Call me crazy but I am calling it now, the Toronto Blue Jays will be better in 2017 than last season and here’s why.
Throughout this past offseason, Blue Jays nation has invariably jumped off and on the proverbial ship at one point or another for various reasons. The departure of Edwin Encarnacion, the inability to land Andrew McCutchen, coming up short in the Dexter Fowler sweepstakes and the list goes on.
However, when you look at the contingent of talent that will land in Florida over the next week or so, I am feeling pretty confident and should so you.
The 2017 edition of the Blue Jays will feature a healthy and very motivated Jose Bautista on a mission to prove naysayers wrong one home run at a time. Bautista is a good bounce back candidate and 40 home runs are not out of the realm of possibilities.
Marcus Stroman had a disappointing 2016 season, nobody would have predicted an inflated 4.37 earned run average from the Stro-Show. The sky is the limit for the uber talent and he can only go up in 2017. Look for a huge rebound season from Stroman to really solidify the starting corps.
Staying with the rotation, this season will see the disappearance of the much maligned R.A. Dickey and his light hitting cohort. I will bet dollars to donuts that Francisco Liriano proves to be a much better option than the trick pitcher, especially with a full season of Russell Martin receiving for Liriano.
I know, I know the loss of Edwin Encarnacion will sputter the offence and will leave a void to big to fill. Steamer projections have prognosticated that Encarnacion will connect for 30 home runs while his replacement Kendrys Morales will pump 24 over the wall. They actually forecast Morales to have a higher batting average than that of Encarnacion. (.266 / .254). I will be the first to admit that I will miss Eddie and the parrot trotting around the bases in 2017 but rest assured it is not a season altering insurmountable void to fill. I would be willing to bet that Joey Bats makes up for the six home runs Steamer projects the Jays to lose with the loss of Encarnacion.
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Devon Travis missed 61 games in 2016 and if he can somehow find a way to stay healthy and on the field, he could be a spark plug at the top of the Jays lineup. Same to be said for Troy Tulowitzki who missed 31 games and struggled in the first half of last season.
The Jays bullpen was atrocious in the first half and never found their groove until the acquisitions of Jason Grilli and Joaquin Benoit. Remember the Drew Storen and Jesse Chavez experiment?
Subtract Brett Cecil and Benoit from the bullpen and insert additions, J.P. Howell and Joe Smith and I actually think I like it better than last years. I still think there is one more signing in the cards for the bullpen with the likes of Luke Hochevar or Travis Wood still lingering on the free agent market.
Steve Pearce will give manager John Gibbons some much needed positional flexibility and should prosper with regular reps in 2017.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia just showing up provides more offence than Josh Thole last season. Salty is good for a few blasts and can sub out Russell Martin for multiple day stretches if the backstop is banged up more than normal.
Left-field has been a big question mark all offseason however the Blue Jays virtually had zero offence from Michael Saunders in the entire second half of 2016. So if the trio of Ezequiel Carrera, Melvin Upton, and Dalton Pompey can provide consistency if nothing else the drop-off will not be earth shattering.
Josh Donaldson will be Josh Donaldson and continue to dominate at life and who knows the Jays may see a bump in Kevin Pillar‘s numbers if he can cut down on the strikeouts and take the occasional walk in 2017.
The Jays finished second in the AL East with an 89-73 record, they will eclipse the 90-win plateau in 2017.
They have two postseasons under their belt and should be even more hungry in 2017 to experience World Series grandeur.
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Bank it, stop stressing and relax, baseball is back and your Toronto Blue Jays will once again be headed to the playoffs.
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