Top prospects boost hopes for fu­ture

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - Adam Woodard

Five is­sues fac­ing the Blue Jays:

Af­ter mov­ing on from John Gib­bons, the Blue Jays are in re­build mode, and new man­ager Char­lie Mon­toyo just might be the per­fect per­son to lead Toronto back to rel­e­vance. A prod­uct of the Rays or­ga­ni­za­tion as a Class AAA man­ager and then as the bench coach in the ma­jors, Mon­toyo is more will­ing to ex­per­i­ment with line­ups and break away from the norm.

Dur­ing the De­cem­ber win­ter meet­ings in Las Ve­gas, Mon­toyo hinted at the Jays em­ploy­ing the “opener” strat­egy by us­ing a re­liever in the first in­ning and then go­ing to a starter. “If we had the right pitch­ing to do it, it’s go­ing to work,” he said.

On top of that, don’t be sur­prised to see more shifts, such as four Jays in the outfield to com­bat pull-heavy hit­ters.

Pitch­ing ad­di­tions:

The Jays boast a de­cent start­ing one-two punch with right-han­ders Mar­cus Stro­man and Aaron Sanchez, fol­lowed by left-han­der Ryan Borucki in the third spot. A slew of oth­ers will be con­tend­ing for the final two spots in the ro­ta­tion, in­clud­ing vet­eran ad­di­tions Matt Shoe­maker and Clay­ton Richard. Shoe­maker has a 3.93 ca­reer ERA in 101 games while Richard is at 4.46 in 265 games.

Once the ro­ta­tion is squared away, Toronto will need to bol­ster a bullpen whose ERA ranked in the bot­tom third of the ma­jors. Any sort of depth will be wel­comed, with a pri­or­ity on left­ies and a re­li­able closer or setup man.

lead­er­ship:

On open­ing day last sea­son, the Blue Jays had the old­est team in the bigs with an av­er­age age of just over 31. At press time, the team had just six play­ers over the age of 30 on its 40-man ros­ter.

The de­ci­sion to cut 34-year-old Troy Tu­low­itzki not only brings down the me­dian age of the team but puts the pres­sure on vet­er­ans Kendrys Mo­rales, Justin Smoak and Rus­sell Martin to men­tor and usher in the next gen­er­a­tion.

Speak­ing of Toronto’s young­sters, Mon­toyo said he likes their po­ten­tial, go­ing as far as com­par­ing his young squad to the Bos­ton Red Sox of five years ago who grew into cham­pi­ons.

“That’s my hope, and I think what’s go­ing to hap­pen,” he said.

The Jays have the con­sen­sus top prospect in Vladimir Guer­rero Jr., who should be start­ing at third base by May. Short­stop Bo Bichette is an­other highly touted player who might see time in the ma­jors this year as a backup be­hind Lour­des Gur­riel Jr., who will take over for Tu­low­itzki. that’s

un­cer­tainty:

Look­ing ahead, Toronto only has one player un­der con­tract be­yond 2020: Gur­riel. This gives gen­eral man­ager Ross Atkins, who hinted at free agency and trade op­tions at the win­ter meet­ings, plenty of room to work and op­er­ate as he sees fit.

Whether they go all-in on their in­house tal­ent with new deals or use their money to make trades and take on big­ger con­tracts, the Blue Jays you see in 2019 might look vastly differ­ent just two years later.

DANIEL CLARK/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

New Blue Jays man­ager Char­lie Mon­toyo talked dur­ing the win­ter meet­ings about us­ing an “opener” in the first in­ning. Toronto might use more shifts, too.

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