With the Blue Jays’ first game of spring training come and gone, there are some roster spots up for grabs…and several players will battle it out
Game one of the Blue Jays exhibition season is in the books. Their 2-1 victory over division rival New York Yankees is fun for the fans, but it doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things.
Aside from giving established players time to get in game shape, spring training is a chance for clubs to evaluate players who are competing for jobs in MLB.
In terms of position players for Toronto, assuming everyone is healthy, several roster spots have likely already been decided. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Randal Grichuk, Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire are good bets to be on Toronto’s opening day roster.
Outfielders Anthony Alford and Derek Fisher are in similar situations this spring. Both players are out of options, so they need to make the big club or be put on waivers if they are healthy and not on the IL. Both have lots of raw talent. Neither have seen that talent turn in to consistent results in MLB at least not yet.
In 33 games over parts of three seasons in the majors, Alford has a slash line of .179/.233/.286. Fisher’s results to date are a bit better at .191/.279/.369 but certainly not spectacular. He has also played in 152 MLB games over the same three year span, giving him a bit more experience and opportunity to adjust to major league competition.
Assuming that the club has Teoscar Hernandez penciled in as the other everyday outfielder along with Gurriel Jr and Grichuk, Alford and Fisher could be competing for the fourth outfielder job.
Yezterday, Alford and Fisher accounted for two of the six Jays hits on the afternoon. Fisher went 1 for 2 with a double. Alford was also 1 for 2. He hit a single, then proceeded to steal second, then third and home in the inning, scoring the winning run in a 2-1 victory.
Obviously it’s far too early to predict that either player, or both, will have a break out season in 2020. But so far so good.
With MLB rosters being at 26 with a 13 pitcher maximum, it’s not inconceivable that Alford and Fisher could both break camp with the Jays.
The fourth (and possibly fifth) outfield spot isn’t the only one up for grabs. Trent Thornton is one of a few candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation. In his first Grapefruit League start, he pitched two scoreless innings. a walk to DJ LeMahieu being the only blemish on his day. Two of the other candidates, Anthony Kay and Shun Yamaguchi are expected to pitch in the next couple of days. They will want to continue the overall good start to the very young season by Jays hurlers.
Other spots don’t appear to be set in stone. Travis Shaw signed a major league contract in the offseason. He is expected to be the everyday 1B. Shaw is looking to return to his pre 2019 MLB success to get his career back on track. That would appear to have Rowdy Tellez on the outside looking in.
Tellez does have one minor league option remaining. The organization could send him to AAA without risk of losing him. Still motivation is there for him to have a strong showing this spring and force his way on to the team. He could DH, he could be a power bat off the bench. He could also end up sharing the 1B duties with Shaw, who can also play 3B and 2B and give regulars such as Guerrero and Biggio a day off.
Then there is Brandon Drury.
Drury spent all of 2019 with the Jays. While his defence and versatility were no doubt appreciated, his .642 OPS left much to be desired. Drury also has one remaining option year. If both Shaw and Tellez have strong springs and Drury doesn’t, as unlikely as it may seem, he could be the odd man out.
They all have plenty of motivation to have as strong a spring as possible when their opportunity arises.
If everyone rises to the challenge presented by internal competition, the big winner could be the Blue Jays.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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