2023 First Look: Blue Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays made the playoffs in 2022 and are hoping to repeat the experience in 2023. Power from the left side was a concern and the Jays are counting on new first baseman Brandon Belt to provide power from the left side of the plate. And he will produce…in wild bursts of excellence -when he is on the field. When…such an interesting word. It’s almost as if I might be saying he can’t stay on the field.

That’s because he can’t stay on the field.  In 13 years with the San Francisco Giants, he played in 1300 games. You can do the math. Also, the power the team is expecting is overly optimistic. In his best power year -the Major League Baseball jacked-up-ball year of 2021- he hit 29 home runs. Before that? He had never hit more than 18 in a full season. He does have one of the best nicknames in the bigs, though. The question for Toronto is, do baby giraffes like domed stadiums?

The Jays also have hopes for another player with a pretty good nickname, Daulton “Little Wheels” Varsho. The team hopes he can produce as he did in Arizona last year (27 home runs) while hitting better than the .235 he posted. Varsho is listed as an outfielder/catcher, which gives manager John Schneider flexibility late in games. The Blue Jays lost Teoscar Hernandez, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. But they gained big time with the pickup up of Whit Merrifield who will give them flexibility on defense, speed on the base paths and a guy who knows how to handle rough situations (he did spend seven seasons in Kansas City for crying out loud). I know, I know. They have Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Matt Chapman, too. All of them swing and miss too much. Chapman’s offense dropped precipitously last year, so that’s a concern.

Perhaps the most important move of the offseason could be the signing of pitcher Chris Bassitt. He gives them a fourth quality starter (3.50 career Earned Run Average) to go with Alex Manoah (third in Cy Young voting) and Kevin Gausman (26 wins and an ERA around 3.10 the last two years combined). Who’s the fourth? Hyun Jin Ryu when he comes back from Tommy John Surgery. Toronto would be wise to call up anyone to be a fifth starter unless Yusei Kukuchi can figure out how to get his ERA under 5.00. Jose Berrios was once a quality fourth starter but his ERA spiked last year. He went 12-7 but I am concerned something is wrong with him.

Outlook: They have hitting, speed and good team defense. The division is the toughest in baseball but if they can get in the playoffs they have the starting pitching to carry them even if the bats go cold. They could win it all…or miss the playoffs. 87-75

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