Toronto Blue Jays 2019 season preview

Teoscar Hernandez

             The Toronto Blue Jays failed to finish over .500 for a second consecutive season in 2018. Their run to the ALCS in 2015 and 2016 didn\’t work out, and they never won 90 games in a season. In October 2015, six Blue Jays players and manager John Gibbons were on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Now, all seven are gone. Those players were David Price, Troy Tulowitzki, Rusell Martin, Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista. Now in a youth movement, the Blue Jays are hoping for exciting young talent to sell tickets. It helps having baseball\’s top prospect.

               Offseason additions: RHP Clay Buchholz, RHP Matt Shoemaker, INF Freddy Galvis, LHP Clayton Richard, RHP Daniel Hudson, RHP Bud Norris, INF Eric Sogard

               Offseason subtractions: C Russell Martin, INF Aledmys Diaz, INF Yangervis Solarte, RHP Marco Estrada, RHP Tyler Clippard

Both Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, the top two Toronto starters, were hampered by injuries and finished with just over 100 innings pitched and ERAs around or above 5.00. Stroman was lights out in 2017, with a 3.09 ERA in 201 innings, but rebounded with a 5.54 ERA in 102.1 innings. Sanchez, the AL\’s ERA champion in 2016, has made just 28 starts combined since. Matt Shoemaker and Clayton Richard will start the season in the rotation. Both pitched for California teams in 2018. Ryan Borucki impressed as a 24 year old rookie. An elbow injury will have him miss a start or two, but not enough to keep him off the projected lineup. Also in their projected rotation is Clay Buchholz. Buchholz had a 2.01 ERA in 98 innings for Arizona last season. He won\’t start the season with the team, as he signed late in Spring Training. But, he will be called up shortly. Borucki being healthy and Buchholz being called up could kick Richard out of the rotation.

Ken Giles had an ERA over four, but was perfect in 14 save chances after a trade from Houston. Giles has a lot of potential. The good news is that Joe Biagini pitched in 72 innings. The bad news is that he had a 6.00 ERA. Ryan Tepera and Bud Norris could both be out to start, but will be key bullpen parts when returning. Danny Barnes has pitched in 107 games over the last two seasons. The bullpen\’s lefty is Tim Mayza, who allowed 13 runs in 35.2 innings. Daniel Hudson, recently signed to a MLB deal, will be a part of the pen. Rule 5 pick Elvis Luciano is winning the final spot over Sam Gaviglio.

Danny Jansen, the Jays\’ top catching prospect, hit .247 with three home runs after a late big league call up. He is the starting catcher. Backing him up is Luke Maile, who is entering his third season in that role with Toronto.

The top prospect in baseball, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., will be a key part of the 2019 Jays. But, he will not start the season with the team because of service time manipulations. Brandon Drury will play third until then. Drury is a natural third baseman acquired from the Yankees last July for JA Happ. He will move to second when Vlad is called up. Freddy Galvis, who played in 162 games for the Padres at shortstop last year, is the second baseman. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., the shortstop, hit .281 with 11 home runs in 65 games. Justin Smoak is back for what will likely be his final season in Toronto. Smoak had an amazing 2017, but fell back to earth in 2018, when his batting average dropped down to .242, which would have been a career high if not for \’17, and his home run total at 25, which also would have been a career high.

Teoscar Hernandez beat out Billy McKinney for the left field job. Hernandez hit 22 home runs at age 25 in 2018. Kevin Pillar can hit 15 home runs and steal 15 bases. But, he doesn\’t walk much, which led to a .282 OBP despite a .252 batting average. Randal Grichuk hit 25 home runs in his first season north of the border. Like Smoak, he could be gone by July.

Kendrys Morales hit 21 home runs in 2018, his lowest since 2014. At age 35, Morales\’ power might not return, but I wouldn\’t bet against it. Billy McKinney lost the left field role, but will take fourth outfielder as the consolation prize. Maile is the backup catcher. Both Rowdy Tellez and Richard Urena make the team after opening eyes at the end of 2018.

LF Teoscar Hernandez
3B Brandon Drury
1B Justin Smoak
RF Randal Grichuk
DH Kendrys Morales
SS Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
C Danny Jansen
2B Freddy Galvis
CF Kevin Pillar

Marcus Stroman (R)
Aaron Sanchez (R)
Clay Buchholz (R)
Ryan Borucki (L)
Matt Shoemaker (R)

Ken Giles (R)
Ryan Tepera (R)
Joe Biagini (R)
Danny Jansen (R)
Tim Mayza (L)
Daniel Hudson (R)
Elvis Luciano (R)

C Luke Maile
OF Billy McKinney
INF Richard Urena
1B Rowdy Tellez

                     Additional Information
Ballpark: Rogers Centre
Manager: Charlie Montoyo
GM: Ross Atkins
World Series Championships: 2
2018 record: 73-89

                     Steal of the Decade
The Blue Jays that went to the ALCS in 2015 and 2016 were built around Josh Donaldson. Well, not really. But, Donaldson was their best player. Acquired before 2015, the Jays sent Franklin Barreto, Brett Lawrie, Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin to Oakland. Nolin allowed 17 runs in 29 innings for Oakland in 2015, and hasn\’t returned to the majors since. Graveman will miss 2019 with Tommy John surgery, and is now on the Cubs, but for three seasons was a decent starter for a bad A\’s team. Lawrie played one season for the A\’s, hitting 16 home runs, and Barreto is currently a young utility infielder for the team. But Donaldson won AL MVP honors in his first season, and received votes in the next two. He hit 41 home runs with a .297 batting average in 2015.

The Blue Jays will be fun to watch with Guerrero and their second best prospect, Bo Bichette, if Bichette plays in 2019. Stroman and Sanchez could have bounce back seasons, but in a strong division, the Blue Jays are better off selling this season.

Published by carterhud SI Kids Kid Reporter, Prime Time Sports Talk writer

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