Toronto Blue Jays 2021: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

How will things shape up in the AL East?

A postseason berth in the shortened pandemic campaign of 2020 helped advance the Toronto Blue Jays' timeline, and now they enter the new season as a team to watch in the American League. While it's fair to wonder whether they would have made the playoffs under normal circumstances, and if the stat lines of certain players would have leveled off over a full marathon, there's no debating that their base of talent is strong enough to again compete for the postseason. Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. remain the guts of the club, but Teoscar Hernandez's emergence as an MVP-caliber force will be closely watched for regression. The same can be said about the club's depth of arms, leveraged creatively over the shortened season but now facing the burden of a full haul. The free-agent additions of George Springer, Kirby Yates, and Marcus Semien, among others, bolster both fronts at the beginning of what should be an extended competitive window for the Blue Jays.

 

Opposing Scouts Size Up the Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays logo"Last year was the perfect kind of year for them because they learned that their youth can play, and they even got a bonus of a little playoff experience. They slug, they don't strike out much, they run well, they'll go the other way, and so many guys have that major league pedigree that they carry themselves like they know they belong. It's great to hear that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is losing some weight because he sometimes looks like he could eat his way out of a great career. Teoscar Hernandez really came into his own; he stays on pitches well, stays back, and lets the pitch get deep. Hyun Jin Ryu is phenomenal, a strike-thrower with great stuff and smarts, and Robbie Ray was worth another look; if they can get him to throw strikes consistently, he can shut down any lineup. Nate Pearson could be another upper-tier starter, but Tanner Roark's stuff looked so diminished last year; he was throwing batting practice at times. It's a sneaky tough bullpen; I'd take Rafael Dolis or Jordan Romano as a closer any day."

 

Beyond the Box Score

 

Worthy Candidate Charlie Montoyo finished third in voting for AL Manager of the Year, the first time a Blue Jays skipper landed in the top three since Cito Gaston in 1993 (Bobby Cox won it with the Jays in 1985). Given his work navigating the club through its period of homelessness, a case can be made that he should have finished higher. But Montoyo was quick to congratulate close friend Kevin Cash of the Tampa Bay Rays on winning the honor.

 

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Ray Returns Robbie Ray was one of three rental players the Blue Jays acquired ahead of the 2020 trade deadline, and his work to regain his past form with pitching coach Pete Walker and the rest of the coaching staff helped convince him to come back. The lefthander signed an $8 million, one-year deal, a bet from the player that a switch back to his old mechanics will make him as effective as he was in the past, and by the team that he can be a reliable part of its rotation.


Dad's here Former All-Star Dante Bichette became a hitting whisperer of sorts during the season as an extra coach, with Blue Jays hitters routinely crediting him for helping to refine their approach at the plate. Joining the staff wasn't easy, though, as he wanted to ensure that son Bo, the team's star shortstop, was comfortable with him being around. They tried things out during spring training and again at summer camp, before formalizing things.


Making lemonade The pandemic presented many challenges for player development, but the Blue Jays' use of their young pitchers helped kill two birds with one stone. Starters like Thomas Hatch, Ryan Borucki, Anthony Kay, Julian Merryweather, T.J. Zeuch, and Patrick Murphy all got meaningful work in 2020 out of a big-league bullpen, and their use allowed Montoyo to have a starter face a batter for the third time in a game only 147 times.


Before the stretch The Blue Jays were at their most productive in 2020 during the sixth inning, when they scored a total of 69 runs. Five times they scored five or more runs during the frame, topping out at 10 in a 12–7 win over the Yankees on Sept. 7. 


Wasted outs The fine line between aggressive and reckless baserunning is one the Blue Jays struggled with throughout 2020, as evidenced by their 25 outs on the bases, third most in the majors. There were times when bad decision-making was the culprit, enough so that it became a frequent post-game talking point. They'll be hoping last year's pain is this year's gain.

 

Projected Lineup

 

LINEUP

CF    George Springer (R)

2B    Marcus Semien (R)

SS    Bo Bichette (R)

LF    Teoscar Hernandez (R)

DH   Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (R)

2B    Cavan Biggio (L)

LF    Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (R)

1B    Rowdy Tellez (L)

C      Danny Jansen (R)

 

BENCH

C      Reese McGuire (L)
IF     Santiago Espinal (R)

OF    Jonathan Davis (R)

OF    Randal Grichuk (R)

 

ROTATION

LHP    Hyun-Jin Ryu

LHP    Robbie Ray

RHP    Nate Pearson

RHP    Tanner Roark

RHP    Ross Stripling

 

BULLPEN

RHP    Kirby Yates (C)

RHP    Jordan Romano

RHP    Rafael Dolis

LHP    Ryan Borucki

RHP    Shun Yamaguchi

RHP    Julian Merryweather

RHP    Tyler Chatwood

LHP    Steven Matz

 

2021 Prediction: 3rd in AL East

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