The Toronto Blue Jays are more profound and stronger thanks to their many additions over the winter. There’s more emphasis on defense in the outfield, more depth in the rotation, and a more balanced starting lineup. With Opening Day less than a week away, we’re getting an idea of how the roster shapes. Here’s how the Blue Jays lineup and starting rotation are projected to look on March 30 when they play against against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Blue Jays Opening Day 2023
- George Springer
- Bo Bichette, SS
- Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B
- Alejandro Kirk, C
- Daulton Varsho, LF
- Matt Chapman, 3B
- Brandon Belt, DH
- Whit Merrifield, 2B
- Kevin Kiermaier, CF
Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk make for a fantastic duo behind the plate. After Gabriel Moreno was the odd man out, Jansen and Kirk could take turns at the DH slot on their off days. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is coming off a Gold Glove campaign thanks to his excellent defence skills, especially his flexibility. He should hold down first base for 130 games or more, mixing in some DH days while Brandon Belt and Cavan Biggio cover first.
Second base will be a game of musical chairs. Santiago Espinal will likely get the start whenever the Blue Jays face a left-handed pitcher while Whit Merrifield is in the outfield for a game. This position will include some appearances from Biggio, but getting Espinal more plate appearances against southpaws will be key here. There won’t be any shortage of motivation for Matt Chapman. The 29-year-old is one of baseball’s best defensive third basemen, hitting 27 home runs with a .757 OPS in 2022.
George Springer, Kevin Kiermaier, and Daulton Varsho will man the outfield. Varsho will cover left, Keimaier at center, then Springer over in right. It’s a significant change from last season, as Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernández’s departure have shaken things up. But the outfield has improved significantly better from a defensive point of view. Depending on who Toronto sees on the mound, Biggio and Merrifield will get reps here too.
Brandon Belt should be the everyday DH, but multiple players can use the spot. He brings playoff and championship experience to a team looking to take the next step. As for the utility role, Biggio and Otto Lopez will cover that. It will be a big season for Biggio, but Lopez has done enough to earn the final spot on the roster.
- Kevin Gausman
- Alek Manoah
- Chris Bassitt
- José Berríos
- Yusei Kikuchi
The Blue Jays have an impressive starting rotation. It’s set with four quality starters capable of going 160 innings or more. Manager John Schneider has confirmed that Alek Manoah will get the ball against the St. Louis Cardinals on Opening Day. Manoah is coming off an All-Star season in which he posted a 2.24 ERA in 31 starts. He finished third in AL Cy Young Award voting.
Kevin Gausman’s first year with Toronto was impressive. His 3.35 ERA should have been lower, but he led the AL with a 2.38 FIP and 7.32 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The 32-year-old is having a great spring as he has yet to allow an earned in four appearances. José Berríos is looking to rebound from a poor 2022. Toronto will need him to show up after a dismal high 5.23 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. Chris Bassitt replaces Ross Stripling, the finishing touch to this fine rotation. Bassitt will be a reliable middle-of-the-rotation starter. Yusei Kikuchi, like Berríos, is looking to bounce back from a terrible 2022 season. Kikuchi’s impressive out this spring puts him back in the fifth rotation spot.
Jordan Romano, Erik Swanson, Yimi García, Adam Cimber, Anthony Bass, Tim Mayza, Trevor Richards, Nate Pearson
The Blue Jays Opening Day bullpen has familiar faces, but it’s a crew with depth, more than last season. Adding Erik Swanson from the Seattle Mariners will add swing-and-miss type pitches Toronto desperately needs. He will be inserted into a crucial setup role prior to Jordan Romano. Chad Green could return from Tommy John surgery for the stretch run too. Mitch White was slated to get the long-man role, but his shoulder injury keeps him out until the end of April.
One of Zach Thompson, Trent Thornton, or Canadian Zach Pop remains in the picture to earn a bullpen spot. But so does Nate Pearson.
Altogether, the decisions of the roster for Opening Day will rely on need in the first series rather than a long-term solution.
Photo Credit: © John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
George Springer, Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Alejandro Kirk, Daulton Varsho, Matt Chapman, Brandon Belt, Whit Merrifield, Kevin Kiermaier, Danny Jansen, Gabriel Moreno, Cavan Biggio, Santiago Espinal, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Teoscar Hernández, Otto Lopez, Kevin Gausman, Alek Manoah, Chris Bassitt, José Berríos, Yusei Kikuchi, John Schneider, Ross Stripling, Jordan Romano, Erik Swanson, Yimi García, Adam Cimber, Anthony Bass, Tim Mayza, Trevor Richards, Nate Pearson, Chad Green, Zach Pop, Zach Thompson, Trent Thornton, Mitch White