As folks across the continent slowly witness their brackets descend into hopelessness, the Blue Jays still have a few months before a similar thing happens to them. For the people interested in more than simply just filling out a bracket, you'll already be familiar with Selection Sunday which is the day that the 68 teams invited to the NCAA Basketball tournament are announced. Leading up to this day a variety of analysts who get paid real money create their own brackets based off who they think deserves a spot in the field. Throughout the season the teams are rearranged based off the resume they've built during the year with squads that go on last second streaks often riding the helium into the tournament. The same can be said about a baseball team's roster during Spring Training with players like Caleb Gindl beginning the month as an unlikely contender for a spot and ending it putting serious pressure on the powers that be to admit them to the big dance up north in Toronto.
Some terms you'll hear in the lead up to Selection Sunday include the locks, the bubble teams, the last four in, the first four out and the next four out (because saying the first eight out is too easy). It's time to translate this bracketology exercise to the world of the Blue Jays 25-man roster. The most enjoyable part of this process is the discussion it creates based off what certain people value the most in the basketball teams resume, or in this case the player's performances.
The Locks (16)
The first four seeds in each quarter of the bracket for the NCAA tournament are usually known with a fair amount of certainty and the case is fairly similar with the Blue Jays. Players on offence like Jose Bautista, Dalton Pompey, Michael Saunders, Kevin Pillar, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Josh Donaldson, and Russell Martin have all done enough thus far in their careers and/or spring training games to make it a safe bet to assume they'll head north with the team at the end of the month. For the pitchers it's slightly more uncertain but you can say with a fair amount of confidence that Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey, Drew Hutchison, Aaron Sanchez, Aaron Loup, Brett Cecil, and Marco Estrada will all hear their names called on "Selection Sunday" in the Blue Jays locker room. There's always a team that seems to be on the bubble of the first 16 teams and for the Blue Jays it looks like Steve Delabar could be that guy. The All-Star in 2013 had a well-publicized drop off in performance during the latter half of last season, but he's looked pretty good this Spring and a lack of dependable options for the bullpen should ensure that he makes it to the big dance in April.
The Fairly Safe Bubbles (5)
In a year like 2015 for the Blue Jays it's hard to say many bubbles have very safe of an existence but some players certainly have a better shot than others. Young players in Daniel Norris and Devon Travis appear to have done enough during Spring to stake a claim for a roster spot with Toronto as well as Travis' fellow second baseman in Maicer Izturis who has returned from injury in fairly questionable form but has very little flexibility in terms of sending down to the minors. Of course if his groin strain is severe enough to force him to miss opening day then Travis inherits the job (unless service time is considered a priority) without much of a fight and the opportunity for another bubble team (like Ryan Goins) to sneak in presents itself. At this point Dioner Navarro is sitting inside the bubble as well but still has a solid chance of being traded before the season begins. Another bubble pitcher who should feel okay about his chances is Todd Redmond filling the usual "Redmond Role" as he's done a solid job for the team over the last few years as a middle innings guy.
Last Four In
The players in this section have fairly weak claims to make the roster but are likely to benefit from a mediocre year with not a lot of lot of strong depth (kind of like the NCAA this season). Miguel Castro is extremely green but has impressed mightily during March and hasn't done anything to give the Jays a reason to start him in the minors in April to gain an extra year of control. The final bullpen spots are a complete toss up but Andrew Albers has performed well in his short time with the Blue Jays and provides another lefty reliever that fills more of a mop up role in contrast to the high leverage relievers in Loup and Cecil. Justin Smoak has not looked very good at times this Spring but still hasn't fully played his way off the team and should get a chance to prove himself in the regular season. Filling out the bench is equally as difficult a challenge but it seems that Danny Valencia would be a solid choice for a versatile infielder despite his fairly large salary earned in arbitration for a mediocre platoon player.
First Four Out
A multitude of players could currently be considered in this section but Chad Jenkins and his handy-dandy option status make him the obvious first candidate for the annual Toronto-Buffalo shuttle. Josh Thole and his knuckleball catcher's mitt will likely end up on the outside looking in as well thanks to Russell Martin putting in a lot of effort to mastering Dickey's offerings. Another glove ending up in the minors will likely be Ryan Goins' nifty second baseman's mitt unless Izturis is unable to return for Opening Day. Lastly, Caleb Gindl has impressed mightily during his time with Toronto this year but he still hasn't quite played his way onto the team but that could change when things are all said and done in a few weeks. It's a bit of a mess for this category to be fair as Dayan Viciedo should also be considered right on the bubble making it actually the first five out.
Next Four Out
Players that are seeing their chances fade as the team ramps up for the regular season include Ezequiel Carrera and Daric Barton who have both had poor showings in March as well as Liam Hendriks who has proven over the course of his time with the Jays that he's nothing more than a mediocre reliever. Another player in this category for a different reason is Kyle Drabek who hasn't pitched horribly, but has a tough road ahead of him to actually end up making this team coupled with the fact that he's out of options for the 2015 season.
There's my current look at the Blue Jays roster "bracketology", but I'm interested in what you folks have to say about your own opinions and I'm sure some of them vary greatly. It would also be a good time to talk about what team has busted your NCAA bracket so soon into the tournament. It's certainly the SMU Mustangs for me! No perfect bracket this year...