2016 Toronto Blue Jays Season Preview

Courtesy of Chris Young from Canadian Press

Courtesy of Chris Young from Canadian Press

2015 Season Record:

Season Record: 83-79 (3rd in the American East)

Key Additions:

Drew Storen, RHP (Trade, Washington Nationals)

J.A. Happ, LHP (Free Agent, Seattle Mariners/Pittsburgh Pirates)

Jesse Chavez, RHP (Trade, Oakland Athletics)

Pat Venditte, Switch Pitcher (Waivers, Oakland Athletics)

Darrell Cecilanni, OF (Trade, New York Mets)

Junior Lake (Waivers, Baltimore Orioles)

Domonic Brown, OF (Free Agent, Philadelphia Phillies)

Key Subtractions:

David Price (Free Agent, Boston Red Sox)

Ben Revere (Trade, Washington Nationals)

Mark Buehrle, LHP (Free Agent)

Mark Lowe, RHP (Free Agent, Detroit Tigers)

Liam Hendirks (Trade, Oakland Athletics)

Season Preview:

For the first time in twenty-two years, the Toronto Blue Jays ended MLB’s longest playoff drought by claiming the American League East Title last season. Heading into the 2016 season, the Blue Jays will have their mindset to defend their title and hope to make a trip to the world series to the Six.

Blue Jays fans should celebrate about their favourite team’s success. However, it was an offseason full of more questions than excitement. The front office made a significant change when Mark Shapiro took over as their new team president and CEO to replace Paul Beeston. It seems that the regime of Shapiro took a hit on the 2015 Executive of the Year and former general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who surprising left the organization to led the Analytic Department for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Anthopoulos expressed concerns about the management under under Shapiro and doesn’t it was a right “fit” for him. Tony LaCava managed to bring back Marco Estrada on a two year contract worth $26 million, while bringing back former faces by signed lefty, J.A. Happ on a three-year deal and trading Liam Hendriks to the Oakland Athletics for versatile righty Jesse Chavez. Even though the Blue Jays adding a lot of arms for their pitching, the team will be burden by the loss of David Price, who signed a massive seven-year deal with the AL East rivals, Boston Red Sox.

Shapiro finally found their new general manager by hiring Ross Atkins last December. Atkins managed to improved the bullpen by acquiring reliable reliever Drew Storen from the Washington Nationals for Ben Revere. Atkins was able to add depth for the pitching and outfielders with Gavin Floyd, Pat Venditte, Darrel Cecilianni and Franklin Morales. With Anthopoulos gone, Atkins will face some challenges to try to keep the core together as sluggers Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Cecil are set to become free agents after this season. With Anthopoulos’ department, Atkins will have big shoes to fill up.

Starting Pitching:

The Cinderella story of Marcus Stroman was truly remarkable last season. The twenty-five youngster was projected to 2015 opening day starter until a freaky accident happened in spring training. Stroman suffered a torn ACL in his left knee and spend most of the season rehabbing and finishing his Sociology degree at Duke University. Stroman managed to do the unthinkable by making his unexpected return in September 2015. Stroman made four starts with a 1.67 ERA over 27 innings and made three playoffs appearances. With Price gone, Stroman is set to take over as their new ace and hope to pitch a full season for the first time of his career. Estrada enjoyed a career year during his first season with a Blue Jays, logging a career-high 181.1 innings and a 3.13 ERA. With Estrada back for another two years, the Blue Jays are hoping that he can repeat his breakout season. R.A. Dickey has always been reliable to pitch more than 200 innings. J.A. Happ returns to the Blue Jays after having an unusual season with the Blue Jays. The 33-year old lefty was mediocre during the first half of last season with the Seattle Mariners with a 4.64 ERA. However, he was dominant during the second half with the Pittsburgh Pirates with a 1.85 ERA. Aaron Sanchez will fill out the fifth spot of the rotation. The twenty-three year old hard-throwing righty will be monitor with his workload. It will not be surprising to see Sanchez back in the bullpen later this season. Drew Hutchison had a terrible season with a 5.57 ERA. With a trip back to Buffalo, Hutchison will look to bounce back by working on his command and refine his pitches. If injuries occur, Hutchinson will be the first guy to get the call. Look for Floyd and Chavez to get some starts.

Bullpen:

Roberto Osuna had an outstanding season. Never pitched higher than High A before, the 20-year old righty has been the Blue Jays’ most reliable reliever. Since he became the closer last June, Osuna finished the season with 2.58 ERA and 20 saves. Newly acquired Drew Storen had some closing experience throughout his career with the Washington Nationals with a 3.02 ERA and 96 saves. Brett Cecil is a really good lefty to have out of the pen, posting a 2.48 ERA (which is a career low). With Osuna, Storen and Cecil, the Jays will be looking to create a Kansas City Royals model. Chavez and Floyd will both be rely on to eat up multiple innings if the starters can’t go deep in ball games. Aaron Loup and Franklin Morales are both lefty specialists. Look for Joe Biagani, Ryan Tepera and Pat Venditte to make some appearances as well.

