After a slow start to the 2019 season, the Toronto Blue Jays’ bats have slowly been heating up.
It was getting to be a bad joke. How many times would opposing pitchers take a no hitter in to the 5th, 6th inning or later. The Jays were enjoying mostly good pitching and defence which was much improved over 2018. The offence couldn’t possibly be this bad all season. Could it?
Fortunately the numbers have been much better of late.
The overall numbers still aren’t pretty. The Jays as a team are hitting .217/.290/.358 for a team OPS of .648. However, much of that has been brought down by the early season offensive slumber. Over the last seven games, three hitters in particular have looked very good. Teoscar Hernandez is batting .360/.385/.640. Randal Grichuk is batting .346/.433/.577 and Justin Smoak is batting .333/.548/.524. All three went deep in Toronto’s 7-4 victory over the Twins yesterday, giving the Jays their first series win of the campaign 3 games to 1.
This is very good news for Toronto, both in terms of their present and their future. Grichuk’s contract extension will keep him in a Jays uniform through the 2023 season. Hernandez is until team control through 2023 as well. This duo has the chance to be a significant part of Toronto’s future.
32 year old Smoak is eligible for free agency after the 2019 season. Smoak has previously stated that he would be happy to stay with the Jays, however the more likely scenario is for him to be traded to a contending team at or before the MLB trade deadline. Smoak is one of the better two way first basemen in MLB. His OPS in his last seven games ranks 5th out of 30 1Bs and he was a finalist for the gold glove award in 2018. At $8 million his contract is relatively team friendly. He will be very attractive to contending teams and should provide a good return for the Jays in a trade.
Recently recalled Eric Sogard is hitting an unsustainable .500/.538/.667 in three games. Jays fans will gladly take this production for as long as it lasts. Lourdes Gurriel jr’s OPS in his last seven games is .857. Hopefully he will work through the throwing troubles that led to his demotion to AAA Buffalo and return to the Jays sooner than later. Their offence will be better once he is back.
Predictably, Freddy Galvis, one of the few offensive bright spots early on has cooled off somewhat. His slash line in the last seven games is .219/.219/.344. As a 29 year old, 8 year MLB veteran with a career OPS of .671, he would have very much been beating the odds to be able to sustain the .970 OPS he has posted so far this season. Still, Galvis was signed mostly for his defensive ability and durability. Any offensive production they get from him is a welcome bonus.
The news isn’t all good though. The Jays are still waiting for a few bats to get going. Brandon Drury is hitting .141/.191/.203 on the season. Danny Jansen is hitting .160/.236/.180. Rowdy Tellez is hitting .191/.283/.383. Rumours swirl regarding the possible imminent promotion of Vladimir Guerrero Jr, if and when this happens, he is likely to be the everyday 3B. Drury could be used at 2B either as an everyday player or sharing the playing time with Alen Hanson, or they could decide to ride Sogard’s hot bat as far as it will take them. With other available infield options such as Urena, Gurriel and further down the road Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio, Drury needs to improve his production or eventually he will be replaced.
Danny Jansen is projected as the catcher of the future for the Jays. His defensive performance has been a mixed bag so far in 2019. While he has shown an ability to throw runners out on the base paths, he has struggled at times with passed balls. While the organization has built depth in terms of minor league catching talent, there is nobody who is MLB ready and whose performance threatens to take Jansen’s every day job. In a season where the Jays aren’t expected to contend, they can afford to be patient with Jansen’s development a while longer in the hope that he can come close to the promise he showed in the minors over the last two seasons.
With the possible departure of Justin Smoak in the not too distant future, the everyday job at 1B may soon be up for grabs. The Jays would love for Rowdy Tellez to step forward and show enough to fill that role. 39 games in MLB is far too soon to give up on Tellez especially with the promise he showed in 23 games in 2018. Hopefully for Tellez, the improved hitting of this teammates will soon be contagious and he can seize the opportunity.
Toronto currently ranks 5th in the AL in team era at 3.55 and 4th in defensive efficiency at .710. This plus the improved offence of late could give fans more to cheer for than there has been through the first 20 games.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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