Toronto Blue Jays 2018 Season Preview
The Toronto Blue Jays didn’t go out and spend a ton of money on a team that finished third place in the American League East division. Rather, they’re hoping the biggest thing they receive this year is something they can’t go out and tangibly acquire: better health in 2018, versus what they had in 2017.
Josh the Rock
Third baseman Josh Donaldson is still the rock on which this batting order is built upon. His 33 home runs might’ve only been the second-most on the team, but he hit them in only 113 games; he also drove in 78 runs as well. The big story around Donaldson, outside of whether he can bounce back from an injury-shortened 2017, is his impending free agency after this year. But if he approaches his 2015 totals of 40+ doubles, 40+ home runs, and or 120+ RBI, he will be an extremely sought-after commodity on the free agent market, and perhaps price himself out of remaining in Toronto.
What could make Donaldson’s stat totals even more interesting is the fact that he’ll he protected by first baseman Justin Smoak, who was one of the big breakout stories in the entire MLB last year. Smoak hit 38 home runs in 2017 — which was good for eight-most in the majors — along with 90 RBI and an OPS of .883, and was named to the All-Star team.
Kendrys Morales the clean-up man
Having Smoak behind Donaldson will put both players in a good situation; that can’t be said for the pitchers they’ll face. To make matters even worse for the latter group, those guys will then set up clean-up man Kendrys Morales, who himself hit 28 home runs last year, with little reason to think he won’t duplicate if not exceed that number.
Blue Jays Pitchers
As far as Toronto’s own pitchers, they’ve got one of the more talented groups of starters in the American League, but the question will be how consistently they’ll have the services of those guys. Marcus Stroman is the ace of the group, and looked at as one of the premier young pitchers in the game. Last year, he was among the top 10 pitchers in WAR and ERA, and won his first career Gold Glove award. But he’ll be entering this season with inflammation in his throwing shoulder, and while he’s projected to be ready by opening day, anything that’s affecting the throwing shoulder of a pitcher should be cause for concern.
Behind Stroman are Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, and Aaron Sanchez. Sanchez, in particular, bears watching, specifically around whether he can regain his 2016 form, when he went 15-2, had an ERA of 3.00, and finished among the top seven in AL Cy Young voting. In 2017, Sanchez only pitched 36 innings all year long.
The Road Ahead
If you go by last year’s results, it’s going to take 85 wins to realistically compete for one of the two Wild Card spots. Many people around the league, and even in Toronto, have pegged the Blue Jays for winning right in the neighborhood of 80 games this year, thus finishing right around .500.