SB Nation Blog
The opponent in one sentence
The Blue Jays came into the year as one of the most exciting, but still mysterious, teams in baseball with a young core of offensive players and they’ve been very up and down through the first few weeks of the year.
Down. Somewhat bizarrely, the Blue Jays have really padded their record against the Yankees and have suffered beyond those games. Most recently was not against New York, but rather the Royals where the Jays had a rough time. They had a four-game set against the Royals that included a doubleheader on Saturday due to rain on Friday, and they lost three of four including their last two.
4/20: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu, 7:10 PM ET
The Red Sox get Rodriguez back on the mound for his third start of the season as he’s eased his way back into action. Things haven’t been perfect smooth for the lefty after his dead arm hiccup at the end of spring training put a bit of a hold up on his ultimate return to the mound, but we’re seeing the building blocks for him to get things to where he wants them to be. First and foremost we should be looking for his velocity to creep back up, though even with slightly diminished fastball velocity he’s still missing a ton of bats. That has been because he’s working mainly off his changeup and cutter so far this year. I’ll be interested in seeing what he does against a Blue Jays lineup that, even while a bit banged up, can punish pitchers who aren’t on their A-game.
This is an ace-versus-ace kind of matchup, with Ryu being perhaps the most underrated superstar pitcher in baseball. The big question with him is always going to be his health, and he doesn’t have a ton of full seasons under his belt. On the other hand, when he’s healthy there aren’t too many pitchers in the game who have done better. He’s off to a scorching start through three turns through the rotation so far this year, with a 1.89 ERA. That’s extremely low, but we should note that his highest ERA dating back to 2018 is 2.69, so low results are his thing. And the peripherals largely match, as he typically strikes out roughly a batter per inning to go with elite control. The Red Sox beat up an ace on Monday and will look to make it two days in a row here. Ryu will feature a good mix of cutters, changeups, fastballs and curveballs.
4/21: Garrett Richards vs. TBD, 7:10 PM ET
We won’t have to spend too much time on Richards here as Keaton did a bit of a deep dive into some of the issues plaguing the Red Sox righty over his first few starts this year. He’s definitely been the weak point in what has otherwise been a surprisingly production rotation early in this season, and even Richards hasn’t been quite as bad as some of the numbers would indicate. That said, I’d really like to see some control out of the righty in this start. That’s the number one thing I’m looking for here.
The Blue Jays have not yet announced a starter for the series finale on Wednesday, and they are dealing with some injury issues in the rotation that they need to work around. On the other hand, they also have two days off this week (Monday and Thursday) to make planning a bit easier. Right now, signs probably point to Anthony Kay getting the nod. A lefty and former Mets prospect, he’s pitched sparingly in the majors across the last three seasons, pitching to a 5.87 ERA over 38 1⁄3 innings. In one start this year he allowed five runs (four earned) over 3 1⁄3 innings with three strikeouts and no walks. Kay will throw a fastball in the mid 90s along with a changeup and a curveball.
Notable Position Players
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was the global number one prospect in the game not too long ago, but his few chances in the majors to this point have not quite gone according to play, largely due to hitting too many balls on the ground. He’s launching the ball this year, and it’s made him one of the very best hitters in the game to start this season.
Bo Bichette is a force at the top of this lineup as well that is a threat to hit the ball hard every time he comes up. His plate discipline isn’t great which pitchers can take advantage of from time to time, but he’ll also punish anything left over the plate.
Cavan Biggio is the third son of a big leaguer on this roster, and he’s a really interesting profile. He’ll strike out a bunch but he also draws a ton of walks and hits for a little bit of pop to make up for the whiffs.
Marcus Semien is a former Athletic who was an MVP finalist just a couple years ago. He’s fallen off since then and is struggling to get much going right now, striking out too much and failing to get balls to fall in for hits.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has been an underrated part of this team for a few years now, but he’s been nonexistent so far this year, failing to hit much of anything with authority.
Randal Grichuk is typically an aggressive power hitter who uses homers to offset the lack of walks for a roughly average production level, but a high BABIP has been the story early in this season.
Rowdy Tellez is a bonafide Red Sox killer. With Rodriguez starting on Tuesday Tellez may sit that one out given the lefty-lefty matchup, but his history against the Sox may cause him to get the start anyway.
Josh Palacios was just recently called up for his big-league debut thanks to injuries ahead of him on the depth chart, and he’s had some mild success mostly derived from singles falling in.
Alejandro Kirk’s defense is an open question behind the plate, but he’s an exciting young hitter who should split catching time with Danny Jansen this week.
Rafael Dolis has been thrust into the closer role for now due to some injuries, and while that’s not his typical role he can still be tough to hit. There are control issues that can be exploited, but he’s also very tough to square up and he misses a fair amount of bats.
David Phelps has been really successful in a setup role early this year, though it’s not quite clear just how sustainable it is given his good-not-great rates with both strikeouts and walks.
Ryan Borucki is the top lefty in the bullpen, and while he’ll give up some long balls he otherwise controls the zone really well.
George Springer was Toronto’s biggest addition of the winter, but he has yet to make his debut with the team due to oblique and quad issues he started dealing with late in camp. The hope is he’s back this week, though whether that means for this quick series or not is a bit unclear.
Teoscar Hernández test positive for COVID last week and is on the COVID list. He doesn’t currently have symptoms, so his return is also upcoming with no real specifics.
Kirby Yates was another big addition from the winter, but underwent Tommy John surgery late in spring and will miss the entire season.
Nate Pearson could be a wildcard for this rotation, but the top prospect has trouble staying healthy and is currently coming back from a groin injury and is in the process of building back up.
Ross Stripling went down with a forearm issue last week that ultimately resulted in Anthony Kay joining the rotation. Stripling’s timeline is unclear.
Jordan Romano filled in as the closer, but he should be able to return soon after this series after a minor arm issue.
Julian Merryweather is another closer candidate on this Yate-less roster, but he too is dealing with a minor injury, his being with the oblique.
Thomas Hatch is out of commission right now with an elbow issue that started bothering him in spring.
Tyler Chatwood went down with a triceps injury earlier in the month and his timeline for return is still unclear.
Patrick Murphy is down with a shoulder injury that has him on the 60-day injured list and could keep him out for the entire season.
It should be a nice night at Fenway for the series opener on Tuesday with partially clear skies and weather in the low 60s to start the night. Wednesday, though, will be a little spottier with some rain in the forecast around game time.
A big thank you to FanGraphs, and particularly their Roster Resource tool, as well as Baseball Savant for research.