The Toronto Blue Jays have been on a roller coaster ride these last few years. After coming close to a World Series berth in the middle of the decade, the Jays turned over a new leaf. They let franchise veterans like José Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion walk, and saw Marcus Stroman and Josh Donaldson’s time in Toronto come to a close.
By shifting their focus to the future, the Blue Jays found their core of future and gave those kids the keys to the car. The sky was the limit for the Blue Jays in 2020, but it wasn’t an easy season.
First, they didn’t have a home. Then they were bitten by the injury bug. But they endured it all together, and are ready for 2021 and beyond.
The Toronto Blue Jays
2020: Record: 32 – 28
2020 Finish: 3rd in the AL East, 7th in the American League
Surprises in 2020
This club is chock full of youngsters. By all accounts, this season was to be a continuation of a rebuild. The core of their lineup in Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette, Vlad Guerrero, Jr., Teoscar Hernandez, are all 27 or younger. In fact, the Blue Jays only had two positional players over the age of 30, in Travis Shaw and Caleb Joseph, the latter of whom only played 3 games.
This young core in Toronto continues to surprise. Not in the traditional sense of “Wow! I didn’t see that coming,” but more a “How good are these guys?!” kind of way.
While Bo Bichette and Vlad Guerrero Jr. had breakout seasons in 2019, and Cavan Biggio and Teoscar Hernandez both had great 2020 seasons, this was Lourdes Gurriel’s time to shine in the limelight.
Gurriel has been quietly consistent for the Blue Jays over his first two years in Toronto. However, up until 2020, we hadn’t truly seen what he was capable of. The Blue Jays outfield was once a logjam, but now left field belongs to Gurriel. In 2020, he led the Blue Jays in hits, batting average, and total bases. If this is a sign of things to come, the AL East needs to take notice.
Disappointments in 2020
There’s a lot to like about the Blue Jays 2020 season, so it’s hard to find something to really hate on. But if we have to pick two things that disappointed us it’s the Jays veteran starters and Danny Jansen.
Matt Shoemaker, Chase Anderson and Tanner Roark, were not it for Toronto in 2020, full stop. All three of these veteran arms were looking to have bounce back seasons after rough goes in recent years. This wasn’t it. Luckily for the Blue Jays, the only one staying on in 2021 is Roark. So this disappointment has the potential to be 66% less terrible next season.
Danny Jansen is more of a long-term worry for the Blue Jays.
Before the 2019 season, Jansen was ranked within the Top 50 Prospects across the league by Baseball America. That was the consensus from scouts as MLB.com placed him 3rd in the Blue Jays system at the end of the 2018 season.
That’s right. Danny Jansen was ranked ahead of Cavan Biggio and Rowdy Tellez after the 2018 season. Fun fact, both Biggio and Tellez outhit Jansen in 2019 and 2020.
Jansen has yet to show any semblance of the promise he showed in Double-A and Triple-A years prior, and so far has spent his two full-ish MLB seasons hovering around the Mendoza Line. That’s not great, especially when every other prospect up from the Jays system is absolutely raking.
The answer to the Blue Jays problems behind the plate may be solved sooner than later as they have two solid prospects in Alejandro Kirk and Gabriel Moreno making their way to the show. Kirk played in 9 games in 2020, and hit .375. Small sample size for sure, but we’ve gotten a bigger sample size from Jansen and those returns have been poor.
Looking Ahead to 2021
As mentioned above, the Blue Jays put together a rag-tag bunch of veterans for the their 2020 rotation and it didn’t quite pan out. However, 2021 might turn things around.
Robbie Ray was acquired at the trade deadline and has since signed him to a one-year, $8 million dollar deal. The Jays then turned around and signed Tyler Chatwood, the former Rockies stud, who is coming off some tumultuous seasons in Chicago. Since then having just missed out on Corey Kluber, the Blue Jays have been connected to Jake Odorizzi, which would give them a solid rotation that included the #1 right-handed pitching prospect in Nate Pearson.
The bottom line for Toronto is this: the future is happening right before your eyes. Let the boys play, see what happens and adjust accoridngly. In the grand scheme of things we really haven’t seen all that much of this young core and yet, we know they’re superstars.
This Blue Jays team is just getting started. Buckle up.
Projected 2021 Finish: 85-77, 3rd in the AL East
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