Two seasons in the playoffs is a rather short window for a team like the Toronto Blue Jays. It’s no wonder they’re trying to hold on and go for it in 2018, but can this team really compete with the Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East? It seems unlikely, but Toronto was plagued by injuries in 2017 and got off to a bad start and spiraled downhill from there. A few different breaks and it’s a much different story.
Gone from the former playoff teams are Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but Josh Donaldson is a perennial MVP candidate in the fold. The team is deeper than last season and better equipped to handle a succession of injuries after several strategic additions aimed at addressing some of the biggest gaps from the 2017 squad.
2017 Record: 76-86
2017 Moneyline Record: -17.75 Units
2017 Over/Under Total Record: 73-82-6
Current Odds To Win AL: +2049
Current Odds To Win AL East: +965
Regular Season Win Total: 81.5
The 2017 season was a bad one for the Jays. Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins did not make a good first impression for the fans north of the border.
Losing Encarnacion, the Jays brought in Kendrys Morales to replace him and got nowhere near the same production and Toronto felt it. The Blue Jays scored just 693 runs in 2017, the fewest in the AL.
Of course, the poor offensive season can hardly be put solely on the shoulders of Morales versus Encarnacion. Jose Bautista has a quick fall from grace, Troy Tulowitzki looked like a product of Coors Field—when healthy—and the list goes on.
In the end, the 2017 Toronto Blue Jays had two above average offensive performers: Josh Donaldson, who played in just 113 games due to injuries, and Justin Smoak.
Despite the abbreviated season, Donaldson still slammed 33 home runs while producing a .270/.385/.559 slash like. Smoak, meanwhile, broke out in a huge way with 38 homers and 90 RBIs. He batted .270 with a .355 OBP and 128 OPS+.
Both Donaldson and Smoak are back—and healthy—for 2018. That’s two reliable bats. From there, the Jays will also bring back Russell Martin and Kevin Pillar, both of whom can hit, but provide more on the defensive side.
While Tulowitzki and Devon Travis are back up the middle, the Jays added several infielders to the mix including Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte to insulate against another injury plagued season for the duo. Last year, the all-glove-no-hit duo of Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney got the bulk of the playing team up the middle and produced OPS+ number of 68 and 57 respectively, well below league average.
Other interesting additions to the Jays offense include Curtis Granderson and Randal Grichuk. Granderson is no longer an everyday player and may share time with Steve Pearce and Ezequiel Carerra, but certainly improves the outfield depth. Grichuk, on the other hand, is looking to regain his value after a bad season in St. Loius. A change of scenery could do him some good.
In the end, the offense still has questions outside of Donaldson, but there is much better depth to improve the chances of much better answers.
On the mound, the Jays are hopeful that their rotation can stay healthy. The Jays have one of the best rotations one through five in the division if not the league, but Aaron Sanchez started eight games last year while Jaime Garcia has a history of injuries and he, along with Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ are not getting any younger.
Marcus Stroman was the team ace in 2017 with a 3.09 ERA and 13 wins. He’s a former top prospect that has panned out. He’ll be good again. If Sanchez can throw 25-30 starts, the two form a strong, young tandem atop the rotation, leaving the trustworthy vets to fill out the last three spots. That’s not a bad plan, but the health of Sanchez is just one more question to throw onto the pile for a team needing a lot of questions to be answered positively.
The next man up for the rotation is Joe Biagini who could also be a strong answer in the bullpen. He pitched well in relief in 2016. He started 18 games in 2017 splitting time between the rotation and the pen. The Jays organization still see him as a starter, but he’s been a much better big-league pitcher in relief.
With the Garcia acquisition, Biagini can be in the pen and help bridge the gap to Roberto Osuna. Osuna is a top-end closer who pitched to a 1.74 FIP and 0.859 WHIP in 2017.
Former Cardinals closer Seung hwan Oh adds to the depth in the backend, too. This bullpen isn’t the best in the league—or even the division—but it could be solid.Overall, this is a team that could compete for a Wild Card with enough breaks going their way. That’s not a great place to be, but unlike a number of teams, there’s at least a story to be told and way for the Jays to reach October baseball.
|Baltimore Orioles||Baltimore, Maryland||Oriole Park at Camden Yards|
|Boston Red Sox||Boston, Massachusetts||Fenway Park|
|New York Yankees||New York City, New York||Yankee Stadium|
|Tampa Bay Rays||St. Petersburg, Florida||Tropicana Field|
|Toronto Blue Jays||Toronto, Ontario||Rogers Centre|
|CENTRAL||Chicago White Sox||Chicago, Illinois||Guaranteed Rate Field|
|Cleveland Indians||Cleveland, Ohio||Progressive Field|
|Detroit Tigers||Detroit, Michigan||Comerica Park|
|Kansas City Royals||Kansas City, Missouri||Kauffman Stadium|
|Minnesota Twins||Minneapolis, Minnesota||Target Field|
|WEST||Houston Astros||Houston, Texas||Minute Maid Park|
|Los Angeles Angels||Anaheim, California||Angel Stadium|
|Oakland Athletics||Oakland, California||Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum|
|Seattle Mariners||Seattle, Washington||Safeco Field|
|Texas Rangers||Arlington, Texas||Globe Life Park in Arlington|
|EAST||Atlanta Braves||Atlanta, Georgia||SunTrust Park|
|Miami Marlins||Miami, Florida||Marlins Park|
|New York Mets||New York City, New York||Citi Field|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania||Citizens Bank Park|
|Washington Nationals||Washington, D.C.||Nationals Park|
|CENTRAL||Chicago Cubs||Chicago, Illinois||Wrigley Field|
|Cincinnati Reds||Cincinnati, Ohio||Great American Ball Park|
|Milwaukee Brewers||Milwaukee, Wisconsin||Miller Park|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania||PNC Park|
|St. Louis Cardinals||St. Louis, Missouri||Busch Stadium|
|WEST||Arizona Diamondbacks||Phoenix, Arizona||Chase Field|
|Colorado Rockies||Denver, Colorado||Coors Field|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||Los Angeles, California||Dodger Stadium|
|San Diego Padres||San Diego, California||Petco Park|
|San Francisco Giants||San Francisco, California||AT&T Park|
March 29-April 1: vs New York Yankees
April 2-4: vs Chicago White Sox
April 6-8: at Texas Rangers
April 9-11: at Baltimore Orioles
April 13-15: at Cleveland Indians
April 16-18: vs Kansas City Royals
April 19-23: at New York Yankees
April 24-26: vs Boston Red Sox
April 27-29: vs Texas Rangers
April 30-May 2: at Minnesota Twins
Two series against the Yankees in April—starting on Opening Day—should be a challenge for a Blue Jays team that’s still trying to compete despite a couple powerhouse teams in their division. They’ll play the Red Sox in April, too.Aside from the AL East’s two-headed monster, the rest of the month shouldn’t be too bad for the Jays. Toronto gets to face the White Sox, Rangers twice, Orioles and Royals all with the just as many—or more—questions. The Yankees, Red Sox and Indians are the powerhouses they face early. In 2017, the Jays got off to a very slow start and never recovered, unable to reach .500 let alone push for a playoff spot. Toronto added this offseason when most of the other in-between teams sold. They went for it, so they need to prove the front office right early. That means a strong April. Without it, this team could very well be in the same position as 2017; only this team that could mean a major midseason sell off if they’re still under-.500 given the expiring contract of Josh Donaldson.
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