We tend to make a bigger deal out of the Opening Day roster than his necessary. On most teams, a transaction or two always occur within the first week, and most people don’t remember who was on the roster on day one by the time day 73 rolls around.
Regardless, these are the 25 guys the Blue Jays have tabbed, whether on merit or due to injury, to take on the Detroit Tigers on Thursday afternoon.
#2 Clayton Richard, LHP
He’s starting the season in the rotation, but seems likely to become the second lefty in the bullpen once Clay Buchholz is ready to go.
Can he pitch effectively enough to be traded for assets at the deadline?
#3 Brandon Drury, 3B
He’s the Opening Day third baseman and will get plenty of opportunity to hit at the top of the order, but has Vladimir Guerrero Jr on his heels as the everyday man at the hot corner.
If his bat and glove are both clicking, does he force Vlad to a DH role, or will he have to shuffle around between second base and the outfield just to keep regular playing time?
#6 Marcus Stroman, SP
Thursday will be his second Opening Day start, and second home opener (not the same game). He’s looked strong and healthy during spring training and ready to get back to his strong form from 2017.
Will he earn a long-term contract extension and his desire to stay in Toronto, or will management use a strong first half to flip him for future assets?
#7 Richard Urena, IF
Appears to be keeping the seat warm for someone else as the utility/backup infielder. Once Guerrero arrives, that job likely falls to Lourdes Gurriel Jr and/or Devon Travis.
As one of the first call ups for injury replacement, how many times will he ride the Toronto-Buffalo shuttle?
#9 Danny Jansen, C
He was at AAA Buffalo this time last year, A+ Dunedin two years ago, and now he’s being expected to catch roughly 100-115 games at the big-league level.
Can he put it all together? If he focuses less on hitting to be a better catcher and game caller, does his bat still warrant playing time? Or will he neglect those duties to remain a bat-first catcher?
#11 Kevin Pillar, CF
Superman will represent one of the young veterans who are being counted on to guide the youth of the next generation.
#13 Lourdes Gurriel Jr, 2B/SS
While he’ll begin the season as the everyday second baseman, it’s far from certain where he’ll finish it. His bat will likely warrant being in the lineup as often as possible, as was evident last year when he tied the MLB record for consecutive multi-hit games.
Will the bat stay consistent if his defensive position doesn’t? If Drury becomes the starting second baseman, can he force shortstop away from Freddy Galvis? Does he figure out how to play the outfield in this league? He says he’s gotten reps there in Cuba, but hasn’t played there much since coming to North America.
#14 Justin Smoak, 1B
He probably has the most clearly defined role on the team, as everyday first baseman, clubhouse leader, and likely clean-up hitter. He’s got Rowdy Tellez nipping at his heels, but nothing to suggest his job is remotely in jeopardy.
In the final year of his contract, do the Jays move him at the deadline to open the door for an extended look at Tellez or Cavan Biggio?
#15 Randal Grichuk, RF
Though hampered by a bit of a foot issue early in camp, he’s been arguably their best hitter, and will spend most of his time in the top third of the order.
Many believe he can be a starting centre fielder. Will the Jays move Pillar and give him that chance?
#16 Freddy Galvis, SS
He’s played 162 games in each of the last two seasons, but it appears highly unlikely he’ll be able to repeat the feat this time around.
Though an excellent defender, the bat leaves much to be desired. How much playing time will he cede to Gurriel, and eventually Bo Bichette?
#21 Luke Maile, C
He’ll only be asked to play 1-2 times per week, and is just keeping a seat warm for Reese McGuire to join the tandem with Jansen.
In an extra 95 plate appearances his average jumped from .146 to .248 last year. Which side of the coin is he closer to?
#28 Billy McKinney, 1B/OF
The team feels comfortable enough with his work at first base, and at the plate, to deal DH Kendrys Morales just hours before the season started. He’ll get regular time in left field, pushing Teoscar Hernandez to the primary DH.
My question for McKinney was how they’re going to find enough playing time for him, but the trade of Morales should quell some of those.
#31 Joe Biagini, RHP
Now entering his fourth season, and fully committed to a role in the bullpen, where he’ll try to improve on the 6.00 ERA he posted in 50 appearances last year.
Can he carve out a consistent niche? He’s not a typical hard-throwing bullpen arm, but hasn’t quite mastered the long-man role either.
