Toronto Blue Jays Season Preview 2020

Blue Jays season preview
Spread the love

For a team that finished with the fifth-worst record in MLB in 2019, the Toronto Blue Jays have a lot of excitement around the team in 2020. 2019 was a season to transition into the future for Toronto. A Blue Jays season preview for 2020 should show more development with a glimmer of hope to contend.

Young Players

Any Blue Jays season preview has to mention the crop of exciting young talent that the team has stockpiled. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. arrived with massive expectations, but ultimately fell flat in his rookie year. He hit 15 home runs and had a 106 OPS+ in 514 plate appearances, but he showed what he is capable of in his runner-up performance at the Home Run Derby.

The team announced that he will be shifting from third base to first base/designated hitter in 2020. This move will help him focus more on being the offensive force that scouts pegged him to be.

Two young stars that played well for the team in 2019 were shortstop Bo Bichette and second baseman Cavan Biggio. Bichette played in about one-third as many games as Guerrero did, but he only hit four less home runs and eight less doubles while posting a 144 OPS+ in the small sample. Biggio brings defensive versatility, also playing first base and right field in 2019. In 100 games, his offensive numbers were not as great as Bichette’s, but his .364 on-base percentage is worth taking note. Both players should continue to develop in 2020, despite the 60-game schedule.

Because of the nature of this abbreviated season, Blue Jays fans may also get to see their first-round pick from the 2020 draft, Austin Martin. After the team agreed to a franchise-record signing bonus for the product of Vanderbilt University, they added him to their pool of players for the season.

Additionally, it feels inevitable that pitcher Nate Pearson, the team’s top-prospect, will debut at some point in these 60 games. His 80-grade fastball — one that has touched 102 mph — and his 60-grade slider give fans a justified sense of excitement. Another young pitching prospect that should see some time is Anthony Kay. Kay pitched 14 innings in 2019 and is their tenth-best prospect.

Offseason Additions

While the Blue Jays core primarily focuses on position players, they used the offseason to bolster their pitching staff. The team posted a 4.79 collective ERA in 2019, which ranked eighth in the AL and 21st in MLB.

Their biggest addition comes in the right arm of Hyun-Jin Ryu, the runner-up in the NL Cy Young award voting. Ryu is coming off a career year in which he led the league with a 2.32 ERA, 179 ERA+, and 1.2 BB/9 while earning his first All-Star selection.

Ryu is the headline signing, but they made other moves to bolster the depth and quality of their rotation. Tanner Roark has a good career-track record. Although his top-ten finish in the Cy Young award voting in 2016 has proven to be an outlier year for him, he is capable of being an average starting pitcher that can be relied upon for depth in the rotation.

Other pitching additions include Chase Anderson, Anthony Bass, and Shun Yamaguchi. Anderson, acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers, is another depth piece for the rotation with a career 3.94 ERA and 1.261 WHIP. Bass was claimed off waivers from the Seattle Mariners, and his fastball reaches 95 mph although he struggles to control it as evident by his career 4.38 ERA and 1.93 K/BB. Yamaguchi, 32, comes over from Japan, where he pitched 14 professional seasons as a starter and reliever.

Aside from pitching, the Blue Jays also signed a bevy of players to minor league contracts. The only position player they signed to an MLB contract is Travis Shaw, whom they signed for one year with the hopes he can rediscover his 30-home-run power and replace Justin Smoak in the lineup.

Other Contributors

Aside from the pitching moves and young core, the Blue Jays have a lot to look forward to on the rest of their roster. Outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. put together an overall impressive 2019 season albeit in 84 games. He slugged .541 with 20 home runs and a 127 OPS+.

Despite trade speculation, closer Ken Giles is still on the team. Giles pitched in 53 games in 2019, posting a 1.87 ERA and 23 saves, one of the best years in his career. If the Blue Jays are not in contention come the August 31st deadline, Giles will likely be dealt.

Outfielder Randal Grichuk struggles to get on base, but he plays well defensively. In six seasons, he has recorded 13 defensive runs saved in the outfield, including two as a center fielder in 2019.

Catcher Danny Jansen is a former top-five prospect for the organization. Although his offense, a .215/.293/.374 slash line in 138 career games, has not translated to MLB, his defense has. In 2019, he posted 12 defensive runs saved for the Blue Jays.

The 2020 Toronto Blue Jays will be one of the more interesting teams to follow. The team is one year removed from a 95-loss season. However, a lot of their projected young core has already debuted with more talent coming.

This will ultimately be a development year for the team, but if the development goes well, coupled with their moves to improve the pitching staff, they could find themselves a dark horse contender for an AL Wild Card.

Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images