Editor’s note: Baseball is back and Yahoo Sports is previewing all 30 teams over the next month. This year’s previews will focus on fantasy and reality, as our MLB news staff and our fantasy baseball crew come together to assess each team before opening day. Next up, the Toronto Blue Jays.
The future is bright in Toronto, but the present is, uhhh, going to be a little tough on the win-loss column this year.
Blue Jays have two very important things to look forward to in 2019: The arrival of the game’s top prospect, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the fact that they’re not the Baltimore Orioles.
Fact is, the Jays are far more interesting for fantasy and prospect purposes than they are as a AL contender — unless there are actually four young Vlads and they all play different positions.
While all eyes will be on Vlad Jr. (whenever they call him up), there are other compelling storylines in Toronto: Can Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez bounce back? And if they can — Stroman, especially — is the next Jay to get traded?
It all makes the Jays at least worth watching this season, even if there’s no hope for catching the Yankees or Red Sox.
Toronto Blue Jays’ offseason grade
The Blue Jays are another one of those teams whose biggest change came on the bench. With John Gibbons out, they hired Charlie Montoyo as their new manager. Beyond that, the biggest moves for Toronto were departures. They traded Russell Martin and released Troy Tulowitzki, embracing the youth movement that’s coming.
To fill the gaps on their roster, the Jays signed shortstop Freddy Galvis, Matt Shoemaker, Clay Buchholz, Bud Norris and John Axford to short-term contracts. They also traded for Clayton Richard.
Our grade: D+ — it’s their farm system that matters most, so the Jays weren’t expected to do much else. We’re giving them a plus because there’s a chance they can move some of these one-year guys at the trade deadline. – Mike Oz
Blue Jays’ projected lineup and pitching staff
What is Toronto’s biggest fantasy question?
Is Vladimir Guerrero Jr. worth a premium fantasy pick before he sees a pitch in the majors? Guerrero, who turns 20 in mid-March, will probably spend a few weeks in Triple-A as the Blue Jays play the service-time manipulation game. After that, you’ll see him in the middle of the Toronto lineup. Early Yahoo ADP shows Guerrero at Pick 49, so you have to draft him as a sure thing, a foundational player. How important are Shiny New Toys to you? Are you comfortable buying in at the likely high end of Guerrero’s rookie-year range? Some Yahoo pundits are ready to cut the check; others are not so sure. If you’re in an auction format, throw Baby Vlad out there early, watch the bidding fly. – Scott Pianowski
Who is the Blue Jays’ best late-round lottery ticket?
The timing could be right for a Randal Grichuk career year. He whacked 25 homers in 124 games last year, and although he’s always been a free swinger, he did trim his strikeout rate by almost four percent. Grichuk is entering his age-27 season, he’s a former first-round pick, and he’s got a solid hold on a middle-order slot, something that wasn’t always true last year. And price is nice in the Yahoo game, going around pick 254 in early drafts. A nifty final fill to your mixed-league outfield. – Scott Pianowski
Toronto prospect to watch
If we’re going deeper than Vlad Jr., we don’t actually have to look too deep. Bo Bichette, another second-generation stud, is the Jays’ other exciting youngster. He’s ranked No. 11 overall in MLB, according to MLB Pipeline, and could make an impact on the big-league level in 2019. Bichette, 20, is the son of Dante Bichette. He plays shortstop, but could move. His bat is his real weapon. He’s hit .328 with a .385 on-base percentage through his minor-league career. – Mike Oz
Things that MUST go right for the Blue Jays
1. Right the Vladimir Guerrero Jr. wrong: We know, we know. The Blue Jays are only keeping Guerrero in the minors to manipulate a system that’s broken. We get it. But for the sake of his development, they better not toy around with Guerrero too long. Chances are he would have been ready to contribute early last season. Yet we still might not see him until June or July this year. The sooner they turn him loose at Rogers Centre, the more likely we are to see the very best possible version of Guerrero this season.
2. Marcus Stroman rebuilds value: The Blue Jays ace was not nearly himself in 2018. Stroman only logged 102.1 innings in an injury-riddled and mostly ineffective campaign, posting a career worst 5.54 ERA in the process. It feels safe to assume he’ll bounce back from that disappointment with better health. The Blue Jays will need him to, especially if they hope to sell him off at the trade deadline.
3. Bullpen bounces back: Toronto’s starting rotation and bullpen both finished in the bottom 10 in ERA last season. That doesn’t bode well for 2019 considering few, if any, noted improvements were made. There is opportunity though for some young pitchers to step up behind Ken Giles, Ryan Tepera and David Phelps. If two or three reliable arms emerge, they’ll be in decent shape. If not, the workload required and level of competition they’ll face will overwhelm them. – Mark Townsend
If this team had a walk-up song, what would it be?
Like we weren’t gonna pick a Drake song. The question was, which Drake song? Plenty to choose from, but we’re going with “No Tellin’” because it’s the perfect Opening Day song.
Hey, Blue Jays, when are you gonna call up Vlad Jr.?
“Ain’t no tellin!” – Mike Oz