Dunedin, FL - FEB 22: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (27) poses during the Toronto Blue Jays spring training Photo Day on February 22, 2019, at the Dunedin Stadium in Dunedin, FL. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Among all of the teams the New York Yankees faced in 2018, they fared the best against the Toronto Blue Jays, going 13-6. The Blue Jays are a team in transition, slowly weaning themselves off their 2015 core and rebuilding on the fly. Most recently jettisoned were Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki. Their system does boast some interesting options among the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Danny Jansen, Cavan Biggio, and Sean Reid-Foley.
On the current squad, Toronto will likely hope for some bounce back candidates to use as trade chips in further accelerating their rebuild in the farm system.
The Blue Jays may very well decide a pennant race after trading seven players who wound up on other teams which made the postseason last year. One could see Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Kendrys Morales, Kevin Pillar, Randal Grichuk and Justin Smoak among those being shopped as the season progresses.
Charlie Montoyo is a baseball lifer and takes over for John Gibbons. Toronto hopes his experience working with young players will speed up the development process. Montoyo’s staff will include coaches from multiple outside organizations too.
With Martin out of the picture, Jansen is the projected starter behind the plate. Last season Jansen sported a .779 OPS in 2018. Luke Maile and Reese McGuire will also figure into the mix.
Perhaps the most intriguing, the Blue Jays will possess a great deal of thump once Guerrero is summoned from Triple-A Buffalo. Smoak was tied for the club lead with 25 bombs at first base last season but fared better against righties than lefties, a flip from 2017. Former Yankee Brandon Drury will hope to have a healthier start to his season in Toronto this year, getting the nod at the hot corner before Guerrero comes up.
Rowdy Tellez is another young option at first if Smoak gets shopped.
Morales also figures to give Toronto pop but mostly at DH.
The Blue Jays have a lot of flexibility here, even with Devon Travis recovering from knee surgery. Drury will likely shift to second base by May. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. looks to build off a solid rookie campaign and has impressed again this spring. Gurriel and his .755 OPS will see his fair share of shortstop, even though he’s projected to start at second base. Freddy Galvis provides a solid glove at shortstop.
Grichuk, Pillar, and Teoscar Hernandez give the Blue Jays a feast or famine outfield. Grichuk tied for the club lead with 25 homers. Pillar still provides solid defense. Hernandez provided some pop and exit velocity with 22 homers and seven triples. Former Yankee Billy McKinney will figure into the mix and hope to stick with an organization after recording a .780 OPS in 38 games with the Blue Jays.
Stroman appeared to be a star on the rise but struggled to harken back to that level last season. He still has the highest ceiling of any Jays starter. Sanchez boasted a solid spin rate but like Stroman, is still trying to get back to his breakout 2016 form. Former heralded prospects and frustrating starters Matt Shoemaker and Clayton Richard search for a new lease on life in Toronto. Speaking of flummoxing, hypochondriac Clay Buchholz is also in the mix. Reid-Foley showed some flashes last year. Ryan Borucki is also in the mix at the back end.
Ken Giles appeared to settle down after punching himself in the face in Houston last year. Giles held batters to a .234 average with Toronto. Ryan Tepera, Bud Norris and David Phelps are all either dealing with arm issues or are recovering from injury. Tim Mayza offered a nice lefty option last season with 40 K’s in 35.2 frames. Joe Biagini, David Paulino, Sam Gaviglio and Elvis Luciano also figure into the mix.
Coming off a 73-89 campaign, figure on the Blue Jays being in the neighborhood of 70 wins. As mentioned above there’s a decent amount of bounce back candidates but can they be consistent? Pitching is thin but they at least have a strategy where building their lineup is concerned. Competitive but not a contender.