The Toronto Blue Jays are seeing some interesting performances to start this short season, but do they mean anything…or everything?
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The Toronto Blue Jays have started this weird Covid shortened season, going 3-4 and finding themselves 3 games back of first place and, more importantly, without a series this past weekend because the Phillies couldn’t produce negative Covid tests. With games being postponed, the MLB season is a mess and could come to a screaming halt, rendering a small sample size even smaller. For a rebuilding team like the Blue Jays, it is an odd time to base decisions on what they’re seeing on the field.
There are performances in 2020 that would have helped guide the Blue Jays’ offseason plans in an attempt to take another step toward contention. Obviously, a shortened season means that their decisions will be a tad more difficult and they’ll need to rely more on what they’ve seen in Spring and Summer Training. That becomes even more true if the season is cancelled. But, nothing replaces good old fashioned real (as real as this 2020 thing can be) game competition. With that said, let’s take a look at a few notable early performances and their potential impact.
Teoscar Hernandez is leading MLB with 4 home runs. It is indeed a nice little streak he is on. It is showing signs of why the Blue Jays wanted him from Houston a while back. However, we all know that he hasn’t been able to consistently show this kind of performance over his time in Toronto. Some argue that he is too streaky while others say that once he found his role (likely DH with occasional time in CF), he became an important part of this lineup. They’ll point to the second half of 2019 where he hit .259/.346/.592 and put up a wRC+ of 142. Did more consistent playing time translate to more success? Or, is he that streaky? Management will have to decide how much stock they put in his 2020 sample to figure out if he is a part of the future competitive window or not.
2- Being Shun-ed
Shun Yamaguchi was brought over from Japan this past offseason with a number of possibilities for his place on the roster. He could start, he could go multiple innings out of the bullpen, or he could be a late inning option. But, a disappointing Spring 1.0 and Spring 2.0 relegated him to a warm body in the ‘pen. Manager, Charlie Montoyo seemed reluctant to call on him. And, once he did, we saw why. So far, he has tossed the grand total of 1.0 innings over 2 games, taking a loss in each. His ERA sits at 36.00, which is obviously not a realistic number based on such a small sample. But, his 8.07 FIP indicates that Montoyo, using what he’s seen in the lead up to the season, may have been right about where Yamaguchi is in his transition to MLB. As of right now, it is not even clear where the Japanese hurler fits in this season, let alone moving forward.
3- Closer in the Making?
Jordan Romano has been a revelation in 2020. He has looked very good, throwing heat in the late innings. Montoyo must have liked what he’s seen in preparation for this season, because he has not hesitated to use him in high leverage situations. He seems to be a different pitcher than we saw in 15 disappointing innings last season. In 4 innings, he has put up an ERA of 0.00 (!) and a FIP of 2.02. The 4 inning sample is not enough to base any decisions on, but if the season were to end tomorrow, Romano surely has impressed his employers and has to be give consideration moving forward. That consideration will increase if Ken Giles does not return.
4- Large Adult Ground Balls
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.is struggling right now. The young phenom has had a rough 30 plate appearances. He’s slashing .172/.200/.276 with a wRC+ of 31. Some would call his 2019 disappointing, but that has more to do with the hype and expectations that were put on him than anything else. And, if we can dismiss 514 plate appearances that way, can we do that same for his 2020? He’s still hitting the ball very hard (nearly 60%, in fact), but he is hitting it into the ground at a rate of 68.2%. His power is there, but there is need for adjustments to better utilize it. Obviously, no one is going to write off a potential talent like this, but in a small sample size like this Vlad is not looking so good. If anyone is going to get the longest of leashes, though, it is this young man. So, don’t worry.
5- Managing the Future
Charlie Montoyo was brought in to help the growth of some serious young talent. His extensive experience in the minor leagues, and the creative ideas he would h ave picked up in the Rays organization made him the candidate the Toronto Blue Jays wanted. 2020 has not been an example of Montoyo’s best work. That is particularly true of his late in game/ bullpen management situations. His decision making has directly led to losses and could even have led to a more serious injury to Giles. In a season where the club actually feels like they have a chance at the postseason – thanks to a 60 game sprint and expanded playoffs – every game means much more. And, at the end of the day, managers are hired to be fired, so on field performance is paramount. The argument could be made that Montoyo has helped transition young guys to the majors. But, has he shown himself to be the manager the club needs to be a competitive team? The front office will have to wrestle with this question and will have a small sample from which to do it.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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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.