It wouldn’t take much for the Toronto Blue Jays to blow past their most recent 2020 projections, perhaps surprising some people
On February 2, MLB’s Anthony Castrovince wrote that the Blue Jays were one of four teams expected to improve big in 2020. He predicted a 79 win total, which would be a 12 game improvement over the 67 they had in 2019.
While I agree that the Jays will significantly improve in 2020, I believe they will exceed 79 wins. Here are my reasons why.
Before I begin, everything I am about to say assumes that all players involved will be healthy. In an attempt to avoid sounding like a broken record, I’m not going to say that over and over again.
None of this talented trio started the 2019 season with the Jays. Guerrero jr played 123 MLB games, Biggio an even 100 and Bichette 46. Barring serious regression (which I don’t expect), they will all play a full season with the Jays in 2020
Late season adjustments by Biggio.
One thing that stands out about Biggio is his plate discipline. If he had played enough in 2019 to be a qualifier, his 16.5% walk rate would have tied him for 4th best in all of MLB.
Still, Jays management thought he could do better than his .215 batting average through the end of August. They challenged him to take a more aggressive approach at the plate.
Biggio’s OPS in September was .987. While it isn’t generally advisable to put too much credence in September stats, it will be interesting to see how much of his September success carries over to 2020 and beyond.
Guerrero’s high ceiling.
We saw glimpses of his considerable talent in 2019. Two AL player of the week awards (May 13-19; July 29-Aug 4). His OPS in August was .977. He hit a record 91 home runs in his first home run derby. What Jays fans need from him is consistency.
Guerrero went in to the off season with a goal of losing weight and improving his conditioning. Looking at him at Winterfest, he seems to have accomplished that goal. There has been much talk of him increasing his launch angle in order to hit more fly balls and fewer ground balls. If he can accomplish this, 2020 could be a break out season for him.
Early in the season, it seemed like the Jays were being no hit every other game. Gurriel Jr was a part of that problem. Through April 14, his OPS was .525 in addition to his infield defence badly needing improvement.
Gurriel was sent to AAA where he spent more than a month working on different things, including playing outfield. He was finally brought back to the Jays on May 24th.
When Gurriel Jr was recalled he looked like a different player. His OPS was .919 the rest of the way.
Hernandez’ season took a similar path. Through May 15th his OPS was .562. He too was sent to play at AAA, recalled on June 5th. His OPS was .873 the rest of the way. Blue Jays fans can hope that the adjustments they made last year carry over in to 2020 and beyond.
McGuire put up 1.2 fWAR in 30 games as a late season call up for the Jays in 2019. Maile on the other hand posted -0.3 fWAR in 45 games.
In 2018 it looked like Maile had a break out season with an OPS of .700. Unfortunately he followed that up with an abysmal.440 OPS in 2019. Maile went on the IL on July 27, and McGuire was called up to take his place.
McGuire, who was always known as a glove first prospect throughout his MiLB career had a surprising .872 OPS in 30 MLB games in 2019. This followed his .914 OPS in 14 games in 2018. While these stellar offensive numbers may not be sustainable long term, he could lose 100 points from that OPS and still be a very good player, along with his strong defence behind the plate.
Danny Jansen’s bounce back potential.
It’s reasonable to assume that in terms of continuing his development at the major league level, much of Jansen’s focus in 2019 was on defence.
In that way, Jansen’s 2019 season was a success. He finished in the top three in the American League in gold glove voting for catchers.
He was good for 1.4 fWAR in spite of a .639 OPS. The good news is that he has a good chance to improve on his sub-par 2019 offensive season. In the minors, Jansen was known as an offence first backstop. His OPS in MiLB in 2017 and 2018 (after he started wearing glasses) was .884 and .863 respectively.
In 31 games as a 23 year old MLB rookie in 2018 his OPS was a very respectable.779. If he could return to something close to this, combined with his stellar defence, that would be more than acceptable for him.
The other guys
Toronto signed Travis Shaw in the hopes that he could bounce back from a sub-par 2019. Prior to that, his OPS was over .800 in three of his other four seasons in MLB. He should challenge Rowdy Tellez for playing time and if this pushes Tellez to find consistency at the plate, so much the better for the team.
And we haven’t even talked about the pitching improvements yet.
Going in to the off season, it was clear that Toronto’s biggest priority would be improving their pitching. They signed a legitimate number one starter in Hyun-Jin Ryu, MLB’s era leader from a year ago. But that wasn’t all. They signed pitchers Tanner Roark and Shun Yamaguchi as free agents and traded for pitcher Chase Anderson. Matt Shoemaker who missed most of 2019 with injuries appears healthy and ready to contribute.
They also have quality starting pitching depth they didn’t have a year ago. Ryan Borucki is healthy and hoping to return to the success he had in 2018. Trent Thornton has a full season under his belt and posted some impressive stats late last season
A gem for my 🇨🇦 bestie @zackroto & his pet moose 🦌
Trent Thorton TOR
Last 9 GS (8/11)
Vs tough comp btw (2×NYY 2×TB 1×HOU 1×BOS)
— MLB Moving Averages (@MLBMovingAvg) January 29, 2020
Lefty Anthony Kay, one of the prospects the Jays got for Marcus Stroman, posted an impressive 2.64 FIP in three outings with the Jays last September. TJ Zeuch got a late start to his 2019 season due to injuries. He made up for lost time by throwing a no hitter for the Buffalo Bisons On August 19 before making his MLB debut in September. If anyone does get injured, or not perform well, there are viable options to step in.
And let’s not forget the one would COULD be the best of the bunch. Hard throwing Nate Pearson missed most of the 2018 season due to injuries. He sped through the Jays minor league system in 2019 like one of his fastballs. He made stops at A+, AA, and finished the season with 6 games at AAA. It is widely expected that he will make his Toronto Blue Jays debut sometime in 2020, likely after a bit more seasoning at AAA.
For now he is just a prospect, until he proves he can handle MLB hitters. But his high upside is very exciting.
This young team is poised to take a big step forward in 2020. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 20 win improvement over the 67 they had last season.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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