Apr 4, 2015; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays outfielderJose Bautista
(19) is congratulated by managerJohn Gibbons
and catcherRussell Martin
(55) in the dugout during the sixth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at the Olympic Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Toronto Blue Jays
Predicted Ranking: 2nd Place
Spring Training Record: 19 wins, 13 losses, 0 ties
- Marcus Stroman is the most significant loss to the Blue Jays. After injuring is left knee in a simple drill to field bunts, Stroman has been considered lost for the entire 2015 season. The youth movement in the starting rotation with Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez was the result of that injury.
- Michael Saunders was looking to the day that he signed with the Blue Jays to be the start of a new beginning to his baseball career. Then, he suffered left knee injury by tripping on a sprinkler head in the field, during spring training, sidelining him. He is expected to come back in early April, but it will be interesting to see where he fits in with his new team, who has had to press on without him.
- Much like Saunders, Maicer Izturis was looking at 2015 as being his comeback year from injury, but then pulled his right groin, straining it out of the Blue Jays lineup. In the meantime, Deven Travis played a heck of a spring training session, forcing fans to wonder if Izturis is even needed to return to second base. If so, the earliest that he could return would be sometime in April, but no precise date is scheduled.
- Rotation – Drew Hutchison, R.A. Dickey, Daniel Norris, Mark Buehrle, Aaron Sanchez
- Compared to Dickey and Buehrle, the others look like babies. Yet, Hutchison looked so good, this spring, that he won the ‘ace’ position in the rotation. In spring training, he pitched 18 innings, giving up 3 runs, while striking out 12 opposing hitters. His location was on point, giving manager John Gibbons the faith that he was the man for the job.
- Aaron Sanchez may be the best anchor to any rotation in baseball. Originally, he was slated to be the closer, as he was ‘lights-out’ against teams, last season and this spring training. However, Stroman’s season-ending surgery demanded that changes be made.
- Declared Closer – Brett Cecil
- Middle Relievers- Aaron Loup, Miguel Castro, Roberto Osuna, Marco Estrada, Colt Hynes, Todd Redmond, Liam Hendricks
- The running theme throughout the pitching staff is youth. Castro and Osuna were never expected to develop this quickly, but have found themselves in a break-out spring training, where they went 24.2 innings, giving up 6 runs, while striking out 26 batters. Opposing hitters, who were often major starters, not mere batting fodder, hit a mere .163 and .227 against Castro and Osuna, respectively.
- Cecil could do the job, but he has never really had experience in the situation. In his career, Cecil has 6 saves in 10 opportunities. It’s the lefty’s job to keep or lose.
- C – Russell Martin, 1st Base – Justin Smoak, 2nd Base – Deven Travis, 3rd Base – Josh Donaldson, ShortStop – Jose Reyes, Left Field – Michael Saunders (Kevin Pillar), Center Field – Dalton Pompey, Right Field – Jose Bautista, DH – Edwin Encarnacion
- Where to start? With so many changes in the Blue Jays lineup, it could be a daunting task. However, where else would you start than with the face of the franchise? Bautista is on fire, hitting 6 home runs and 14 RBIs this spring, slugging .745. Look for Bautista to be the leader on and off of the field.
- Pillar will replace Saunders, if his injury flames up.
- Donaldson immediately makes an impact with the Blue Jays, replacing an injury-plagued Brett Lawrie. Donaldson is a proven All-Star who can play solid defense with an incredible bat.
Player(s) To Watch in 2015:
- Russell Martin may be the most significant move that the Blue Jays made in the off-season. Instead of discussing his bat, which was technically already there with Dioner Navarro, it’s Martin’s intangible leadership over the pitching staff that will prove his worth. His defensive play has already assured the Blue Jays brass that he can catch the knuckle-chucker R.A. Dickey, making him the everyday starting catcher, regardless of the pitcher. With so many young pitchers, on the starting rotation and the bullpen, Martin’s experience in the playoffs, catching for other teams’ aces and future Hall-Of-Famers, will be essential in helping to guide them through game strategy and pitch location.
- Daniel Norris was living in his vehicle when he would drive to games. His living conditions have not changed, by choice, regardless of his call-up to the majors. It’s the way he lives his life. He isn’t worried about the pressure of game situations; he’s worried about big money changing him into something that he isn’t. This life choice may seem a bit odd to some of us, but it’s what helped proved to everyone in the Jays organization that he was ready for the starting rotation. Norris earned 4 wins, striking out 30 batters and holding opposing lineups to a .222 batting average, in just over 27 innings. If he can continue that success, expect to see his vehicle in the parking lot at a professional baseball team’s field near you.