TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Owner: Rogers Communication, worth $24.79 billion
World Series Titles: 1992, 1993
Greatest Player: SP Roy Halladay
Division: AL East
Payroll: 6th, $212,000,000
2022 Result: 92-70, 2nd place, lost to Mariners in AL Wildcard Round, 2-0
General Manager: Ross Atkins
Manager: John Schneider, 43; Record: 46-28, 0 World Series Titles
Home Field: Rogers Centre, Capacity: 49,282
Key Addition: OF Daulton Varsho. The biggest move of the offseason for the Toronto Blue Jays came later in the cycle, when they traded for Varsho. Don’t let his 106 wRC+ fool you, Varsho is much more than a slightly above-average hitter. For one, both fans and projection systems alike expect the bat to progress mightily, surpassing 30 home runs and otherwise increasing his effectiveness. Even without it, Varsho makes an impact. He is a downright elite defensive outfielder and even holds his own behind the plate.
Key Loss: SP Ross Stripling. The Blue Jays most significant loss doesn’t possess much name value. However, Stripling exceeded everyone’s expectations in 2022, posting a 3.01 ERA, keeping his ERA estimators under 4, and posting a 3.1 fWAR. He leaves Yusei Kikuchi as the last man in the rotation. Kikuchi was horrible last year, and if he doesn’t regress to the mean, he creates a bullpen-taxing, losing streak-extending hole at the bottom of the rotation.
Key Injury: SP Hyun Jin Ryu. The story of Toronto’s season will come down to how well they pitch. The aforementioned Kikuchi is only residing in that fifth starter spot because Ryu’s Tommy John has put him on the shelf, probably until at least July.
Prospect Alert: RP Hagen Danner. Let’s face it, there isn’t much MLB-ready talent in this farm system. One name that sticks out is Danner. The Blue Jays have a bunch of “pieces” in their bullpen, but few that inspire real confidence and/or a clean bill of health. Danner offers a high-velocity fastball and a slider that should be able to get professional batters out. He’s a face that could quickly rise this season, especially if things go wrong north of the border.
Scouting Report: Yes, the Blue Jays are a little risky. Half of their lineup is old, as is a good portion of their pitching staff. They won’t wow anyone with their depth, and an early season injury to either ace can kill 26 birds with one stone. Yet, I can’t help but feel optimistic about this team.
Alek Manoah is one of the most imposing power pitchers on the planet and Kevin Gausman is one of the most enjoyable pitchers to watch in all of baseball. They’ll keep this team on track even if a potentially muddy back-end of the rotation has some inconsistencies. Chris Bassitt should be their third-best starter and the final dependable piece they have. If José Berríos can live up to his potential, they’ll win the division, but that’s a big if.
The pen is led by Jordan Romano, who, despite pitching to a 2.11 ERA, only has the third-lowest 2022 ERA of Toronto’s current crop of relievers. Unfortunately, much of the staff seems to be vulnerable to incoming regression. They have enough arms to survive a few bumps in the road, and still have one of the higher-floor bullpens in the sport. Also in their favor is the diversity of arm angles across the staff. It’s an effect that gets mitigated over the course of a seven-game set but wins games in the regular season.
Elsewhere, their young All-Star-filled infield projects to be insane. Where there isn’t elite offense, there’s elite defense. In some places, there is both. They’ve got two certified studs in the corner outfielder surrounding Kevin Kiermaier, an elite defensive specimen. There’s more than enough power to go around, but Toronto also boasts balance in the form of contact and plate discipline. There won’t be any easy outs here come playoff time.
Over/Under Wins: 91, 2nd place in AL East, beat Astros in ALCS
BetBasics Best Bet: Few teams performed worse against the run line (spread) than Toronto. Despite posting the seventh-highest margin of victory (0.4), only four teams covered less frequently, and only three teams posted worse +/- against the run line. They’re due for some regression in this regard. On a game-to-game level, I’d hesitate on betting on the Blue Jays when Berríos is on the hill, at least until we know for sure what he is.
There are a handful of futures that excite me, though. I really like this Toronto team, and expect them to surpass the 90.5 wins set for them. However, there is far more value (+100 compared to -120) on the under. The lack of starting pitching depth, combined with an uninspiring collection of tradeable prospects, leads me to believe that the floor can fall out from under this team; especially if one of their aces fails to shove as frequently as they’re expected to. Multiple projection systems expect Toronto to fall below that mark.