30 Teams in 30 Days - Toronto Blue Jays

When we did the Rays we forgot to give our assessment of how we did last year with our AL East predictions. They were not as good as our AL West and Central. We had picked the Yankees to win what we thought was a weak division. We also missed on the Orioles, picking them for the bottom of the Division. Myworld will no longer under estimate the Orioles. The Blue Jays were the only prediction we got right for this division. The Red Sox were picked for third. The last place Rays we picked for fourth. Despite what I thought was a weak division both wild card teams were from this division.

Overview - The Blue Jays will find it hard to replace a 40 homerun bat in the lineup. Kendry Morales was a good signing but he is no Edwin Encarnacion, to borrow on a familiar quote. The Blue Jays also need to have a resurgence in the bat of Jose Bautista, but to borrow another cliché, Father Time remains undefeated. It is possible that at 36 years of age Jose may have to deal with regular injuries. Myworld also does not see the pitching staff repeating their excellence in 2017, though we do like Aaron Sanchez. It will be hard to replace the innings of R.A. Dickey.

Strengths - You have to like the left side of their infield with Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitski. Josh has the potential to hit 40 plus homeruns and Troy can hit 30 plus. The trouble with Troy is he is injury prone and he will be 32 entering this season. If he goes down the Blue Jays do not have a lot of quality depth behind him. The catching should be solid with Russell Martin behind the plate. He had a down year average wise (.231) but he did slug 20 homeruns and the veteran catcher knows how to run a pitching staff. Speaking of pitching, the Blue Jays led the AL in ERA led by Aaron Sanchez, who is starting to come into his own with a 15-2, 3.00 ERA. The Blue Jays have put in the trash can any more thoughts of using him in relief. J.A. Happ also had a Cy Young type season (20-4, 3.18), finishing sixth in the voting. While we are confident Sanchez can repeat his numbers we are not so confident with Happ. Any downfall from Happ should be made up with a better season from Marcus Stroman (9-10, 4.37), who struggled a bit last year. Marco Estrada gives them four good starters, a luxury most good teams do not have.

Weakness - Melvin (ex-B.J.) Upton had a nice season last year, but most of that was with the Padres. He hit only .196 when he was with Toronto. The .196 numbers were more indicative of his bat the last couple years. If he doesn’t hit the Blue Jays can always call on Dalton Pompey and hope the youngster can put it together. Kevin Pillar is a stellar defensive centerfielder, but his bat is very light. If Jose Bautista does not find production this outfield could be very light. First base will be a battle between Steve Pearce and Justin Smoak. Pearce could be the missing outfield piece in left field against lefthanders if Upton does not pan out. Both players are usually better pieces used off the bench than as starters. The Blue Jays overall age also worries me, with most of their starting lineup hitting the 32-33 age range, which could result in significant disabled list visits.

Non-Roster Invitees to Make Roster - Jarod Saltalamacchia has a good chance to make it as the backup to Russell Martin. The Blue Jays only have two catchers on their 40 man roster and Jarod is probably a better choice than Juan Graterol. Gavin Floyd, Matt Latos and Brett Oberholtzer are good options in the starting rotation if injuries should occur to their regular starters during spring training.

Impact Prospects - Dalton Pompey may no longer be considered a prospect anymore but he is the best minor leaguer who has a chance to make a big impact on the major league roster in 2017. A couple years ago he was supposed to take over their starting center field job. It will be interesting to see if Lourdes Gurriel is ready for the big leagues. He is the younger brother of Yulieski and has numerous offensive tools. His glove is a question mark, but myworld feels his best fit may be in the outfield. In Cuba he made too many errors as an infielder. Rowdy Tellez hit for power last year (23 homeruns) in AA. The Blue Jays don’t really have anyone at first base to prevent him from being called up if he has another monstrous year. Reese McGuire could be a mid-season callup if injuries were to happen to Russell Martin. He was a first round pick of the Pirates in 2013 but has never reached his first round billing potential.

Prospects to Watch - The Blue Jays have a number of young players to keep an eye on. The most well known name is Vladimir Guerrero Jr, who does not have the arm of his father nor the swing at everything mentality, but he has an impact bat. He is also an infielder (third base). Richard Urena played 30 games in AA. He is the shortstop of the future for the Blue Jays. He has the defensive tools to play the position. Anthony Alford is a tooled up outfielder who spent much of his youth playing football. Now that he is focusing on baseball the Blue Jays hope to be rewarded with a power hitting outfielder. On the pitching front Sean Reid Foley is the top prospect. He does not have an overpowering fastball but he does miss bats with 11.1 strikeouts per 9 innings in the Florida State League. Conner Greene is a starter who may be the most ready to make the major league roster but a 4.19 ERA and only a 33/48 walk to whiff ratio tells myworld he needs another year in the minors. Jon Harris is their 2015 number one pick who did not put up overwhelming numbers in High A.

Expected Finish - We feel a little uncomfortable picking the Blue Jays for fourth in this division behind the Yankees. The offense will lose much of its potency while the pitching staff labors to keep runs to a minimum. That is not a recipe for success.

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