#34 Matt Shoemaker, RHP
Head and arm injuries have limited him to just 21 starts over the last two seasons.
With those issues behind him, can he become the player who finished second in rookie of the year voting back in 2014, when he went 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA for the Angels?
#37 Teoscar Hernandez, LF
Following the trade of Kendrys Morales, will likely see the majority of his playing time at designated hitter (at least until Vlad arrives), which will please the few Jays fans who stuck out last season and had to endure watching him play the outfield.
Though he’s said to have made strides defensively, is it enough to make him playable? The strikeout rate also needs to come down to maximize his potential as a middle-of-the-order bat.
#41 Aaron Sanchez, RHP
In 2017 it was blister issues that limited him to eight starts. Last year, he made 20, though it seems like less than that, and a mishap with a suitcase on his finger was to blame. We’re led to believe the problems are finally behind him, and he dazzled in spring training allowing just three earned runs in 17 2/3 innings.
Does a return to health bring back a return to form that saw him win the American League ERA title in 2016? And do the Jays turn that performance into prospects from a playoff contender?
#43 Sam Gaviglio, RHP
His 123 2/3 innings were SECOND on the team last year. That gives you an idea of how and why things unfolded the way they did.
Is he a long-term bullpen option, or does the team still see him as a better fit as a starter to lead the rotation in Buffalo, which is full of developing prospects?
#44 Rowdy Tellez, 1B
He came up in September last year with guns ablazing, clubbing 13 extra-base hits in 73 plate appearances. There was some debate over whether the hole opened by Morales’ departure would be given to him or Anthony Alford, and for at least the time being, it’s Tellez, presumably to be a backup to Smoak at first base.
Can he replicate his late-season surge from 2018? And if not, is he sent back to Buffalo to make room for Alford?
#45 Thomas Pannone, LHP
He’ll make the club as a second long-man and second lefty, but his days are numbered. Once Clay Buchholz is ready to go, Clayton Richard likely slides to the ‘pen to take this role.
Can he maximize his time on the roster at the beginning of the season to earn more reps later in the year?
#48 Java Guerra, RHP
He’s a veteran of over 200 relief appearances, including 21 saves with the Dodgers in 2011. HE flew under the radar in the spring but posted strong numbers, with a 0.87 ERA and 1.065 WHIP in 10 1/3 innings. Bud Norris not being ready to go has opened the door for him.
Every year there’s a surprise in the bullpen. Is he this year’s edition?
#51 Ken Giles, RHP
Was perfect in 14 save opportunities after being acquired for Roberto Osuna at the trade deadline, but continued to struggle in non-save situations.
How will his intense in-your-face leadership style be received by his younger teammates, and by the coaching staff?
#57 Trent Thornton, SP
Another piece acquired from Houston, in a winter deal for Aledmys Diaz, he’ll get a chance to continue his strong first impression by taking Ryan Borucki’s spot in the rotation for the first turn or two.
Will he be able to separate himself from the group of AAA starters that includes Sean Reid-Foley, David Paulino, and eventually Thomas Pannone?
#58 Tim Mayza, LHP
In 2016, Ryan Tepera rode the Toronto-Buffalo shuttle more than any other player in the organization, but in ’17 took his more consistent role and became a reliable set-up man. Mayza is looking to follow that blueprint.
My question was going to be, “does he play first base more than Morales this season” but alas, we’ll never know now.
#65 Elvis Luciano, RP
The 19-year-old selected in the Rule 5 Draft from Kansas City has made the club. Once he appears in a game, he’ll be the first player born in 2000 or later to see big league action.
It’s Now Or Never to showcase his stuff. Doubt we’ll be having A Little Less Conversation about this kid the next few days. The Blue Jays Can’t Help Falling In Love with him, but it might be Heartbreak Hotel.
Do they Return To Sender?
Daniel Hudson, RP
Was signed earlier this week after being released from the Angels camp. A former starter turned reliever.
Does he stick around once Buchholz, Tepera and Axford are all healthy?
#1 Jonathan Davis, OF (ankle)
#23 Dalton Pompey, OF (concussion)
#29 Devon Travis, 2B (knee inflammation)
#35 David Phelps, RHP (Tommy John surgery recovery)
#36 Clay Buchholz, RHP (right flexor strain)
#52 Ryan Tepera, RHP (elbow)
#56 Ryan Borucki, LHP (elbow)