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Matt’s Five Fearless Predictions

We started this activity last season, throwing caution to the wind, trying to boldly forecast production for various Blue Jays players in the 2016 season. The results were, uhh, varied, for myself. But pretty good for Asher. So you can probably completely ignore everything I’m predicting below.

Strochez1. Marcus Stroman will finish in the Top 5 of American League Cy Young voting

Stroman has never lacked for self-confidence. That’s maybe gotten him into a bit of hot water in the past, with some opponents needing to see more tangible success in his game before allowing his behaviour to be deemed acceptable (which is trash, btw). But fresh off an MVP performance at the World Baseball Classic, Stroman looks dialed in days before his first start of the season. And I’m buying it. Remember, he was still rehabbing his knee last offseason, and didn’t get to complete a regular program. His numbers down the stretch were much better than the grand picture of the season, and he was good in the playoffs once again. Out to prove that HE (and not bff-turned-indifferent teammate Aaron Sanchez) is the staff ace, Stroman takes a giant leap forward this year will a brilliant season.

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Photo c/o John Lott

2. Josh Donaldson will hit 45 home runs; finish in Top 2 of American League MVP Voting

This one is probably contingent on good health. Considering he smacked 37 home runs and drove in 99 last season, despite a three week stretch in May with precisely zero production, and nagging injuries to his calf, hip and thumb throughout the season, you can’t  not think the Bringer of Rain will bring the production up in 2017. A healthy and dominant Jose Bautista hitting behind him will only help the cause.

3. Rowdy Tellez will have a more productive season than Justin Smoak

John Gibbons was singing his praises following the Montreal exhibition series (and for good reason, did you see that home run to left-centre?) The skipper said he believes he’ll be holding down first base in Toronto for a long time. And that time will start this season, when Justin Smoak continues to struggle as a Blue Jay. With Melv Upton no longer in the left field picture, it’s apparent Steve Pearce will be patrolling the turf out there. So when the Smoak turns into a tire fire, Tellez will get the call and outperform the incumbent in the season’s second half.

4. The Blue Jays will have seven 20 home run hitters

This would tie a club record set in 2000 & 2010. But provided good health, I could see at least 20 bombs from Donaldson, Bautista, Pearce, Devon Travis, Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin, and Kendrys Morales. This is still a team built around home runs, and the lineup doesn’t lack the firepower to do so.

 

5. The Blue Jays will win the American League East Division

Remember in 2013 when the Jays were supposed to coast to the title? Things didn’t get off quite the way they were supposed to in Spring with a Brett Lawrie injury, and then a Jose Reyes injury two weeks in. Things kind of feel like they’re coming apart in Boston already. David Ortiz is gone. What kind of effect will that have? Hanley Ramirez is only DHing right now; David Price is out until at least May; Drew Pomeranz and Tyler Thornburg are injured as well. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve still got a great offense and a rotation boasting Chris Sale and Rick Porcello can’t be taken for granted. But the Jays have the opportunity to fly under the radar to steal what everyone thought could just be handed to the Red Sox. And with less drama surrounding their club, the Jays are poised to open some eyes.

Follow us all season long on Twitter (@jaysbalk), and subscribe to The 7th Inning Stretch Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, and Soundcloud.

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