I was asked what the top 5 key story lines that the Blue Jays are facing this spring. I thought it would be a good question for us all.
Here is my answer:
- Who plays left field?
Personally, I don’t see the infatuation the team has with Ezequiel Carrera. He’s a replacement level player. Even last year, when he had about as good a season as you could expect, he had a 0.7 bWAR. As a platoon player, with Melvin Upton, well, he’s not a great choice. He had big reverse splits last year. And career he has a .711 OPS vs. LHP, .649 vs. RHP. That’s not exactly what I’d like out of a lefty half of a platoon. Melvin Upton works as the right-handed half, but I’d rather put Dalton Pompey out there and tell him, you get 300 at bats, don’t worry about a bad game, make the catches in the outfield and don’t sweat a bad game or a bad week.
2. Who fills out the bullpen behind Osuna, Grilli, Smith and Howell?
There are many many possibilities to fill out the last 3 or 4 spots in the pen.
Battling for the second lefty spot are Aaron Loup, Jeff Beliveau, Chad Girodo, Brett Oberholtzer or, perhaps, Danny Barnes, as a right-hander who pitches better against lefties.
Then, from the right side, Joe Biagini, Mike Bolsinger. Matt Dermody, Bo Schultz, Chris Smith, Glenn Sparkman, Ryan Tepera, Gavin Floyd, Mat Latos and, likely, half a dozen other guys, all have a chance. About the only right-hander who doesn’t have chance of making the bullpen is me.
Sparkman is the wild card. If the team decides the rule 5 pickup can be of value he would have to stay on the roster all season. If that happens, he’s the long man out of the pen. In that case I would think Biagini would start the season in the Bisons rotation. Mike Boslinger is out of options, but I can’t see any reason he should make the team. I think we’d be better off with Latos starting in Buffalo.
The team seems to like Gavin Floyd, I’d think that if he can prove he’s healthy, and if doesn’t look terrible, he would get a spot in the pen. After that it’s anyone’s guess, I would think we’d like guys with options for the last couple of spots, so we can run them up and down as needed.
3. How does first base shake out?
It looks like Justin Smoak will get yet another chance, maybe in a platoon with Steve Pearce. Pearce will have to show his arm has recovered from the surgery he had last fall before he can play in the outfield. Whether he can play first, if his elbow hasn’t recovered, is a separate question.
Smoak? well if he does get the job, the question will be ‘how long until Gibby tires of him?’. My guess, mid-May.
Personally, I’d like Pearce to be given the everyday job. Or I’d like Bautista moved there during spring training, but I’m guessing that won’t happen
4. Can Jose Bautista have a bounce back season after not getting the interest expected as a free agent?
I’ve never thought that Bautista was a guy that needed any extra motivation, but if he did, he got it this winter. I’m sure he would like to show everyone in baseball that they were wrong not to try to sign him.
To me, keeping him healthy is all important. I hope they have a plan to give him regular rest. Let him DH occasionally, or, give up on Smoak and put Jose at first.
5. Is Devon Travis healthy enough to start the season on the active roster?
Travis had knee surgery, this winter, and, apparently, the Jays will be taking it slow with him this spring.
If he can’t start the season, odds are we will have Darwin Barney and Ryan Goins playing second base. The would save Goins from the possibility of being DFAed and exposed to waivers.
The Jays also have Jake Elmore and Gregory Petit who will get a chance to show what they can do this spring. And Lourdes Gurriel and Richard Urena will both get a fair bit of playing time in early spring.
What story lines are you watching for this spring?