Gallagher: Blue Jays could surprise people if they are healthy

First baseman Justin Smoak will once again hit in the middle of the order for the Toronto Blue Jays.

First baseman Justin Smoak will once again hit in the middle of the order for the Toronto Blue Jays.

By Danny Gallagher

Canadian Baseball Network

Have you ever thought that the Blue Jays could actually be a good team this coming season?

Naysayers and social media pundits abound thinking the 2019 season will be a flop, considering that president Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins are looking at a rebuild.

Sure, it might be a rebuild but it doesn't preclude the chance that a healthy Jays lineup could do some damage. If they can stay healthy most of the season, you never know what might transpire.

Now only if Kevin Pillar can hit more home runs and drive in a lot more runs. He's an outfielder and he needs to show more offence. Superman abilities defensively just are not enough. He collected a career-high 59 RBI last season, a total far short of what an outfielder should be producing on offence. Those 59 RBI sure don't cut it.

Should management and fans accept these low numbers by Pillar? No. Really, that ribbies total should be at least 80. And he needs to vastly improve on that .252 average.

How about you, Devon Travis? Let's see what you can do if you're healthy the whole season and stay off the DL. You could be a bonafide threat if you are in the lineup on a regular basis. You show power and you can run and you are a solid second baseman.

You are a catalyst on this team, if you are healthy. You're the lead-off hitter so let's see some leadership from you. We dare you to stand up and be counted and not be injury-prone. Let's see 600 plate appearances from you.

Justin Smoak is going to be fine again. He's solid defensively and offensively. Who better to have at first, digging balls out of the dirt with his big wing span. Where does DH/1B Kendrys Morales fit in? It's no secret that the Jays have tried to unload Morales because he's getting old at 36, he's slow but his contract stipend of $12-million scares teams away.

If the Jays can trade Morales during spring training, then Rowdy Tellez gets more playing time with Toronto. Tellez doesn't need to show any more wares in triple-A. He has demonstrated that he can master big-league pitching. Tellez, soon to be 23, is much like Morales in that he's big but he's also much younger. If the Jays say they are in a rebuild, then Tellez is part of it, not Morales.

Randal Grichuk, if 100% healthy, can do damage. He can be an exciting player. With him in right and Teoscar Hernandez in left, the Jays can be more than presentable in the outfield. I think you will see break-out seasons from Grichuk and Hernandez. Canadian Dalton Pompey's future with the Jays is tenuous. This corner thinks Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) will be traded before the end of spring training because he's out of minor-league options.

Behind the plate, more production is needed from Luke Maile and over time, Danny Jansen may be the cat's meow. Maile was respectable in 2018 with three homers and 27 RBI in 202 at-bats while being a receiver pitchers love to have behind the plate. Him and since departed Russell Martin shared time and now that Martin is gone, Maile needs to do much more, if he hopes to play regularly.

Brandon Drury is at third, at least until Vlad Guerrero Jr. arrives. Guerrero will likely do a pretty gall-dang good job of making people forget fan favourite Josh Donaldson over time because he has the potential to be a productive player. At shortstop there is a battle between recently acquired Freddy Galvis and Lourdes Guerriel Jr., whose potential is unlimited. What about Richard Urena?

Now let's look at the starting pitchers. Wouldn't it be nice if Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez went through the entire season without injuries and won 20 games each? Ryan Borucki is a fairly solid third man in the rotation and after that, who knows. Sean Reid-Foley? Sam Gaviglio?

In the bullpen, Ken Giles is closer material after coming over the Astros in the Roberto Usuna trade. Ryan Tepera needs to be better in 2019 after experiencing some down times in 2018. And leave Joe Biagini in the bullpen. He's more effective in the 'pen than he is as a starting pitcher.

So if these Jays can stay healthy, there is no harness on what they can do in 2019.

Danny Gallagher's recently released book about the '81 Expos is called Blue Monday.