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MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Déjà vu: the Blue Jays again have one of the youngest 40-man rosters in baseball

What’s old is new again for the Blue Jays...or something like that. A trip down BBB memory lane.

A lot can change in eight years.

For example, eight years ago the Blue Jays were in the midst of rebuilding, with the first wave of talent percolating to the big leagues and exemplified by a young infielder who took the league by storm over the last couple months. In Washington, an incumbent President with an approval rating in the low-40s was gearing up for re-election, while Canadians had just handed the Prime Minister of the day a fresh mandate. Whereas eight later...well, history doesn’t repeat but it often rhymes. As the line goes, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Eight years (and five days) ago I wrote my first post on this website. It was a Fanpost sparked by a casual weekend perusal of the 40-man roster, and the observation that the Jays had no players both before 1980, while also having two players born in the 1990s (something that was notable at the time). I was curious how that compared to the league, and the rest is history.

Sure enough, the Jays had one of the youngest 40-man rosters in MLB at the time, alongside Kansas City who was the only other teams with no players born in the 1970s. Both were among the six only teams who had multiple 1990s-born players (15 teams didn’t have any). Even within the 1980s — 86% of players in November 2011 were born in that decade — the Jays skewed young, ranking third in the league with 62% of players born in 1985 of after (again trailing Kansas City but Cleveland slightly too).

In between now and then, the Jays went from one of the youngest teams, to one of the oldest a few years later in 2015-16, then back to very young. It’s interesting that Kansas City. the team most demographically comparable to the Jays at the time ended up having a very similar trajectory with an almost co-incident peak.

Given that things have gone full circle, I thought it would be interesting on a slow weekend to look at how things compare now. As I noted at the time, it’s a bit of a skewed time to take such a snapshot, since it’s after predominantly veteran free agents have declared but few have signed, and a wave of younger players is yet to be added imminently. But nonetheless, it’s an apples-to-apples comparison with eight years ago:

40-man comparison 2019

With just three players born in the 1980s, the Jays are tied for the MLB low with five other rebuilding teams. Even here, there’s a bit of a younger skew, as all three of those pitchers were born in the second half of the decade whereas there’s still few scores of players from the first half with most teams having one.

11 months after being added, Elvis Luciano is still the only player born in the 2000s, and should remain so until at least sometime next season since no player below 20 will require Rule 5 protection (and this a roster spot this winter). The Padres have a couple who just miss the cutoff.

But the differentiation is in the 1990s. MLB teams have pretty similar numbers of these late millennials, averaging 21 with a standard deviation of 4. But when it comes to the late 1990s Zoomers, at 13 (and 14 including Luciano), the Jays have the second highest total with nearly doubled the MLB average 7.7.

It’s interesting seeing how teams vary demographically, even amongst contenders and rebuilders. Most teams have a “head and shoulders” shape with a bulge in the middle, but that includes rebuilding teams (mostly poorly run in recent years) and contenders. A few teams — Atlanta, LA Dodgers, St. Louis — are almost evenly distributed. Unsurprisingly, contending teams tend to skew older/to the left, rebuilding teams the other way.

So we can replicate the second graph, ordering teams by their percentages of the youngest cohort, the iGen cohort:

Zoomer waterfall

San Diego is head and shoulders above everyone else, but the Jays edge out Miami for second place. Almost exactly the same position as 2011.

I hope this trip down memory lane was interesting. My second post? An organizational overview of the impending Rule 5 draft decisions. Not quite as sophisticated as what went into Thursday’s post, but here we are eight years later wit the 9th annual such post. Plus ca change...

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