2016 vs. 2017 – What’s Different?

The 2017 Blue Jays are going to look a little different then the 2016 Blue Jays. No Encarnacion. No Saunders. No Cecil, but Jose is back and we’ve still got our MVP.
Offense

Despite them losing a 40 home run hitter in Edwin Encarnacion, they’ve acquired a good 30-32 home run hitter in Morales at first base and DH. They still have their 2015 MVP Donaldson, who can hit 35-40 home runs, and they just got back Bautista. Bautista had a down year last year, despite relatively good numbers (22 home runs), and is within striking distance of many franchise records. You can’t rely on only those three to hit the long ball though. This season, the Blue Jays will have to rely on Bautista, Donaldson and Morales, but also the likes of Kevin Pillar and Ezequiel Carrera.

Defense

Toronto’s infield, mostly analogous to last season’s, is expected to perform well in 2017. Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki, both seasoned veterans, will be manning the right side of the infield, while Devon Travis is expected to fill in at second base. The key for Travis this year is to remain healthy – a goal that he has often struggled with in the past two seasons.

The Blue Jays struggle most defensively in the outfield. Kevin Pillar, projected to start in centre field, is as good as anyone in the league. Jose Bautista, starting in right field baring a dramatic shift in front office opinion, can be expected to perform at a mediocre level, given his past skill but aging body. Left field, filled by Melvin Upton Jr, Ezequiel Carrera, or any collection of minor league talent, is a position of worry. Any player filling the position, as we saw last year, can struggle defensively.

Pitching

In the rotation, Toronto is, once again, expected to stack up against the best of baseball’s starting five. Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ, splitting the ace duties, are both projected to have dominant 2017 seasons, while Marcus Stroman should bounce back from a poor 2016 (as many advanced statistics indicate). Marco Estrada, plagued by back injuries last season, will return to his 2015 form if he stays healthy, and Francisco Liriano, with Russell Martin catching, can become one of the game’s best number five starters.

The bullpen is looking less sunny. Although rumours indicate that the Blue Jays may be shifting their focus as of late, the team remains without a left-handed reliever with just weeks to spring training. Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, both free agent lefties, are certainly a possibility, although it isn’t likely that Toronto signs a reliever at all. Travis Wood, the former Cubs pitcher, is a less likely free agent option, as he is looking to start in 2017.

 

Anything less than a trip to the postseason would be a disappointment following two straight October runs. Although Toronto may battle with Boston for the division lead, it is more than likely that the Blue Jays will end up second in the AL East. Perhaps landing in a wildcard spot, Toronto’s postseason path doesn’t look pretty.

In the end, despite a franchise that looks dramatically different than last season, Toronto is still stacking up to be the same type of team. They lost All-Star players, but they also acquired good players. They still have needs, and those needs are plenty, but, if the team can stay healthy, 2017 should be a fun year.

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