Dangerous Toronto Blue Jays: The Toronto Blue Jays surprised everyone last season, making the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
Yes, the days of a monster power lineup consisting of Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion are gone. But the team that President Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins are bringing out in 2021 ain’t a joke.
This Jays roster is young and upcoming with the likes of Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and of course, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. For Guerrero Jr, this could be his breakout year.
In his rookie season, the then 20-year-old Dominican batted .272/.339/.433 in 123 games for an OPS+ of 106 (100 is league average.
Last season, Guerrero Jr. bumped up his OPS+ to 115, although his lack of home runs were a bit disappointing. This offseason, Vlad has slimmed down, losing nearly 50 pounds.
He’s going to be faster and stronger in 2021, and I expect this to be the season we’ve all expected from the touted prospect.
In the offseason, Shapiro and Atkins were aggressive and showed the Yankees and Rays that they are to be feared in the AL East. Three-time All Star outfielder George Springer was signed to a monster six-year deal, and he was one one of the biggest free agents available.
Springer is still in his prime and is coming off a season where he hit for an OPS+ of 140. The Jays also added infielder Marcus Semien. Semien is coming off an off-year, but in 2019 finished third in AL MVP voting with a .285/.369/.522 slash line.
Here’s what I project the Jays batting lineup to look like:
- George Springer
- Cavan Biggio
- Bo Bichette (SS)
- Teoscar Hernandez
- Vladimir Guerrero Jr
- Marcus Semien
- Lourdes Gurriel Jr
- Rowdy Tellez / Randal Grichuk
- Danny Jansen / Alejandro Kirk
Rotation wise, the Jays have one of the best aces in the American League in Hyun Jin Ryu. Ryu is coming off an impressive debut season in Toronto, where he came third in AL Cy Young Voting behind Shane Bieber and Kenta Maeda.
Top prospect Nate Pearson got his feet wet in the big league’s last year, but this season will be expected to be his first full campaign as a starter. The 24-year-old was drafted in the first round by the Jays back in 2017.
Robbie Ray, Tanner Roark, and Steven Matz round out the rest of Toronto’s rotation. Ray has always boasted a high strikeout rate, but gave up way too many home runs in 2020. Tanner Roark was one of the worst starters last season, and needs to bounce back.
Steven Matz has been a below average starter the last few seasons, but still isn’t bad for someone as a fifth starter. Toronto’s rotation is probably considered their “weakness”, but it’s still probably a top-15 rotation. This is a team that’s gonna win with their loaded offensive lineup.
Toronto added Kirby Yates as their closer, and he’s a huge pickup for their relieving core. Yates led the league in saves with 41 in 2019 with the Padres, and finished with a 1.19 ERA in 60.2 innings pitched. Last season, Yates only made six appearances on the mound due to injury.
The Blue Jays current over/under for wins is set at 86.5 according to BetMGM. I expect this to be a team that can get to the 90-win mark. The Orioles and Red Sox are currently both a mess, and the Rays have taken a step back talent wise.
The Yankees have battled injury issues these last few seasons with superstars like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton struggling to stay on the field consistently. If New York faces the same problems in 2021, I can’t see why the young up and coming Jays can’t win the AL East for the first time since 2015.