We learned a lot of things from Michael Saunders meniscus injury scare earlier this week. Mainly our lessons related to what a meniscus is and how there's a rather large range of severity of that specific injury (from Derick Rose to Victor Martinez). We also learned something that's not quite as exciting, which is that if one Blue Jays starter gets injured then the whole season could easily go down a treacherous path. After the news of Saunders' sprinkler incident broke, Jays fans far and wide rushed to their favourite depth chart websites to try and figure out how the team was going to survive with that hole in left field for half a season. Now that Saunders is expected to miss very little regular season time (possibly in exchange for arthritis down the road) the outlook is slightly less bleak, but the astounding lack of depth is still present.
When taking a look at the Blue Jays projected starting lineup, an injury to almost any player would severely damage the team's chances of competing. Starting in the outfield seems like a logical choice considering the Saunders news has already shown us that the team would have a helluva time trying to even get replacement level play from some combination of Andy Dirks, Kevin Pillar and whatever other player has an outfielder's glove in their locker. The problem isn't any better in centre fielder where a rookie without 100 plate appearances above Double-A is the only thing standing in the way of a legitimate absence of any player who could play the position for more than a few weeks. Beyond the impact that a lack of Jose Bautista in the lineup would cause, the replacement situation for his position would be just as much of a disaster as his corner outfielder counterpart Saunders' almost was.
The left side of the infield is arguably in the most vulnerable position if an injury occurred as the lack of depth is almost nausea-inducing. We've seen that Danny Valencia can hold the fort at third base for limited periods of time but his platoon splits would quickly sink the batting lineup if he was forced to play everyday for a more extended length of time. There isn't a ton of quality left-sided infielders in the minor leagues either as Munenori Kawasaki and Ryan Goins can only take you so far before their entertainment and defensive ability respectively stop cutting it. With a 31-year-old short stop who has missed extended time to injury before, it's a little scary to even think of this possibility.
An injury to a second baseman wouldn't be quite as fatal due to the fact that there's a handful of players who are all slated to provide about the same value to the team at this point. Regardless of who wins the job in spring training, Ryan Goins, Devon Travis, Maicer Izturis, Steve Tolleson, Danny Valencia and every other scrappy player in the organization could probably fill in and provide the same level of play. The team also features a number of players who can play first base so the depth isn't an issue there aside from the obvious damage that Edwin Encarnacion missing time would cause.
As everyone knows the team has too much depth at catcher currently and it would be a cruel twist of fate if Dioner Navarro was traded prior to an injury occurring to Russell Martin. Very few teams have a catcher on their bench that could actually take over the starting job and provide solid value, except maybe the Dodgers, so it would be unfair to criticize the Blue Jays even if they did have a lack of depth at the position.
Although it's a depressing topic to talk about, the coming season seems to be the worst in recent history for the Blue Jays in terms of depth beyond the starting lineup. It would be a great world to live in if the team suffered no major injuries as the players slated to take the field opening day could compete with anyone in the major leagues, but as we know this is rarely the case. Sometime during the season a key player will go down and it won't be a surprise when no one is quite sure how the hole will get filled. There obviously is only a certain number of quality major league players to go around for the 30 teams but most squads slated to contend this season have suitable replacements for at least a handful of their starting players which isn't the case for the Blue Jays. At least there's just over a month until the regular season to try and fix the problem.