The Toronto Blue Jays finalized their 25-man Opening Day roster on Thursday, just hours ahead of the start of the new season against the New York Yankees. Here’s how they’ll stack up, and what to expect.
*All stats were taken from Baseball Reference, including WAR. Projections for 2018 were taken from ZiPS on Fangraphs, unless otherwise noted. BR does not project WAR or OPS+, and Fangraphs calculation of WAR differs, so I did not include any 2018 WAR projections.*
Russell Martin will once again be asked to shoulder the lion’s share of the work behind the plate, but as a 35-year old, it remains to be seen if his body can withstand the rigours that come with playing the position every day. He was limited to just 91 games last year, and played a number of times at third base, which might be an option again in 2018. Backups last season put up atrocious numbers, so while Luke Maile’s defence will be valued, a call into the team’s depth might not be out of the question if he struggles, or if Martin is forced to miss significant time.
Also in the mix: Danny Janssen (AAA), Reese McGuire (AAA), Max Pentecost (AAA).
With Troy Tulowitzki starting the season on the disabled list (bone spurs, heel), Toronto will be counting on the tandem of Diaz and Espinosa for more than I’m sure they were anticipating this winter. Diaz is a bounce-back candidate after a down season following his debut as an All-Star in 2016, but is a bit of gamble. Ngope beats out Danny Espinosa (for now) as the second backup infielder, and offers much more with the glove than with the bat. Solarte will be expected to fill in around the diamond as needed, but the health of Donaldson and Travis will go a long way in determining how successful the offense will be.
Also in the mix: Lourdes Gurriel Jr (AAA), Richard Urena (AAA), Jason Leblebijian (AAA), Vladimir Guerrero Jr (AA)
It’s almost impossible to be any worse over 600 plate appearances than Jose Bautista was last season, so the bar is set incredibly low for Grichuk in his first season for the Blue Jays. Toronto is hoping that, like Bautista before him, they can unlock some more of his potential with more regular playing time. A platoon of Granderson and Pearce in left field looks great on paper, but those two will need to live up to their splits in order to avoid being replaced by one of the many promising youngsters knocking on the door. Same goes for incumbent centre fielder Kevin Pillar.
Also in the mix: Anthony Alford (DL-AAA), Teoscar Hernandez (AAA), Dalton Pompey (AAA).
Much like Travis and Donaldson on offense, the health of Sanchez will be a huge difference maker for this club in 2018. If he can return to the form that saw him win the American League ERA crown two seasons ago, he’ll anchor a rotation with a chance to be the best in the division. A bounce-back season from Estrada, coupled with continued progression of Stroman, mixed in with continued dependability of the veteran lefties Happ and Garcia will make it difficult to score runs on the Blue Jays, and will have to be their blueprint to victory more nights than not.
Also in the mix: Joe Biagini (AAA), Ryan Borucki (AAA)
Osuna will once again be the rock at the back end of the ‘pen, after compiling 39 saves a year ago, despite blowing an additional 10. Tepera and Barnes will be in “prove ’em” mode, trying to convince everyone they’re more than just the typical one-year bullpen wonders. Loup heads north as the only lefty, but Clippard will hope to use his reverse-splits and time as a high-leverage reliever to earn important opportunities as well. Oh comes over from St. Louis, trying to recapture the form that made him a dominant closer in 2016. #CanCon Axford, pitching for his home town team after walking away from the game last summer, looked rejuvenated in spring training.
Also in the mix: Carlos Ramirez, Tim Mayza, Matt Dermody, Taylor Guerrieri, Luis Santos.