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2018 MLB preview: Toronto Blue Jays

2018 Toronto Blue Jays preview

2017: 76-86 (fourth place in AL East)

Last postseason appearance: 2016

Last World Series title: 1993

2017 Recap

In 2016, the Blue Jays reached the ALCS for the second year in a row. After falling short to the Cleveland Indians, Toronto looked to continue to improve going into 2017. Unfortunately for The 6, things did not go as planned. They started the season 8-17, and May was their only month of winning baseball. Against division rivals, Baltimore and Boston, the Jays went 13-25.

Quite frankly, Toronto struggled both on the mound and at the plate. Among the 15 AL teams, Toronto finished eighth in earned runs, 11th in hits allowed and 12th in walks allowed. At the dish, the Blue Jays were last in batting average, last in runs, 13th in slugging percentage, and 14th in OPS.

2018 Toronto Blue Jays preview
Stro Show (Photo from WhatProsWear)

Although the season was a total disaster, there were some bright spots. Justin Smoak hit 38 home runs, which was tied for the eighth most in the MLB. Smoak, along with Roberto Osuna, were named All-Stars.

Marcus Stroman, one of the best young pitchers in the game, had a phenomenal season. The former Duke stud started his 2017 season by winning World Baseball Classic MVP. He then went on to have the eighth highest WAR for pitchers, finished ninth in ERA and won his first Gold Glove Award.

Josh Donaldson, who missed time because of a calf injury, finished with 4.8 WAR and was seventh in at bats per home runs. His 33 home runs in just 113 games ranked second on the team, just ahead of Kendrys Morales, who finished with 28 long balls.

On the flip side, lack of performing was the main reason as to why Toronto missed the postseason for the first time since 2014. Jose Bautista, who had been the face of Toronto for many years, hit just .203 and had an OBP of .308. Bautista finished with a -1.7 WAR and struck out 24.8 percent of the time. He is now a free agent, and Toronto did pick up his mutual option for 2018.

His former teammates, Russell Martin, Darwin Barney and Ryan Goins, all hit under .240. Five-time All-Star shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki, played just 66 games due to hamstring and ankle injuries.

Marco Estrada, who was an All-Star in 2016, finished tied for 10th in both home runs allowed and walks given up. Estrada’s 4.98 ERA was the highest since becoming a full-time starter in the show. Aaron Sanchez was on the disabled list on four different occasions and pitched in just eight games.

2018: Around the Diamond

Toronto will have a new look, especially in the outfield for 2018. Curtis Granderson will play left field after signing a one-year, $5 million deal. Last season, between the Mets and Dodgers, the 36-year-old hit 26 home runs. To avoid Granderson facing too many lefties, the Blue Jays also have Steve Pearce, Ezequiel Carrera and Teoscar Hernandez to split time with him. Kevin Pillar, who finished ninth in defensive WAR, will continue to man centerfield.

Also new to the outfield is Randal Grichuk. Grichuk was traded from to the Cardinals for pitcher Dominic Leone and minor-league pitcher Conner Greene. Grichuk, who realized he was the odd man out once the Cards signed Marcell Ozuna, hit 22 home runs and 25 doubles in 122 games last season. Look for the 26-year-old to play a vital part in the Blue Jays’ comebacks season.

2018 Toronto Blue Jays preview
Will the former AL MVP get traded mid-season? (Photo from Bleacher Report)

Russell Martin, despite a horrific 2017, will be behind the plate with Luke Maile serving as his backup. Justin Smoak, who started for the AL in the All-Star game, will remain at first. To give the middle-infield some depth, Toronto went out and got Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte. Last season, Solarte hit 18 home runs with San Diego, while Diaz lost his starting role with St. Louis and spent some time in the minors before injuring his hamstring. Solarte will battle with Devon Travis, who continues to rehab his knee, for the starting spot at second.

Toronto badly needs Troy Tulowitzki to somehow become the player he was with Colorado. Tulowitzki is owed $20 million in 2018 and 2019.

Speaking of money, Josh Donaldson broke the record for the highest salary among players who are eligible for arbitration, after reaching a one-year deal worth $23 million. Donaldson, who has been amidst some trade rumors, will be a free agent after this season. Kendrys Morales, who hit into the sixth most double plays last year, will remain the starting DH.

On the Bump

Marcus Stroman is the clear ace, but you could juggle around the next three arms. J.A. Happ had a solid season in 2017, winning 10 games with a 3.53 ERA. Aaron Sanchez, who was absolutely tremendous in 2016 (15-2 3.00 ERA), could be something special if he remains healthy. Sanchez is hopeful his blister problems will remain in the past. Marco Estrada needs to return to his 2016 self, and Joe Biagini, who was dreadful last year, looks to open the season as the fifth starter. We will see how long that lasts.

While Roberto Osuna finished with the fourth most saves in 2017, he also led the league with 10 blown saves. The 22-year-old will continue to grow and improve as the closer. Ryan Tepera, Danny Barnes and Aaron Loup will need to continue to pitch well if Toronto hopes to get back to the postseason.

The Future

Although they are young, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette are two of the best prospects in baseball. To say baseball is in their blood would be an understatement. Guerrero Jr.’s dad, Vladimir Guerrero, was just elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and Bo’s dad, Dante, hit 274 career home runs in the show.

2018 Toronto Blue Jays preview
THE FUTURE IN THE 6IX (Photo from Bluebird Banter)

Guerrero Jr., who is just 18 years old, hit .323 with an OBP of .425 between A and A+. He has power to all fields and has an incredible eye, as he walked 76 times to just 62 strikeouts. Guerrero Jr. will be a future All-Star who hits in the middle of the order.

Bichette’s stock soared up the charts as he tore up Rookie and A ball. From 2016-17, in 132 games between Rookie, A, and A+ ball, Bichette has hit .372, with 18 home runs and 110 RBIs. He turns 20 in March.

Let’s not forget about Anthony Alford, who made his major league debut last year. Alford suffered a broken hamate bone and missed a lot of time, but in 77 minor league games, Alford hit .299 and stole 19 bases. Alford, who originally committed to Southern Mississippi to play football, is a raw athlete who has great bat speed.

2018 Prediction: 82-80

Marcus Stroman will make a case for AL Cy Young. Aaron Sanchez, if healthy, will return to his 2016 self. Donaldson will get his average back up and continue to rake. Don’t sleep on Grichuk either. Osuna won’t blow 10 saves again. However, they are the third best team in the AL East will fall just short of the playoffs.

Featured image from 620 CKRM

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