The Toronto Blue Jays suffered their first loss of 2020, highlighting the need to figure out where certain guys fit
The Toronto Blue Jays are young and exciting and there is reason to be optimistic about their chances in 2020. Playoffs are expanded and there is a lot of talent on this squad. In a normal season, we may not allow ourselves to dream on the postseason just yet. But, this year things are a bit different. That said, if the Blue Jays are going to make some noise, they have some roles they’ll need to figure out.
Before diving in to this, we should acknowledge a couple things. Firstly, we’ve seen just two games in 2020, so we shouldn’t be raising alarm bells, or getting too excited just yet – let’s have some perspective. Secondly, the Blue Jays are putting a lot of value on guys who can do multiple things, play multiple positions. So, with more players who can do that, it only follows that there will be more experimenting. Thirdly, and more importantly, this season was always about evaluating players and bulking up their roster for the next couple of years when they have a chance to compete. So, as much as we would love to think about the playoffs, that wasn’t the goal and we’re only thinking this way because it is such an odd season.
With all of that out of the way, let’s look at a couple roles that need to be sorted out. The most obvious one (right now) comes from Saturday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Sam Gaviglio was used in a late inning, high leverage situation and gave up a 2-run triple to Brandon Lowe that put the Rays ahead for good. Almost immediately, fans were shouting the same question: “Why Gaviglio there?”
Last season, the 30 yr old collected 95 innings of work over 52 games, going 4-2 with a 4.61 ERA, which is supported by his 4.64 FIP. He had an improved WHIP at 1.12, but was not someone manager, Charlie Montoyo called upon in close games. He was meant to be a guy who has starting experience so could give multiple innings should there be a situation that calls for it…late in a tie game is not that situation.
But, if there is a silver lining there, it is that Montoyo should have it confirmed that Gaviglio is not a late inning option. It is not clear why he would have needed further confirmation, but he has it now. He already has options like Rafael Dolis or Jordan Romano. And, the argument that they’d already pitched the night before is a little weak. Sure, you want them to be at peak performance in this 60 game sprint, but with other options available (Shun Yamaguchi, perhaps) it wasn’t the best decision. That just isn’t Gaviglio’s role. Experiment over, hopefully.
However, it won’t be the only decision that Montoyo needs to make, or the only experiment he tries. The move of Vladimir Guerrero Jr to first base is another one of those. This team is in need of the phenom’s bat to come around. After not living up to the hype (could anyone have lived up to it?), they sped up the transition. But, with Rowdy Tellez and Travis Shaw both able to play first and in need of playing time, Vlad may not get comfortable in any role. Is he a DH? Is he a first baseman? If the talk of him being impacted mentally by the pressure last season is correct, doesn’t he need some consistency?
This leads to other discussion. What exactly is Tellez’ role on this team? Is he a first baseman? Is he a DH? Is he even an everyday player? It would be tough to answer that question if he doesn’t play every day. That is a challenge for Montoyo. Another challenge will be what to do with Santiago Espinal, who can literally play anywhere. His flexibility is only seen as a plus, but when you try and get guys playing time on the other side of the diamond, you impact his time. What about Anthony Kay? Is he a starter? The initial answer is ‘yes’ and injuries happen, so that should be the response. But, if everyone is healthy, would his potential be better served in the bullpen? We haven’t even talked about how the outfield will sort itself out…
There are a lot of questions surrounding roles on this Blue Jays team. It is early in the 2020 season, a season where expectations may have been forced higher than they should be. So, there is likely no rush to try and answer them. As well, we should remember that having these types of questions is ultimately a good thing. It means there is depth, which is something we haven’t been able to say in a while.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.