The Blue Jays are 10 games deep into Spring Training, and some things have stood out.
The Blue Jays are off to a mediocre start (6-3) to Spring Training, which means close to nothing, but there are certain points to take away now that somewhat competitive baseball is being played once again. Of course, it would be nice to have some games on Sportsnet or MLB dot TV, especially considering all of the ballparks are equipped with cameras, as the Blue Jays official account has been tweeting videos of non-televised games:
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) March 4, 2018
That being said, we’ve watched a few hours of ball, listened to a few more, and read the dispatches of our intrepid and probably sunburned beat writers in Dunedin and throughout The Sunshine State. There’s a few things that have stood out.
- Kevin Pillar is hitting like…well, no one hits .700, ever. Is it too good to be true? Of course it is. Pillar has a career wRC+ of 85 and just a .692 OPS. While he’s hitting great this spring, remember he slashed .345/.406/.500 in 2017’s Spring Training.
- There’s some thought floating around out there that some of Pillar’s performance is due to the fact that there’s finally pieces in place that can steal his position – this just has not happened over the past three years with Toronto’s dearth of outfield prospects. Now, Pillar has to worry about the acquisition of Randal Grichuk and the emergence of the toolsy Anthony Alford, who will eventually be this team’s center fielder. I’m not doubting Pillar’s motivation over the past few seasons, but perhaps he’s beginning to realize that his glove alone won’t keep him safe forever.
- A few days back, the Jays had 15 strikeouts in 20 at-bats, with plenty of runners left in scoring position. It seems to be much of the same lost opportunities that brought the team down in April 2017. Even though the team has posted 71 strikeouts in just nine games, they’re tied for 20th-lowest this spring. The San Francisco Giants have managed to strike out 101 times in 10 games. Still, the offense has been…underwhelming to this point, with the team posting a .252/.321/.445 slash line and scoring just 43 runs (22nd) so far.
- Curtis Granderson has been as-advertised. So far he’s 3-for-10 with two homers and four RBI. Beyond that he’s fared well in the OF (though we shouldn’t expect too much) and served as a tremendous support in the clubhouse and within the MLB Player’s Association during the unrest there this winter.
- The middle infielders acquired this offseason are getting plenty of playing time, much of which is a result of Troy Tulowitzki‘s absence. Gift Ngope (.250, HR), Yangervis Solarter (.167, HR, two RBI) and Aledmys Diaz (.250, two RBI) are getting plenty of innings and not producing a whole lot, and early-on it looks like Ngoepe is having the strongest spring.
- The pitching has been average, posting a 4.32 ERA over 77 innings. Some of that might be skewed by Saturday’s slugfest versus the Twins. The important part right now is health, and everyone but Marcus Stroman seems healthy.
Good Health and Bad Health
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons on Troy Tulowitzki's status for opening day: "I don't expect he'll be ready. But he's moving in the right direction."
— Arden Zwelling (@ArdenZwelling) March 4, 2018
- First, the bad. Troy Tulowitzki hasn’t seen a single inning yet and seems doubtful for Opening Day. This isn’t surprising, seeing as it was ligament damage to his ankle that ended his 2017 season. Unfortunately, his likely start of the season on the DL will be from the recovery of removing a heel spur during the off-season. We all know Tulowitzki is injury-prone, and it’s hard to remain optimistic about his future at this point, but there’s no reason to hate on the shortstop that helped bring a Division Title back to Toronto in 2015.
- Perhaps of much more concern in the loss of Marcus Stroman, who’s battling some shoulder soreness. Many will blame the number of arm actions the young junkballer experiments with, but remember that Stroman has always been like this, and this is hopefully just something along the lines of a Spring Training dead arm, which happens every year.
- Seung-hwan Oh is yet to throw, but the team assures us that he’s good to go. He’s currently having work visa issues.
- Devon Travis is currently hitting .273 (3-for-11) but the good news is he’s playing the field, running, and smiling. He’s looked decent so far, and he’s even taken two walks.
- Aaron Sanchez has looked great, striking out four in four innings of work and showing no signs of the blister issue that plagued him in 2017. Now, please knock on wood or sacrifice a ungulate to your god. Lambs work just fine, usually.
- As I write this (Sunday), Steve Pearce has limped off the field and been replaced by Anthony Alford. So it goes.
On Rob and Ben
You might be wondering who’s been calling games on the radio broadcasts for the Blue Jays. With Jerry Howarth retiring somewhat suddenly in February (we wish you the best, Jerry). It would be Rob Fai, who broadcasts Vancouver Canadians games and Ben Wagner who handles the Buffalo Bisons. Both are exceptional at their craft and a glimpse at what lies ahead for the ears of Blue Jays baseball fans. Both remains well in control of their game-calling voice, are deeply versed in their roster and that of the other teams, and both allow the game to percolate at its own pace. In short, they’ve been the strongest part of the Blue Jays Spring Training so far.
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Roy’s earliest memories all involve baseball from the early 90’s and the Blue Jays dream teams. He became a Blue Jays fan while watching Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green evolve in Syracuse, NY at the run-down confines of MacArthur Stadium, nestled between highway and swamp. A lifelong baseball player, Roy still plays (P, C, 2B, 3B) in the 25+ Syracuse MSBL for the Liverpool Mets. He watches almost all games with his best buddy Sebastian, a five year old Pug, who could care less.