By Jay Blue
Blue Jays from Away
The Blue Jays from Away staff huddled up (metaphorically) to come up with some predictions for the Toronto Blue Jays 2018 season. Here's what we thought might happen this season!
What is your prediction for the Blue Jays' record in 2018?
Jay Blue: I think they have what it takes to win 86 games. Call me an optimist, but I think this team is going to surprise some of the naysayers. Obviously the health of the club is going to be important but I think that most prognosticators are short-changing the pitching staff which, if healthy (I'm probably going to write that a lot), is one of best I've seen on this club. With two potential stellar starters and an underrated back-end of the bullpen, I think that's a very solid foundation upon which to build a team. As far as the lineup goes, I don't think we'll be stuck in the situation we were in last year where he had four or five guys who might be considered Quadruple-A hitters in the batting order. I think the addition of Granderson is going to be a little better than expected (although I don't think Grichuk does much better than his career track record indicates) and the raised floor of Diaz and Solarte on the infield should give things a boost over Goins/Barney if the inevitable Travis injury happens and/or Tulo is out for longer than anticipated. That said, if Donaldson goes out with Tulo on the shelf, then things start to get thin.
Emily: 83-79 because I’m an optimist but I’m not delusional – especially with New York and Boston in the same division. This team is good enough to play well above .500 if they can stay healthy... but then again we said that last year and look where they ended up. Baseball is flukey.
Wesley James: I think the biggest variables are Solarte, Diaz, and Pillar. Basically depth and production up the middle. If Pillar can split the difference between his first and second half last year, and Diaz and Solarte can cover for Tulo and Travis, then the Jays are in much better shape than they were last year. It appears that they intend to use Travis almost like a catcher, giving him time off so he doesn't wear his body down. In this case much more pressure is going to be placed on Diaz to perform and if the team is in a situation where they're competing for a wildcard playoff berth, then a few games won or lost here or there will make a difference. Middle-infield depth is certainly the team's weakest point right now. I think we're looking at a win/loss range between 80-82 and 89-73. I actually think there's a chance Tulo's effective MLB career is over. I hope I'm wrong, but for the sake of this prediction, I'm going to assume Tulo is a non-factor. That was a serious injury last year, in a way I think many are taking too lightly, and, when considering past injuries, it doesn't look good to me. I also think that the starting pitching is going to be great, top four at least in the AL, that Donaldson stays healthy, that outfield depth can cover any shortcomings in the corner outfield spots, especially right field, and that Smoak has another good year. Also, my guess is Pillar is better than last year and Diaz can cover for Travis. Final prediction is: 87-75 (second wildcard)
Which player leads the team in WAR? Which pitcher?
Jay Blue: I'm so tempted to say Josh Donaldson. I mean he is the team's superstar. But do I suggest that he might begin to decline this year or succumb to injury? For lack of a better option, I say Donaldson. Pitching-wise, I think J.A. Happ has a career year.
Emily: Josh Donaldson, because I expect him to continue being Josh Donaldson. I could say Marcus Stroman, because he led the pitchers in WAR last year. But I’m actually going to pick J.A. Happ to be sneakily good. I’m expecting a comeback season for Aaron Sanchez too! (Basically I don’t know).
Wesley James: Mostly boring predictions: Josh Donaldson leads the team in WAR and Aaron Sanchez leads the pitching staff.
Which player NOT on the Opening Day roster makes the biggest contribution to the team?
Jay Blue: I'm hedging my bets by not saying Joe Biagini. I have a feeling that he's not going to make the Opening Day roster but he just may after a strong finish to spring. I'm going out on a ledge and say Anthony Alford. I think that by mid-season he'll supplant Kevin Pillar as the club's centre fielder.
Emily: Well the Opening Day roster isn’t 100% finalized just yet (at least not publicly), but I’m going to hedge my bets and say Teoscar Hernandez.
Wesley James: Teoscar Hernandez.
What splash (if any) does Ross Atkins make at the trade deadline?
Jay Blue: I think the Blue Jays add when the deadline comes. It won't be anything big or flashy, but I think the Jays will be in the position to need a depth piece either in the bullpen or on the infield.
Emily: If the Jays are not in contention? Donaldson, Estrada, Happ, Pearce and Granderson could all be gone – basically anyone whose contract is up at the end of this year. If the Jays are in contention, who knows. Likely something sneaky that seems underwhelming at the time but will turn out to have been really helpful in hindsight.
Wesley James: I really don't see this front office making a big splash. I think they're waiting one more year to be serious about competing in the AL East and don't want to trade away depth. But, let's say they are challenging for a wildcard spot. In this case, I think they're trading for a shortstop in the last year of his contract. Let's say, Alcides Escobar. Just kidding, although he is in a walk year. Actually, Freddy Galvis of the Phillies or Jose Iglesias of the Tigers, especially if either have reasonable offensive years and both play great defence. In this scenario I'm also probably assuming Travis is hurt and Ngoepe, Solarte and Espinosa are duds. Which is entirely possible, but probably unlikely.
Who is the team's biggest disappointment?
Jay Blue: I'm thinking Randal Grichuk doesn't make that breakthrough we're waiting for and has an OBP around .300 with about 20 home runs. He's kind of like last year's Kendrys Morales. We all thought that Morales would have a big season, moving from a pitcher's park in KC to a hitter's park in Toronto. Well, we all know how that went. While the whole pitching machine narrative is great it doesn't change the fact that most major league players with a couple of years of experience are already who they are. Does Grichuk have a Jose Bautista transformation in him? I don't think so.
Emily: I hate answering questions like this (because I’m an optimist; see above) but I will say if anyone is a disappointment to me it will probably be someone who gets hurt. Maybe a starting pitcher like Stroman or Sanchez. That, or Justin Smoak will return to being pre-2017 Justin Smoak.
Wesley James: Randal Grichuk. The front office likes his peripherals and his defence. Good or bad he's an upgrade over 2017 Jose Bautista. Still, I remain unconvinced he's in right field in September with the offensive outfield depth available.
Who is the team's biggest surprise?
Jay Blue: Can a 37-year-old veteran named Curtis Granderson be a surprise? I actually think that Granderson and Jaime Garcia are going to be better than you expect for a platoon veteran outfielder and a fifth starter.
Emily: I don’t have a serious choice for this, so I’m going to say Jose Bautista signs in mid-May and goes on to hit thirty home runs. He'll also have the lowest strikeout rate on the team with the help of his new glasses.
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The 2018 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook is now available! Visit the Handbook page for more information!