together for two months and make a serious run. I would probably bet on their true contention being a year or two away, but don’t be surprised if they sneak up on some people this year. Of course, before they do anything they’ll need figure out where they’re playing their home games.
This was kind of a difficult one because the Blue Jays have a handful of young, exciting hitters that are low on experience but high on upside. Any one of them could break out this year and become a stud in the middle of their lineup. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was the closest to beating out Bichette, but Cavan Biggio and Lourdes Gurriel got some consideration as well. Bichette, though, has the pedigree as a top prospect who also had a father in the majors, plus he was phenomenal in a small sample size last year. In 46 games and 212 plate appearances the shortstop hit .311/.358/.571 for a 212 wRC+. He almost certainly won’t hit that well this year, but it’s going to be a similar sample and there’s a long way to fall while still being extremely good.
Best Starting Pitcher
For the first time in a while the Blue Jays went out and made a big-time addition in free agency, signing former Dodger Hyun-Jin Ryu. Having spent his major-league career to this point in the NL West we may not be as familiar with him, but when healthy he’s among the top arms in baseball. The lefty hasn’t always been able to stay totally healthy, but he’s coming off two seasons with ERAs of 1.97 and 2.32, respectively, and peripherals that don’t suggest as much regression as one might think. There’s always an expected adjustment going from the National League to the American League, but Ryu is a legitimate top-of-the-rotation arm for this Blue Jays team.
Best Relief Pitcher
Giles probably should be better than he is at certain points, but all in all he is among the most underrated relievers in all of baseball in my estimation. Last season he seemed to put it all together in his first full year with the Blue Jays, striking out over 14 batters per nine innings, walking fewer than three and pitching to an ERA below 2.00. There are times when he gets into bad stretches and allows more hard contact than you’d want, but he’s an outstanding closer and should be motivated this year as he’s set to hit free agency this coming winter.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
There are a few options here as well due to all of the young talent that could see a breakout in 2020, but Guerrero seems like the clear choice to me. If the Blue Jays are going to make a run and surprise some people this summer, they need some jumps to superstardom. Bichette is a good option, as is a pitcher I’ll talk about in a minute, but Guerrero has the potential to be best-hitter-in-baseball good. That’s not to say I’d bet on him reaching those heights this year or anything, but the potential is surely there. He did struggle a bit squaring the ball up last year, but with a move to first base and a seemingly more concentrated focus on his efforts at the plate, this could be the real coming out party for last year’s top prospect.
Nate Pearson, Simeon Woods-Richardson, Jordan Groshans, Alek Manoah, Alejandro Kirk, Anthony Kay, Thomas Hatch, Austin Martin
The name that everyone is watching on this list is Pearson, who has emerged as one of the very best pitching prospects in all of baseball. Equipped with a massive fastball, the big righty opened eyes all over Florida in the spring before baseball was put on pause, and he is expected to make an impact this year. Service time shenanigans are likely to hold him off the Opening Day roster to start, but expect to see him sooner than later. Other than him, Kay is the most likely to make an impact, though a smaller one, Martin will be an interesting name to monitor as well as the team’s first round pick this year that fell into their laps.
Everyone misses Travis Shaw in Boston, of course, both because he was fun to root for and also the trade that sent him to Milwaukee and Tyler Thornburg to Boston has been a disaster for the Red Sox. Shaw is coming off a rough year, though, and is looking for a rebound with the Jays.
A former minor leaguer in the Red Sox system, Espinal has started to blossom a bit with the Blue Jays. He’s not looking like a future star, but he’s progressed well and beyond what at least I thought he would. He was an non-roster invitee to spring training and is on their 60-man player pool as well. Of course, Red Sox fans don’t regret the trade that sent him to Toronto with Steve Pearce coming to Boston in 2018.