How do the 2016 Blue Jays compare to the 2015 team?

By: Jay Blue

Canadian Baseball Network

2015 was a magical year for Blue Jays fans. It was marked by an unprecedented run down the stretch that followed the acquisition of a ton of big league talent (at a high price) at the trade deadline. The Jays won the division, won a playoff round and several iconic moments burned themselves into the fanbase's collective memory. Yes, the fans came back and Rogers Centre (née Skydome) was packed and loud.

The 2015 season has brought about a real shift in the mindset of Blue Jays fans. We were contenders and that ability to contend would be sustainable, despite the upheaval wrought by the departure of Paul Beeston and Alex Anthopoulos, right? With spring training approaching and the Blue Jays set to start the season as defending AL East Champs, is the optimism that the end-season run misplaced?

Who did the Blue Jays acquire at the trade deadline last year? Only one of the players who the Blue Jays blew up the farm for remains with the club. Yup. Troy Tulowitzki, he who was often injured and underperformed in a Blue Jays uniform. The good news is that he's likely going to regress to his career level production and put up better numbers than he did in a Jays uniform last year. David Price? Gone. Ben Revere? Gone. Mark Lowe? LaTroy Hawkins? Cliff Pennington? Gone. In the process of making room for the new guys, the Jays also lost Danny Valencia on waivers.

What remains on the Blue Jays' major league squad in the wake of Alex Anthopoulos's magic wand waving? Troy Tulowitzki. In fact, many of the same questions remain about the 2016 Blue Jays' opening roster as there were going into the 2015 season. And some new questions have arisen. Let's compare, shall we?

2015 Starting Rotation (Opening Day)

R.A. Dickey
Mark Buehrle
Drew Hutchison
Aaron Sanchez
Daniel Norris

2016 Starting Rotation (Projected)

Marcus Stroman
R.A. Dickey
Marco Estrada
J.A. Happ
One of Aaron Sanchez, Jesse Chavez or Drew Hutchison

                            J.A. Happ

                            J.A. Happ

In 2015, there were three real question marks in the starting rotation. In 2016, the situation is much clearer, with no spots going to rookies (as opposed to two in 2015) as well as only one spot really being up for grabs. The rotation is automatically stronger with Marcus Stroman in it but there are still questions as to whether Estrada can replicate his 2015 form, whether Aaron Sanchez can put it all together as a starter, whether J.A. Happ can be more than a mediocre pitcher in the majors and whether Drew Hutchison can rebound from a horrible season.

The starting rotation is definitely a place where the Blue Jays have added depth but I think most people are still mourning the loss of David Price. While the projected 2016 rotation is probably weaker than the rotation that closed 2015, it's much stronger and deeper than the one that started the season.

2015 Bullpen (Opening Day)

Brett Cecil
Aaron Loup
Miguel Castro
Roberto Osuna
Todd Redmond
Liam Hendriks
Colt Hynes
Marco Estrada

2016 Bullpen (Projected)

Roberto Osuna
Brett Cecil
Drew Storen
Aaron Loup
One or two of Jesse Chavez, Aaron Sanchez and Drew Hutchison
One or two of Arnold Leon, Ryan Tepera, Pat Venditte, Ben Rowen, Chad Jenkins,Steve Delabar and Joe Biagini

                             Brett Cecil

                             Brett Cecil

I'd say, on the surface, these two bullpens are about even. Once again, we're remembering the strong bullpen at the end of the 2015 season with four big, consistent arms (Osuna, Sanchez, Lowe and Cecil) but at the beginning of the year there were a ton of question marks. Could Osuna and Castro make the jump to the majors without having even pitched at Double-A (Osuna, yes; Castro, no)? Could the guys at the bottom of the list make an impact? Redmond and Hynes didn't, Hendriks did. We're obviously going to have a similar weeding-out process to arrive at what the working bullpen is going to look like in 2016 but there are a lot of unfamiliar names there and a few guys who could either boom or bust.

2015 Infield (Opening Day)

Russell Martin (C)
Edwin Encarnacion (1B/DH)
Justin Smoak (1B/DH)
Devon Travis (2B)
Jose Reyes (SS)
Josh Donaldson (3B)

2016 Infield (Projected)

Russell Martin (C)
Edwin Encarnacion (1B/DH)
Justin Smoak/Chris Colabello (1B/DH)
Ryan Goins (2B)
Troy Tulowitzki (SS)
Josh Donaldson (3B)

                           Russell Martin

                           Russell Martin

In the case of the infield, we're also improved with the addition of Troy Tulowitzki (and subtraction of Jose Reyes). Things are a little more fleshed out for first base, but it still remains to be seen who will get more playing time, Colabello or Smoak. Goins improves defence at second base, but we'll see when and whether Devon Travis can return to action after his shoulder surgery this offseason. Can Ryan Goins replicate some of his success with the bat that he had last year (although, with an 86 OPS+, an 84 wRC+, "success" is somewhat of a relative term)?

2015 Outfield (Opening Day)

Kevin Pillar
Dalton Pompey
Jose Bautista

2016 Outfield (Projected)

Kevin Pillar
One of Dalton Pompey or Michael Saunders
Jose Bautista

Ok, pretty much the same here but is Kevin Pillar going to regress from his outstanding year last year? Will Dalton Pompey progress from last year and find himself? Will he get any playing time with an anticipated return from Michael Saunders? If Saunders is the everyday left fielder, how will he do?

2015 Bench (Opening Day)

Dioner Navarro
Steve Tolleson
Danny Valencia

2016 Bench (Projected)

Josh Thole
Darwin Barney
Ezequiel Carrera

                   Ezequiel Carrera

                   Ezequiel Carrera

Overall, the Blue Jays are in better shape than they were at the start of 2015 but if you remember, that 2015 roster featured struggles from at least three of the rookies who opened the season on the squad (Norris, Pompey and Castro) and a major injury to another (Travis). The Jays weren't even at .500 when they went on their post-Tulo tear and so we can't really pronounce that roster a strong one.

Still, while the projected 2016 Blue Jays are in better shape than the Opening Day 2015 Blue Jays, they're not nearly at the level of the Post-Trade Deadline Blue Jays of last year. For those fans thinking that the Jays are going to cruise to another AL East title, I think they're setting themselves up for disappointment. This club, as it stands now, is probably somewhere in between those two poles.

 What do you think? Will the 2016 Jays compete for another division title as they're built now?

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Jay Blue

A lifelong Toronto Blue Jays fan, Jay Blue started blogging about the Jays when he was living in Berlin, Germany. He founded his own blog, Blue Jays from Away, to write about developments with his home town team, focusing on the Jays' minor league system. When he's not watching baseball, he is usually on the diamond umpiring or he's pursuing his research interests in the field of ethnomusicology.