Toronto Blue Jays 2019: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

How will things shape up in the AL East?

The Toronto Blue Jays head into the new season firmly fixated on building for the future after definitively closing their previous competitive window during a miserable 2018. At the transition’s forefront is top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who tore through Double-A and Triple-A while earning wide acclaim as the best prospect in baseball. Guerrero, who will be 20 on Opening Day, is the first such franchise-altering talent acquired and developed internally since Carlos Delgado, and for the team to avoid an extended period of pain, he’ll need to hit the ground running after Josh Donaldson became the latest star slugger to depart the club. Once called up, likely after his free agency has been pushed back a year, Guerrero will arrive to find a new manager in Charlie Montoyo and a mostly new coaching staff. A return to contention hinges on how the Blue Jays manage to fill in around their budding star, as there’s very little certainty on the roster beyond him. 

 

Opposing Scouts Size Up the Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays logo“The Blue Jays are in a weird spot — they’re not in a total teardown, yet they know they’re not even close to contending. Maybe they’re just waiting for Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Kevin Pillar to reestablish their value before trading them at the deadline. By far the most exciting part of this team is the left side of the infield, with shortstop Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and, of course, third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who should defy the modern strikeout trend as a high-impact contact hitter like his dad. They need to see what they have in guys like catcher Danny Jansen and outfielder Billy McKinney, who’s on his fourth organization at age 24 but could turn into an everyday guy, or at least a useful role player. I like Ken Giles as their closer; this is a great spot for him to rebound. They’ve got three proven commodities in the lineup in Randal Grichuk, Kendrys Morales and Justin Smoak — if someone needs a veteran with decent pop at the deadline, they’ll know where to look.”


Beyond the Box Score

Triple Threat Teoscar Hernandez led the team with seven triples in 2018, singlehandedly surpassing the club’s total from the year before, when the Blue Jays set the big league record for fewest triples in a season with five. Still, they have plenty of work to do on that front as they finished with only 16 three-baggers all season, good for 28th in MLB.


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Hit Parade Lourdes Gurriel Jr. matched an AL record with 11 consecutive multi-hit games, a streak that only came to an end when he returned from the disabled list after suffering sprains of his left ankle and knee. In breaking Tony Fernandez’s club record of nine, Gurriel fell two games shy of Rogers Hornsby’s all-time record of 13.


Shaking the Trees In seeking to replace John Gibbons as manager, the Blue Jays looked to organizational trees rather than personal ones. Charlie Montoyo came over after serving as Kevin Cash’s bench coach with the Tampa Bay Rays, while GM Ross Atkins plucked from several other organizations in filling out the coaching staff: Bench coach Dave Hudgens came over from Houston; first base coach Mark Budzinski from Cleveland; bullpen coach Matt Buschmann from San Francisco; and major league field coordinator Shelley Duncan from Arizona.


No Sacrifice The Blue Jays laid down five sacrifice bunts last year, the lowest total for a team since the stat started being recorded in 1894. The Wild Card Athletics were right behind them at six while the World Series champion Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels tied with seven apiece. Richard Urena had two of the Jays’ five despite only 108 plate appearances.


High Participation The Blue Jays set club records last year both in their total number of players used at 63, and in the number of pitchers deployed at 36. The old high of 60 players was set in 2017, while the most pitchers used previously was 34, in both 2012 and ’17. During their most recent postseason years in 2015 and ’16, the Blue Jays used 52 and 49 total players and 28 and 29 pitchers, respectively.


Still Trailing Gibbons was less than a season away from overtaking Cito Gaston as the longest-tenured manager in club history, falling 149 games shy of the two-time World Series champion’s 1,731. Gibbons leaves the club trailing Gaston’s 894 victories by 101. Longevity has been a rarity for Blue Jays managers, with 10 of the club’s 12 full-time skips lasting four seasons or fewer. Montoyo begins his run with a three-year contract and club option for 2022.


Projected Lineup

 

LINEUP

LF  Billy McKinney (L)
SS  Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (R)
1B  Justin Smoak (S)
RF  Randal Grichuk (R)
DH Kendrys Morales (S)
3B  Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (R)
2B  Brandon Drury (R)
C    Russell Martin (R)
CF   Kevin Pillar (R)

 

BENCH

RF  Teoscar Hernandez (R)
INF Freddy Galvis (S)
2B  Devon Travis (R)
C    Luke Maile (R)

 

ROTATION

RHP  Marcus Stroman
RHP  Aaron Sanchez
LHP  Clayton Richard
LHP  Ryan Borucki
RHP  Matt Shoemaker

 

BULLPEN

RHP  Ken Giles (C)
RHP  Ryan Tepera
RHP  David Phelps
RHP  Joe Biagini
LHP  Tim Mayza
RHP  Sam Gaviglio
RHP  Elvis Luciano

 

2019 PREDICTION

4th AL East 

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