The Toronto Blue Jays will be an interesting story, like many other teams, in 2018. They could fight for a WildCard spot with teams like the Angels and Twins but it’s unlikely they compete for a AL East crown. They have some starters with very high ceilings that could shut down some of the big bats in the AL like Stroman, Estrada, and Sanchez. They also have lefty vets in Happ and Garcia who should throw 150+ innings if healthy. In their lineup, it would be crazy to say that they have a great line but one thing is for sure: it’s steady. All throughout the order they have guys who can find ways to get on and a few guys who can hit 35 homeruns. They don’t have any real clinkers like some teams have and that’s why they could find themselves in a good spot come October.
Yangervis Solarte, IF
Curtis Granderson, OF
Randal Grichuk, OF
Tyler Clippard, RHP
Jaime Garcia, LHP
Jose Bautista, OF
Joe Smith, RHP
Why they can win: The Jays are better than people think. They kind of remind me of the Mets in that they have a good staff, a good pen, a few big bats and then a few productive batters that people forget about. This seems like it could be a breakout year for all three of their righty starters and if it is, it’s not crazy to think they could fight for a wildcard at all. They have two big time homerun threats in the middle and secondary power in Grichuk and Granderson. I like Devon Travis when he’s healthy and think they can feed off of a few of the bad AL teams that they play and win a good amount of games. They feed off the Rogers Centre a lot in the dog days too which helps a lot.
Why they can lose: Maybe they just don’t have what it takes. Maybe some of their bats go to sleep this year. Maybe Smoak can’t duplicate and Donaldson and Granderson show serious signs of regression. Grichuk is a bounce back type guy with a lot of talent but what if he doesn’t pan out? I think their pitching will be solid on the front end but you never know with bullpens and they can ruin seasons and keep you out of Fall Baseball
Bottom Line: The Jays are in that third tier of AL teams. It seems like it goes:
•Yanks, Astros, Indians, Sox
•Jays, Mariners, Rangers
But there is room to jump and if everything goes the way that they hope, they can jump into that second tier and battle down the stretch. This feels like a team that is hanging on and could lose close to 90 but it also feels like a team that could make a run if he right guys have good seasons and they win 88. To us, they feel somewhere in the middle and just miss out on playoffs at 82-86 wins.
Major4 Numbers Game:
Stud: Josh Donaldson, 3B
The Bringer of Rain posted his worst WAR in 5 seasons, at a measly 5.0. Oh wait, that’s still unbelievable and he did it in only 496 PA. Donaldson hit 33 jacks with an elite 15.3 BB% which offset his increasing K%. He is a very disciplined hitter who waits for his pitch and when he connects it is with authority (91.7 avg exit velo, 12.8 launch angle). His ISO was a career high .289 (7th in MLB), as was his fly ball rate (42%). He is one of the poster boys for the launch revolution and is one of the most effective at executing this game plan. The only drawback in his outstanding 2017 was his regression in the field as his advanced metrics were down to slightly above average at the hot corner (3 DRS, -1.1 UZR/150). This may have been due to his LBI that he suffered in the spring last season. In his walk year, expect Donaldson to breeze past 6 WAR. Hot Take: Donaldson reaches 7 WAR and is a top 5 finalist for the AL MVP.
Sinkhole: Bullpen after Osuna
Osuna is freaking awesome, but the Jays may struggle to get the ball from their starters to his hands. Here is the list of relievers on the Jays roster behind Osuna: Axford, Oh, Tepera, Loup, Barnes, and Clippard. That’s a list of players that cause a lot of blank stares and “weren’t they good in 2012” reactions. Axford posted a 5.73 FIP and 15.6 BB% in 2017, that’s bad. Oh regressed in terms of K% (11 points), his FIP doubled (4.42), and lost his closer job in St. Louis. Tepera had a solid 2017 with a 25.7 K% and 3.75 FIP, but his command issues rear its’ ugly head as his walks nearly 10% of batters. Loup is a limited lefty-lefty specialist who walks too many for the position (11%) and struggles when facing opposite batters (4.79 FIP). Barnes BABIP (.222) looks unsustainable given his mediocre stuff, and outperformed his advanced metrics by over a run (3.55 ERA, 4.58 FIP). Lastly, Clippard is losing his control with age (11.7 BB%) and hasn’t been a back end option in the bullpen since 2014 (4.00+ FIP in each of the last three seasons. Their staff looks serviceable and their closer is elite, but what could keep the Jays from contending for a playoff spot is a below-average bullpen.
Regression Candidate: Justin Smoak, 1B
Wow, what a breakout season for Smoak. He always had a patient eye and extreme raw power, but it never played up in a game. He finally took advantage of regular at bats and become an All-Star on the support of 38 HRs, 134 wRC+ and 3.4 WAR. This can be attributed to being more selective at the plate (K% cut by 11 points), and his O-Swing by 4 points to a career low 25.8%. The reason for his regression is due to his break out coming at 31 years old. There is always reason to be skeptical for a guy who breaks out this late in his career. Also, his second half is cause for concern as his batting average was down over 50 points, and he hit 8 less HRs. His 118 wRC+ was still very solid, but was slashed significantly. Pitchers may have caught up to the change in Smoak’s approach at the plate. His contract (2/$8.1M) will still be a bargain but expect him to produce a WAR in the low 2s.
Impact Acquisition: Randal Grichuk, RF
Grichuck was one of many under-the-radar moves the Jay’s made this offseason to upgrade the depth of the team, as injuries were a huge contributor in the Jays 76 win season. Grichuk comes to the Jays as a post-hype break out candidate due to his enormous raw power. He has massive swing and miss flaws in his game (30.1 K%) and a lack of patience (5.9 BB%), but has hit the ball hard (40.2 hard hit rate) and for home runs (22 in 442 PA). At 26, he is entering his prime, and having the tutelage of two post-hype breakout players in the lineup with him (Smoak and Donaldson) there is reason to believe he can be a 3+ WAR player like he was in 2015. There is also cause to believe in his defense (6 DRS, 8.8 UZR/150) will be a massive upgrade over the horrendous RF defense Jays fan had to endure in Jose Bautista’s last season.
Major4 Prospects, (Top 100):
Vlad Guerrero Jr., 3B (3)
Bo Bichette, SS (13)
Anthony Alford, OF (47)
Nate Pearson, RHP
Why We Love Them: Sweet Mother of Jesus, cannot wait until Vlad Jr and Bichette are up. Two of the funnest, legacy prospects we’ve seen in a while. The Rogers Centre buzzes and its always fun to see the Jays good and give the Sox and Yanks a run for their money. Thank god they went back to the old jerseys and last and most important, RIP to one of the greatest pitchers of the generation, Roy Halladay.