MLB Spring Training has begun. I’m not sure what this year’s Toronto Blue Jays are going to look like, but the last couple seasons have both exceeded my expectations, so here’s hoping everything breaks their way again for a third straight season. In a nutshell, the starting pitching looks good, the bullpen looks bad, the offense looks okay, and the defense should be fine.
The starting pitching looks to be the real strength of this club. Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, JA Happ, Marco Estrada, and Francisco Liriano has the look of a solid, if not spectacular starting rotation that should help to keep the Jays in ball games given their diminished offensive capabilities. I’m really excited to see what Aaron Sanchez does to follow up his breakout campaign last season. I think so long as he didn’t overdue it with the workload last season he could be a legit Cy Young contender this year. Marcus Stroman is probably looking to have a bounce-back season after struggling for at least the first half of last season. If JA Happ and Marco Estrada just repeat last year’s performances that will be fine by me.
The bullpen could be the real area of concern on this team. Middle relief looks really soft right now, but I think that relief pitching is something you can rectify and build up as the season goes along. Its not where you start when you’re building a baseball team. Osuna should be great as the closer, and Biagini looks like a solid set up guy from the right side. After that things get iffy.
Offensively it won’t be the fireworks show that its been in previous years, but it should be okay with Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce taking up some of the slack left by Edwin Encarnacion’s departure. I don’t know what to expect from Jose Bautista. He’s clearly aged, and not what he was in previous years. I’m also unsure of how much production can be expected of Russell Martin behind the plate. He’s also in his mid-thirties and a catcher’s offensive production can really fall off because of how physically taxing the catcher position is. Josh Donaldson should be the best hitter in this line up by far. Its becoming obvious as I write this that the biggest problem with the Jays lineup is now age and also speed. There’s too many guys on the wrong side of thirty and that includes Melvin Upton and Troy Tulowitzki. Devon Travis could be the wild card offensively if he’s healthy. Kevin Pillar is acceptable given the defense he provides in centre field.
I think defensively they should be fine with some combination of Bautista, Pillar, Carrera, and Upton in the outfield. You can’t help but be a little concerned with Baustita as the every day right fielder at his age, and diminishing physical tools. Donaldson, Tulowitzki, Travis, and Smoak/Morales in the infield should be good, along with Russell Martin at catcher.
If the Blue Jays want to contend this season the pitching and defense will have to carry them. I’m not convinced that the offense will be a consistent threat. Maybe that’s something that folks like Ben Cherington, Steve Sanders, etc. were brought in to help rectify. If the Jays want to remain a contender, the line up needs to get younger, faster and more athletic.