Welcome to Sandlot Sport’s Toronto Blue Jays report where our bloggers will discuss the Jays performance, predictions for the season, trade rumors and more. I will be kicking it off with the first 10 games of the season.
The Boys of Summer began their season in late March this year with a 4 game home series against the Bronx Bombers. All the hype this offseason was swirling around the signing of Giancarlo Stanton with the Yankees. Stanton’s 59 HR 2017 campaign would be joining Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez for a 144 combined HR middle of the order.
JA Happ was the unfortunate guinea pig who faced off against that monstrous lineup and it didn’t start well. After Brett Gardiner reached on a Curtis Granderson error to leadoff the game, Stanton unloaded his first Home Run of the season and as a Yankee. From a Jays fan’s perspective and someone who put money on the Jays winning at least 82 games this year, it was not a great start. The Yankees went on to win 6-1 and then 4-2 the next day.
Coming into the season the concern was the Jays bats. They had a terrible 2017 with the worst offense in the American League, and started the season 1-9 and finished the month of April 8-17. Were we looking at a repeat disastrous April? To make matters worse, Josh Donaldson couldn’t make a throw to first, resulting in his move to DH. Fortunately, the offseason pick ups of Aledmys Diaz and Yongevis Solarte came in handy.
It seemed like the team was destined for a repeat of 2017 until a strong pitching performance from Marco Estrada and a return to form from All Star Justin Smoak. Smoak finished the 3rd game of the series with 3 for 4 line, 2 RBI. Solarte blasted his first Home Run as a Jay and Kevin Pillar stole 3 bases in the same inning to give the Jays a 5-3 victory.
The Jays would go on to split the series with the Yankees after a 7-4 win and Justin Smoak’s 2 homers, 6 RBI game would propel him to win the AL player of the week. I think David Robertson’s reaction says it all.
The Jays bats were alive and have not slowed down yet. The Jays would go on to take 2 of 3 from both the White Sox and Rangers, and have averaged 5.2 runs per game. Nine of thirteen Blue Jays hitters have hit round-trippers this year, and the hope is they can continue to score with and without the long ball.
With everyone expecting the Jays offense to be the weakness of the team, it was starting pitching that was supposed to carry us this year. However, aside from Marco Estrada and Jaime Garcia, the Jays starters have been underwhelming. It is still very early and with Marcus Stroman coming off shoulder discomfort and Aaron Sanchez coming off a full year of blister issues, it is reasonable to expect a slow start. It is great to see Sanchez on the mound, and Stroman continuing to get groundball outs. With a few more starts I expect to see both come back to form.
It is also great to see Roberto Osuna off to a hot start converting 4 of 4 save opportunities, and only allowing 2 hits in 5.1 IP with no walks. It would appear he is relying on his 4 seam fastball more often this year as opposed to his cutter, which is allowing him to pound the strike zone more consistently. Ryan Tepera, Seung Hwan Oh, and Aaron Loup have been struggling to shut down opponents, but it is too early to tell if any shifting of roles needs to occur in the pen.
All in all, the first 10 games for the Jays have gone much better than anticipated. Splitting the series with the Yankees was a huge confidence boost for the team and the fan base. If our offense can continue to put balls in play, hit with runners in scoring position and hit with more consistent power, I believe our pitching and bullpen can push us to a very successful season. With Donaldson back at 3rd and looking healthy, and the depth Diaz and Solarte bring to the infield, it appears we won’t have a repeat of last year where we had to weather injuries with Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney as everyday players. Barring any major injuries, the Jays can remain competitive in the AL East. However, tough decisions will have to be made come trade deadline, including the future of Donaldson. If the Jays can remain in the hunt those decisions will become much tougher.