Predicting the Blue Jays' Opening Day roster

 Right-hander John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) has had a strong spring for the Toronto Blue Jays and is a good bet to be in the club's bullpen on Opening Day. Photo Credit: Amanda Fewer

Right-hander John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) has had a strong spring for the Toronto Blue Jays and is a good bet to be in the club's bullpen on Opening Day. Photo Credit: Amanda Fewer

By Cole Shelton

Canadian Baseball Network

Spring training is slowly coming to a close, and with that, major league teams have to decide which 25 players will be making the roster, while others will be sent to the minors or released.

The Toronto Blue Jays like every other team have some locks, but also have some serious question marks on the final roster spots, and how they will on fit on the 40-man roster. But all that being said, here is my take on who the Blue Jays will take north with them, when they open the season March 29.

Starting Pitchers

•    J.A Happ

•    Aaron Sanchez

•    Marco Estrada

•    Marcus Stroman

•    Jaime Garcia

It had been quite clear that these five would comprise the starting rotation, but on Tuesday, manager John Gibbons announced that Happ would be the Opening Day starter. He also unveiled the order the rest of his starters will appear in to begin the season (see above). There was some concern that with his shoulder injury, Stroman would not be ready for beginning of the season, but he is slated to pitch the team’s fourth game. Along with that, Toronto will be hoping Sanchez can rebound after an injury-plagued 2017 season, while the hope is Happ and Estrada can stay reliable and newcomer, Garcia, can be an effective fifth starter.

Bullpen

•    Roberto Osuna (CL)

•    Seung-Hwan Oh (set-up)

•    Ryan Tepera (set-up)

•    Danny Barnes

•    Aaron Loup

•    Tyler Clippard

•    John Axford

In this scenario, the Blue Jays would elect to carry just seven relievers, which in the past is not something Toronto has done. However, with major question marks in the infield, the Blue Jays need another backup infielder. Toronto already knows Osuna will be the closer, and Tepera will be the set-up man along with Oh. Following those three, Barnes and Loup will be back in the bullpen, as Barnes will handle the sixth inning, while Loup will be the lone lefty in the ‘pen. To fill out the bullpen, the Blue Jays will start the year with former All-Star Tyler Clippard, and former National League saves leader John Axford (Port Dover, Ont). Manager John Gibbons has all but said Axford has made the roster, while Clippard has the upper-hand for the final spot after a solid spring training.

Catcher

•    Russell Martin

•    Luke Maile

Toronto has had a problem finding a reliable backup catcher for some time now, and 2018 is no different as Maile is back as to backup Martin (Montreal, Que.). Martin is still one of the better catchers in baseball, but injuries hurt his 2017 season, and now many are questioning if he can play a full season as a starter. If he can’t, that will be a huge problem for the Blue Jays as Maile is not good enough to play more than one or two times a week, while Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire are both young and need more time in the minor leagues. Toronto has no other choice than Maile, so it will be Maile for the time being.

First Base/Designated Hitter

•    Justin Smoak (1B)

•    Kendrys Morales (DH)

Smoak came out of nowhere to have a fantastic 2017 season, although he struggled a bit to end the year. On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, Morales had a subpar 2017, but with two more years on the contract, he has to be on the roster and will try to at least be an average bat in the DH spot.

Second Base

•    Devon Travis

•    Yangervis Solarte

Travis is finally playing in games this spring which is good news for Toronto and Blue Jays fans alike. When he is in the lineup, Travis is a good leadoff hitter and provides steady defence, but him remaining healthy is a huge question mark. Toronto did acquire more depth in Solarte who can play second or third but will most likely see more time at second if Travis is hurt — which is why I put him under second base not third — and will be an important part of the Blue Jays' roster. Solarte is versatile in that he can play multiple positions, while also having an average bat and good defence. Ultimately, second base will provide a huge upgrade over last season as long as Travis remains healthy.

Shortstop

•    Aledmys Diaz

•    Danny Espinosa

Like second base, shortstop will also be a question mark as no one knows what Troy Tulowitzki is, as he is expected to be placed on the 60-day DL to begin the season. With that, Toronto made a much-needed improvement at shortstop in the offseason by acquiring Diaz from the St. Louis Cardinals and recently signing Espinosa to a minor-league deal. Diaz will be the starting shortstop come opening day, with Espinosa beating out Gift Ngoepe as the second backup infielder to begin the season. Espinosa has been a major league starter before and while his defence has started to slow down along with his bat, he provides an improvement over Ngoepe.

Third Base

•    Josh Donaldson

Okay, no questions here. The best player on the Blue Jays will be back roaming third base for at least a little while longer, as his free agency looms and trade talks are in the background as well.

Outfield

•    Steve Pearce (LF)

•    Curtis Granderson (LF)

•    Kevin Pillar (CF)

•    Randal Grichuk (RF)

Toronto now has a lot of options in the outfield, as the organizational depth at the position is high. If Grichuk is able to return from his pesky rib injury, Teoscar Hernandez will be in triple-A, nipping at heels of the corner outfielders. The Blue Jays' outfield depth took a hit when Anthony Alford, who was enjoying an excellent spring, sustained a hamstring strain that will sideline him for three-to-six weeks. But come opening day, if Grichuk is healthy, he will be one of the club's four outfielders, along with Pearce, Granderson and Pillar.

Disabled List

•    Troy Tulowitzki (60-day)

•    Carlos Ramirez (60-day)

Tulowitzki has not played in a game this spring and seems destined to start the year on the 60-day along with reliever Carlos Ramirez who is dealing with soreness in his arm. The Blue Jays need to get creative on how they open up 40-man roster spots for Axford, Clippard, and Espinosa, while trying to not lose anyone of significance.