By: Joseph Caruso (@joe_caruso9)
Play ball! With baseball officially back, one team, (my favorite team) the Toronto Blue Jays have an interesting squad heading into the shortened 2020 MLB season. With how unusual a year 2020 has been, why couldn’t some more strange things occur during the season? And no I’m not going out on a limb and saying the Orioles are making a wild card game or anything, but can the Blue Jays?
Here are Three Factors that can help the Blue Jays clinch a wild card berth in 2020.
Young Guns Step Up to the Plate
Last year was the first year of the Blue Jays youth movement with the call-ups of Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladmir Guerrero Jr. all performing admirably. Bichette in particular was a force after his call-up in July slashing .311/.358/.570 in 46 games. With only 60 games this season, Bichette may be able to replicate similar production in 2020.
While Vlad Jr. was extremely hyped up leading into his call-up, his season was good but not great as he had some memorable moments such as his HR Derby performance but his defence at third was meh at best. With his transition over to first/ DH, the Jays want Vladdy to focus on what he does best, mashing.
Biggio rounds out the trio as he is a little older than both Vladdy and Bo and had an up-and-down season. The good news is he seems to have a good eye with an OBP of .364 last season. Biggio also started to come alive in September when he hit for the cycle against the Orioles.
These young guns as well as other younger pieces on the team such as Rowdy Tellez, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. have to maintain consistency during the 60-game sprint and maybe have one of the most exciting offenses in the majors.
Revamped Pitching Comes Together
The Jays were in desperate need of a revamped rotation and that is exactly what they got in the 2019 offseason. The biggest fish of course was landing Hyun Jin Ryu on a 4 year $80 million contract. Ryu was one of the best pitchers in the NL last season and was considered the ace of the Dodgers staff as he crafted a 2.32 ERA and 1.007 WHIP with 163 punchouts in 182⅔ innings. While it could be a red flag to sign a now 33 year old pitcher to this kind of money after one great season, Ryu when healthy is one of the better lefties in the league.
Ryu was not the only reinforcement as Tanner Rorak was also added on a 2 year $24 million deal as well as trading for Chase Anderson from the Brewers. With three new arms in the rotation and the hopeful health of Ryan Bourucki, and Matt Shoemaker, the Jays rotation is in much better shape than it was this time last July.
The most intriguing player however is Nate Pearson. The big fastball machine is already 24-years-old and has limited experience beyond the AA level. If Pearson is able to crack the rotation, that gives the Jays another potentially elite arm to keep opposing hitters at bay. Oh, they also have an extremely underrated Ken Giles as the closer.
The AL is not as strong as it was in recent seasons. Currently, some of the worst teams in the entire MLB reside in the AL such as the Orioles, Tigers, Royals, and Mariners. Other AL teams such as the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians have taken a step back due to owners refusing to keep quality players around and of course the Houston Astros who could regress due to a lack of trash can banging, the AL wild card berth is open for the Blue Jays to potentially snag.
Of course there are other quality teams in the AL. The Yankees, Rays, Twins, A’s come to mind. If the Blue Jays are able to capitalize on their schedule with hitting and pitching coming together in a 60-game sprint where anything can happen, why not them?
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