Another season is upon us, and I’ve had enough of worrying about who will be suiting up for the Jays a year from now when we are celebrating opening day of our World Series title defense. It is time to run down some of my predictions for the season, as well as other observations!
Mood in Song Form
AL EAST Champion: Toronto Blue Jays
1. Toronto Blue Jays
2. Boston Red Sox
3. New York Yankees
4. Tampa Bay Devil Rays
5. Baltimore Orioles
This Jays team is poised to go back-to-back, even given the incredible depth in the division. On paper this team is much improved from this point last year… The short list:
- Osuna is a proven commodity
- We brought in a seasoned closer in Storen
- Marcus Stroman is on the opening day roster
- Marco Estrada and JA Happ are both coming off of their best seasons
- Aaron Sanchez is a year older, 15 pounds heavier and lighting up spring training
- Gibby has spent another offseason crushing sunflower seeds and beers and looks great squeezed into his game day uniform
-Traditionally, players like Jose and Edwin in their “walk seasons” have statistically monstrous performances
While this team might not be as good as it was in October, there is no question this lineup backed by the depth of pitching that has been put together can result in a repeat of the AL East.
The Red Sox and Yankees both have bolstered their lineups for the season, and I actually think that both teams are going to also make the playoffs in the wild card spots. The AL East is going to be home to a great race all season, but I like the makeup of our team.
Most Improved Player
Who would have guessed that Steph Curry would go from the MVP of the NBA and finals MVP to elevate his game to an extra level making us all question if he is from a different planet? Most improved player awards typically go to players that are looking for their breakout year. Stroman is already clearly the ace of the Jays pitching staff, but given his performance this spring, his attitude and his arsenal of pitches, I think we are going to see one of the truly great seasons from a young pitcher. It took all of 3 starts last October for Jays fans to realize just how special Stroman is, and now he has a full season to prove it to everyone else. I can’t wait.
Best Subtle Management Decision: Aaron Sanchez and Gavin Floyd
There haven’t been very many subtle things done since the end of last season, but I think Gibby and or Cleveland and Co. handled Sanchez and Floyd’s situation properly. Sanchez is too young and too talented not to be a starter, and Floyd earned a shot in the pen and potentially as that 6th starter when someone goes on IR. Moving out Hutchinson is disappointing given what he was believed to be as recently as two seasons ago, but it’s a long season and I have to think we see him at some point again.
Story that we are going to have to hear way too much about: The friendship and offseason workouts of Stroman and Sanchez
I love that Stroman and Sanchez are boys, work out together all the time and seem to genuinely push each other to be the best. I couldn’t be happier both are on our team. But I have already seen and heard about 10000 articles or commentators talking about how much their offseason work and friendship has shaped their development. I hope that by the end of April we can just assume everyone already knows this, and can focus on how awesome they are on the mound.
Thing that has me the most worried: Back up Catcher
If your biggest concern on your team is a back up catcher, you are likely in a really good position. That isn’t lost on me, but I keep panicking over the thought that we might be turning to Josh Thole for an extended stretch of time if Martin has a hamstring injury or even just needs a week off. Losing Dioner Navarro takes away a capable catcher, as well as a switch-hitting bat off the bench. This seems like I am nitpicking and I understand that, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Thing I am second most worried about: JA Happ
I spent Friday evening enjoying a scotch with family and settling in to watch the Jays game in Montreal (which is just a fantastic way to close out spring training). It was also the first time I have watched Happ pitch since he left the Blue Jays after the 2014 season. While I think the contract for Happ was a fine amount of money to pay and we needed a lefty to replace Buehrle, I felt a crazy sense of déjà vu while watching him pitch. It was the same guy that used to drive me insane in 2014 with his ability to throw a fantastic sequence for a strikeout, and then fail to find the strike zone for 7 straight pitches. In my mind I had blocked out the level of stress involved with watching Happ pitch. It has returned in a big way.
Blue Jays MVP: Troy Tulowitzki
You know what must be really hard? Moving your family to a new country part way through a season, batting first in a lineup when you never have before, and playing with a fractured shoulder blade. Not exactly a recipe for success.
I think this season we are going to see why Tulo has been considered one of if not the best in the game at his position over the course of his career. Defensively he is fantastic, and batting 5th in the lineup is a much better spot for him. The Tulo for Reyes trade should be hailed with the same level of admiration that getting out from under Vernon Wells deal is. Obviously health is an issue for Tulo, but I am sticking with this pick. Okay fine… I’ll pick Donaldson as my backup pick if Tulo can’t play 120 games.
Best Blue Jay Instagram Account: Kevin Pillar
Stroman and Bautista have solid accounts, but both are a little too polished. Pillar’s account is full of photos of him out for dinner with friends and family, doing charity work, or even buying a home. It feels like a very authentic look into the life of a player on the come up. His level of enthusiasm for his teammates, the city and the role he is going to play on this team also comes through in spades. Donaldson again gets a runner up nod for just being himself on social media, and being an extra on Vikings this offseason.
Most Anticipated Series: Kansas City at Toronto July 3rd to 6th
Last season’s July series with KC was easily the best of the regular season from an intensity standpoint. The way the season ended is still something that doesn’t sit well with me. It will be very nice to see how this team comes together by July, and to rematch with a club I felt we were better than. I hope to the new gods and the old that Jeff Nelson and his ever-expanding strike zone are not involved in that series.
World Series Champions: The Toronto Blue Jays
Did you ever doubt where this was headed? Obviously this is a fan opinion, but why not us? We are as good as anyone on opening day; we have some playoff experience under our belts, veteran leadership, youthful exuberance, and a sense of urgency. This team has what it takes to make this a special season similar to last year, while finishing off October with a Championship.
I will be at the Blue Jays home opening series next weekend and will report back on changes to the park, the atmosphere as well as the first week of the season.