Catchers:

Russell Martin enjoyed a very productive season with the Blue Jays. After signing a 5-year deal, the Canadian native had a career high 23 homers, while displaying great defense and excellent pitch framing. With Dioner Navarro gone to the Chicago White Sox, Josh Thole will likely be serve as the backup catcher and be a personal catcher for R.A. Dickey to take pressure off of Martin’s workload. Tony Sanchez and Humberto Quintero were both signed to minor league deals to add depth. Blue Jays are taking a gamble by claiming Jesus Montero , who didn’t live up his potential with Seattle.

1st Basemen:

Chris Colabello came out of nowhere when he was swinging a hot bat. The 33-year old hit a career high .321 batting average and 15 home runs. Colabello was their starting first basemen during the postseason. His bat will be huge for this power potent lineup. Justin Smoak was a decent pickup last season when he display solid defence and power with 16 home runs. With Colabello’s bat and Smoak’s defence, the Blue Jays have a solid duo platooning at first.

2nd Basemen:

With Devon Travis still recovering from offseason shoulder injury, Ryan Goins will look to take over as their everyday 2nd baseman. Goins has always been a great defensive player, but he improved his plate discipline and bat when he bumped his average from .188 to .250. Travis was on pace to have an outstanding rookie season. However, a shoulder injury made Travis to miss almost half of the season. Darwin Barney provide a great glove to be a solid backup.

3rd Baseman:

Josh Donaldson was a prize possession during the 2015 offseason. The reigning AL MVP had a monsterous year. Hitting career highs with 41 home runs, 123 RBIs and 122 runs scored. Donaldson has the 2nd highest WAR at 8.8 (behind Mike Trout). Donaldson also a great defender with a strong arm and excellent range. With is high motor and competitive drive, Donaldson had become the team’ leader and is hungry to carry his team to the next level.

Shortstop: 

Troy Tulowitzki is the only player from Anthopoulos trade deadline remaining with the team. The longtime Colorado Rockie was shocked when he heard was traded to the north of the border. Tulo only hit .239 in 41 games with his new team, but his presence was a huge difference during the 2nd half of the last season. There are always been questions about his health as he missed some time due to a broken shoulder blade. Now that Tulo is entering his first full season with the Blue Jays, his bat and glove will be a huge difference for the Jays as long he can stay healthy. Goins has the ability to play short when Tulo need some time off the astro turf.

Outfield:

Jose Bautista had another monsterous season with 40 home runs, 114 RBs and 110 walks. With Baustista’s contract expire after this season, he’ll be looking to have another great season so he can have a huge pay day. Kevin Pillar is superman in the outfield, showing some of the highlight reel plays. He also manage to hit 12 home runs and 27 stolen bases. With Revere gone, Pillar could look to take over as the team’s new leadoff hitter. Michael Saunders will look to rebound after missing most of last season with a knee injury. Dalton Pompey has the potential to be a impact player. Just need a little more seasoning in the minors to develop his hitting and defence. The Jays have a lot of depth in the outfield with Ezequiel Carerea, Junior Lake, Domonic Brown and Darin Cecilanni.

Designated Hitter:

Edwin Encarnacion had another monster year with 39 home runs and 110 RBIs. Like Bautista, Encarnacion is also a free agent after this season. He was serve as a DH for 85 games and will likely stick to that position with Smoak and Colabello platooning at first base. With the Blue Jays playing on astro turf, look for Bautista and Tulowitzki to share some time as DH.

Management:

John Gibbons has prove doubters wrong when he led his team to win their first AL East Title. But with a new front office, Gibbons will be monitor has his contract was restructured to have a higher salary, but void his option for 2018. This may indicated that Gibby could be on the hot seat if the Blue Jays struggle over the next two year.

Summary:

There’s no questions that the Blue Jays can score a lot of runs. In fact, it is quite possible that they could score over 900 runs after scoring 891 runs last season. The bullpen should improve with the addition of Storen as well. In order for the Jays to repeat their title, their starting rotation need to be at least average to keep their power potent offence going. Stroman and Sanchez need to pitch like aces and Estrada can not regress after a breakout season last year.

This team should be a playoff team. Will they be good enough to win the World Series? The AL East division is really tight. As long they can score runs, this team should be able to play more meaningful games in October.

Final Prediction: 90-72 (First in AL East)

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