We finally have the first sights of the Blue Jays baseball now that Pitchers and Catchers have officially reported to spring training. For baseball fans there is something beautiful about seeing spring training begin, it reminds us that the long wait of winter is finally over and real baseball is about to begin. Right now there is just hope, hope that this season is your teams year, that the baseball gods will look down on your team and smile. Regardless of the projections, hype or lack of hype seeing 0-0 in the win loss column means everyone is again on equal ground. We get to learn who is in the BSOTL or who gained too much in the offseason. We get to see rookies battle for a shot at the majors but best of all we get baseball back…
I like to make a prediction of the 25 man roster at the start of spring training. Before everything gets going its fun to look ahead at the positions in flux and make an argument for the final roster spots. With player options you might not have the best roster on opening day as some players without options will stick around until the team can sneak them through waivers, so that is always worth remember. Lets take a look at who makes the cut:
This is an easy category for the Blue Jays, Russell Martin has a lock on the #1 role for starting catcher and there is no real competition. The backup catcher I predict will be Josh Thole, he isn’t a good choice for a true backup but with the durability of Martin and need for Dickey to have a personal catcher, Thole wins the role. On his heels will be newly signed Tony Sanchez, I would pick Sanchez over Thole but with Dickey around Thole will be on the roster
We have 3 selections in this category Chris Colabello, Justin Smoak and Edwin Encarnacion. Colabello & Smoak should get the share of work in at 1B with Encarnacion spending more time at DH. However all 3 should see time between the two roles. Colabello had a great 2015 and could see the majority of playing time at 1B but Smoak brings his power bat and apparent defense (I don’t have time for that rant) which will come into play as well.
With Devon Travis starting the year on the DL, Ryan Goins is the easy pick for the starting 2B role. Goins proved last season that his defense alone makes him a good choice but he also showed that there is a little life in his bat. I have always said that if Goins has an OBP of at least .300 he is worth a starting spot. Last year he managed a .318 OBP which combined with his defense is a great asset until Travis is healthy. I suspect Travis will take over once he returns as we saw last year what a potentially great player he might be. Goins however will stick around to share time and give rest needed.
Another easy selection is Troy Tulowitzki at short. It will be interesting to see Tulo get a full spring with his new team which hopefully gets him more comfortable. He was open with the fact that the trade was a shock and he wasn’t comfortable in Toronto. His bat will be a welcomed addition to an already beefy lineup. NOTE: Just saw a report that he has a new leg kick similar to Bautista and Donaldson…. keep an eye on that!
Josh Donaldson…. moving on… can you say MVP!
The only real lock I can give right now for a backup role is Darwin Barney. With Travis on the DL and the occasional rest offered to Tulo you need a versatile backup fielder and Barney while not much of a hitter gives the Jays a versatile option. On the outside looking in is re-signed Maicer Izturis and Matt Dominguez though I suspect there is a waiver grab or minor league deal out there for another option before opening day. You would like two on the roster but for now I will go with just Barney.
In left I will pick two players, Dalton Pompey and Michael Saunders. I think they both will share time in left with Pompey seeing time in all three OF positions. In center Kevin Pillar secured his spot past year with an outstanding season and the ever powerful Jose Bautista will be in right. There has been some talk of getting Bautista some practice at 1B to see if he can eventually transition. With 4 good OF options, this leaves the option to DH Bautista on occasion which is why I suspect Pompey will get moved around a bit to cover as needed. On the outside the next two guys in case of an injury are Ezequiel Carrera and Junior Lake, there is a chance that Pompey starts in AAA to get full-time work with Lake or Carrera making the roster. However I still pick Pompey to be on the opening day roster as I think he has improved his patience at the plate and they can be creative to ensure he gets enough playing time. Though both of those guys could sneak on the roster if Saunders wins as the Left Fielder and there wont be enough starts for Pompey.
That gives us 13 so far, with a bench of Thole, Barney, and two of Bello/Smoak/Pompey/Saunders. Ideally they have an additional IF option as they could use one more but I suspect they go with a deeper pen, unless they pick up another IF not currently on the roster. I prefer the deeper bench but the Blue Jays seem to prefer the deeper pen most of the time.
Lets start with the four starters that have a virtual lock on their positions. Marcus Stroman, R.A. Dickey, Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ. Those four assuming good health will be in the rotation unless Dickey gets traded but I am doubtful on one despite a few rumbles over the past few months. My idealistic off-season moved the Dickey and Thole combo but so far the Jays went with their plan. The last spot is tough to peg but as of today I will go with Drew Hutchison. The team wants to believe that Hutch is worth betting on, John Gibbons recently gave him great praise in an interview and he expects him to be a top starter in the coming years. I will touch on his competition in a moment.
The locks for the pen are Drew Storen, Roberto Osuna, Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup, Jesse Chavez and Gavin Floyd. Now before you explode on a few names give me a second. You can easily argue that Loup doesn’t deserve “lock” status and that is probably true but there are virtually almost no other viable lefties to take his spot and while his 2015 wasn’t very good, I do believe it was a blimp and if Gibby uses him as a lefty specialist only he will be a good pick.
Aaron Sanchez is a good as any to be considered a lock but listen for a moment. Personally I would stretch out Osuna and stick Sanchez in the pen for his entire career. That being said I have zero impact on the decision and Sanchez has been very vocal about his desire to be a starter. While I have been hearing rumbles for years that the team is very mixed on Sanchez as a starter or reliever it appears that they are going to give him a shot to be a starter. In short he has the make up to be a top line starter but he lacks secondary pitchers, has control issues and has shown he can be moved back to the pen and be dominant if the starter dream fails. I hope to be wrong but I believe he is a setup guy in waiting. I only hesitate to give his a lock because I think there is an outside chance with the addition of Storen that Sanchez actually starts the year in AAA to work on his secondary pitches until the need arises. So he could not make the team in favour of his future as a starter instead of moving to the pen which makes the team a little stronger.
With the addition of Floyd & Chavez the Blue Jays have nice rotation depth when an injury happens, it always happens and you need depth. The problem is that I think both make the team out of the pen. Now I will pick Sanchez to make the team but if another reliable IF option is added his spot could be temporarily moved to the minors.
The Blue Jays have numerous options to fill out the pen should there be a need. Some of the better names are Ryan Tepera, Bo Schultz, Steve Delabar and Pat Venditte. Out of this list there is room for 1 more, I would pick Schultz from the list after a nice showing last year but it could be easily taken by Venditte. There are also is a list of guys who have touched the majors and next in line depth options. However those are names you might hear of in a few months once everything has settled.
There always is the chance of injuries which could easily make a few names shift. If that happens the next in line guys I mentioned are the names I would predict make the cut. I do not see any prospects making the team this year as the upper minors has been vastly ripped apart from the trade deadline. In the end I predict the 25 man roster will look something like this: