John Lepore | February 21st, 2020
The Toronto Blue Jays have been working on a rebuild with an infield full of sons of former major leaguers including two Hall of Famers. The lineup should be solid, but where will the pitching come from? Let’s take a look at the 2020 Blue Jays.
Make sure to check out our other Team Previews here.
The Blue Jays were 67-95 last season, good for fourth place in the American League East. They finished among the bottom five in the AL in most offensive categories, except home runs where they finished fifth. They’re pitching was middle of the pack in general and will be a work in progress this year. It will be time to see if the kids can take a step forward and get the Blue Jays to at least .500.
Jansen had an extremely unlucky season last year. His .230 BABIP proves that despite having above-average batted ball metrics. He will progress as I spoke about it here. Shaw had a bad half-season last year in Milwaukee. He should get back to being a decent left-handed bat and could contribute 25-30 HRs again. Biggio came up last year and showed a glimpse of his talent. He had 16 HRs and 14 SBs in 430 PAs and also had 7 OAA at second base. His 16.5% BB rate was also impressive for a rookie. Bichette came up in 2019 and played well also batting .311 with 11 HRs and four steals in just 212 PAs. Vladdy rounds out the infield and while he may not have lived up to the ridiculous hype which preceded him, he had a solid season batting .272 with 15 HRs.
In 606 major league PAs, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has an .819 OPS with 27 doubles and 31 HRs with 82 runs and 85 RBI. He is moving to LF and should adjust given time. Hernandez and Grichuk are guys who have pop but not plate discipline. They have the ability to combine for 60 HRs but will also likely have a .310 OBP. Rowdy Tellez is a guy I love and wrote a little about him here. He could push 40 HRs and 100 RBI on this team batting cleanup.
Starting Pitching Projections
Hyun-Jin Ryu was the Jays’ big signing this off-season. While he likely won’t have the same success as he did in Los Angeles, he could definitely be their ace. Roark is consistent and an innings-eater. He has started 30+ games for four years in a row and has thrown 180+ innings in four of the past six seasons. He should be solid and give the Jays a 4.20 ERA with 31 starts and about a K per inning. Shoemaker could be a solid number three in this rotation if he returns healthy. He was 3-0 with a 1.57 ERA last year in five starts before going down in April and having knee surgery. Shoe should be ready for Opening Day. Anderson comes over from Milwaukee and should make the rotation as a consistent four or five. Yamaguchi is the wild card in this. He had a solid 2.78 ERA and struck out 194 in 181 innings last season in Japan. How he adapts will dictate if he is thrown in the bullpen or not. If so, I believe Thornton will take the final starting spot.
Giles is locked in as the closer. After struggling a bit in 2018 when he came to Toronto mid-season, Giles was locked in last year. He had 23 saves along with a 1.87 ERA and 83 Ks in just 53 innings. Font can be used as a long man or as an opener, so there is versatility there. Reid-Foley started 13 games over the past two years for the Jays and got lit up. The bullpen is the best place for him. Gaviglio is also a converted starter and was in the bullpen full-time last season. If he can avoid the long ball, he will be fine. Dolis is another wild card here after spending the last four seasons in Japan where he found some success. Romano is young but wasn’t good last year. Bass and Petricka are journeymen hoping to make the club.
Players to Watch For
Nate Pearson – The flamethrowing righty made major strides last season at three stops in the minors. He pitched a total of 101.2 innings and struck out 119. He had a 0.885 WHIP and only surrendered eight HRs helping him to a 2.30 ERA. This kid has all the makings of an ace. Pearson is 6’6 245 lbs. and can get his fastball into triple digits. His slider is a wipeout pitch and his curve and change are coming along. Given the past health issues for Shoemaker and the uncertainty for the last two spots in the rotation, do not be surprised to see Nate lighting up radar guns in the majors by May.
Anthony Kay – The crafty lefty came over from the New York Mets last year with Simeon Woods Richardson in the Marcus Stroman deal. Kay is a smart pitcher and has a solid three-pitch mix with excellent spin rates on his fastball and curve. He sits about 92-94 with the heater and his curveball has very good downward bite. After tossing 133.2 innings in the minors last year, Kay made his major league debut on September 7th. He threw 5.2 innings and struck out eight Rays while only allowing two runs. He is still a dark horse to make the rotation out of spring training, but with a good showing and some underperformance from the vets he will be competing against, Kay could crack the Opening Day roster.
The Blue Jays will score some runs. With progression and full seasons from their second-generation infield along with power from Tellez and Grichuk, the runs will come in bunches. The pitching staff leaves a lot to be desired. The rotation is a complete uncertainty with Ryu and Roark coming to the AL East, Shoemaker’s health, and the unsettled two rotation spots. Giles is the only sure thing in that bullpen as well. I can see the Jays bashing their way to 75 wins with a ceiling of 81 if Ryu and Roark adjust and Shoemaker can give them a solid season.
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