Top prospects boost hopes for future
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 first 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 outfield to combat pull-heavy hitters.
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 final 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.
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 five 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
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 fit.
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 different just two years later.
New Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo talked during the winter meetings about using an “opener” in the first inning. Toronto might use more shifts, too.