Looking at the Red Sox opposition – The Toronto Blue Jays
BSI is a Boston Red Sox site, but what other teams do in baseball, particularly in the American League East, impacts Boston’s playoff chances. No reason to be insular in our approach to the long haul of 162 games. Now a brief overview of the team I see as destined to take the American League East.
The season is still in the beginning stages. Still, the bulk of preseason forecasting had the Toronto Blue Jays as the pick of the AL East litter and a potential preordained World Series opponent of the Los Angeles Dodgers. I cannot go against that reasoning. A possible WS for Hogtown?
Long-time reader and occasional sarcastic critic Terry Mesmer is a Jays fan (we all have character flaws) and could undoubtedly do a far more precise rendition of all things Blue Jays. Terry will undoubtedly point out any indiscretions on my part. Offensively is the place to start, and it is young and loaded with bats in Toronto. A fun lineup for those of us who like run-scoring baseball.
The Jays’ management was proactive when Marcus Semien took his 45 home runs, 102 RBI, and Gold Glove elsewhere. The Jays used trade chips and swung a deal for the A’s Matt Chapman. Chapman slides into a lineup that features 23-year-old AL home run leader (48) Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, George Springer, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Teoscar Hernandez. Then comes a dropoff, but only based on what I have just mentioned. The second shift on this team can rake.
Toronto has a solid left fielder with Raimel Tapia being picked up from the Rockies. Fellow lefty hitter Cavan Biggio needs to step it up after a less productive .227 in 2021. Catcher Danny Jansen is steady defensively and in Jackie Bradley Jr.‘s territory as a hitter.
Jansen will also share backstop duties with Alejandro Kirk, who may see the bulk of playing time as the season moves forward. Former Red Sox farmhand Santiago Espinal could sneak in with 400+ at-bats playing all over the infield. The only real lineup issue is a bit thin on left-hand hitting.
What usually happens is what is produced with the offense is given away with the defense, and defense starts with pitching. The Jays lost Cy Young winner Robbie Ray and responded by signing (proactive, folks) another lefty in 14 game-winner Kevin Gausman. Despite looking like Pablo Sandoval, fellow lefty Hyun Jin Ryu also won 14 for the Jays in 2021. This guy can pitch.
In 2021 the Jays traded for José Berríos, and the righty was solid. Berríos has a live arm, as the scouts say. They also signed free agent Yusei Kikuchi to a three-year deal expecting more than Kikuchi’s M’s years (15-24, 4.97). From my view, the key to this rotation will be towering Alek Manoah, who went 9-2 for the 2021 Jays. The starters are on par with any in the AL. Then comes the bullpen.
The ‘pen begins and ends with the closer, and the Jays have one of the best in Jordan Romano. The righty throws hard (don’t they all?) and has a career 12.1 K%. The remainder of the Jays bullpen is just what you expect in today’s game. Many veteran talents such as David Phelps, Yimi García, Adam Cimber, and Trevor Richards.
They are mixed in with Ross Stripling, quality lefty Tim Mayza, and hittable Tayler Saucedo as part of the ‘pen pecking order. Expect manager Charlie Montoyo to search for the right arms for the right situation. I will miss erratic Rafael Dolis.
The Red Sox and Jays have a similar offense, and games against each other should be a hitting show. Baseball needs a jump start, and when that happens, it is usually offense that provides the jump. Juiced baseballs or juiced players in the past. What separates the teams is pitching and especially the rotation. Taking Chris Sale out of the rotation for possibly three months or longer sets Boston back. Toronto’s rotation is solid but not spectacular, and the bullpen at least has a closer.
Now a change of pace as I slip into travel mode for Red Sox fans planning a visit to Toronto. The Rogers Center – or Centre – is a vast dome, and my last visit was a few years ago on Canada Day as the Red Sox squared off against the Jays. A boisterous full house.
The good news about Toronto is a favorable monetary exchange, but the bad news is you’ll need it. Toronto is typical of a cosmopolitan high priced city. If you drive into the city, parking at Rogers is inexpensive compared to Boston, and go early to visit the aquarium and the CN Tower.
The Jays will win at least 96 games, and the AL East will be shifting standings for the season. They will win the division, and the Jays could go to the WS with condensed playoff pitching rosters.