2015 Toronto Blue Jays Off Season Report Card


For the Toronto Blue Jays and GM Alex Anthopoulos, the offseason is almost over. In mere weeks, the team will find out if all the work it has put in over the past couple of months will provide the results they are hoping for. Until then, plenty of ‘experts’ will speculate as to how Toronto will finish when the season is over. While the games aren’t played on paper, seeing how a team stacks up against its competition can give the viewer a pretty good idea of how said team will perform on the actually field. However, that’s the beauty of speculation. It’s great to do, but ultimately it has no say in the final results. Experts and fans can talk until they’re blue in the face, but it means nothing when the first pitch is thrown.

What’s the best way to grade a team?  Through a report card, of course. Here’s how the Jays’ report card looks heading into the 2015 MLB season.


In five years, will paying Russell Martin 19,000,000 be a good deal? Unlikely. However, we’re only focusing on the present, and currently an argument can be made that Martin is a top five catcher in baseball. His biggest impact on the team might be made through his defense behind the plate. It’s a well-known fact that Martin is one of the best at framing pitches, while former catcher Dioner Navarro is known as one of the worst. Offensively, he’s coming off a career year in which he hit a slash line of .290/.402/.430 and had his highest walk rate in five years. His final WAR number of 5.3 ranked third among all catchers as well. Navarro is still in the picture for the time being, but he’s probably better suited as a DH. Josh Thole will likely catch R.A. Dickey again. That’s all he does, but there’s something to be said for being an expert at catching a pitch so unpredictable.

Grade: B+

First Base:

This projection is based on the assumption that Justin Smoak will be receiving the lion’s share of playing time at first base. Smoak is one of those guys who never reached his full potential, and has flirted with being labeled an AAAA player. Yes, he’s had seasons where he’s hit 19 and 20 home runs, but he’s never been able to figure out the whole getting-on-base aspect of hitting. For Toronto, all he needs to do is hit for an average of greater than .240. He has enough power to stay in the lineup if he can just do that. Edwin Encarnacion will probably see some time at first as well. EE is not great defensively, but he works hard and has seen great improvement in his ability from his early days at the position.

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Grade: C+

Second Base:

For the nth straight year, Toronto enters the season without a clear plan for second base. It’s essentially been this way since Aaron Hill left town back in 2011. This leaves Maicer Izturis as the best option for the start of the season, but he a) has never played more than 125 games in a year and b) is not extraordinarily gifted with either a bat or a glove. Ryan Goins is one of the best defensive players in the game, but he’s much more Brendan Ryan than Dustin Pedroia. And while Devon Travis has potential to be a solid big leaguer, at this point nothing is proven with him. Fortunately for the Jays, the Jays should be strong enough in other areas to make up for the weakness at second base.

Grade: C-


It’s hard to talk negatively about a guy with as much energy as Reyes has. He’s the life of the clubhouse, as well as a fantastic baseball player. He’s probably not going to hit over .330 ever again or steal more than 50 bases, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be an effective. Reyes, who is now over a year and a half removed from his broken ankle, is an experienced tablesetter and can even provide some pop from the leadoff spot. As one of the emotional leaders on the Jays, his mere presence in the clubhouse has the ability to turn the moral of the team around. Look for him to build on what he did last year.

Grade: B+

Third Base:

Like most Blue Jay fans I know, I was ecstatic when the Josh Donaldson trade was announced. What’s not to like? Donaldson is coming off two straight top 10 MVP finishes, has a tremendous mix of offense and defense, and one of the best haircuts in the major leagues. Maybe the sample size is a bit small on him, but no doubt it’s a risk worth taking. Backing him up will be Danny Valencia, whose great against lefties (he hit .321 against them last year) but brutal against righties (just .211).

Grade: A-

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Left Field:

Goodbye, Melky Cabrera. Hello, Michael Saunders. Saunders, one of three Canadians in the projected starting lineup, has legitimate 20-20 potential if he can manage to stay healthy. His defense is much better than Cabrera’s, but let’s be honest that isn’t saying a whole lot. If Saunders struggles or gets injured, Kevin Pillar will be given a chance to prove his worth as a starter.

Grade: B

Center Field:

The Colby Rasmus era is over in Toronto. Rasmus’ term in centerfield ended with more of a whimper than a bang, as the controversial outfielder spent a lot of time on the bench over the last month of the year. Dalton Pompey will take over the duties for the 2015 season. Pompey, one of the club’s top position prospects, didn’t have a great showing in limited time last year, but with more consistent at bats will have a better chance to get into a groove. Pompey’s best tool is his defense. Like in left, if Pompey can’t handle the everyday job in center, Pillar will be given a chance.

Grade: B-/C+

Right Field:

Jose Bautista has averaged over 35 home runs per full season over the past 5 years. Over that time, he has gotten on base at a rate over .350 each season, finishing over .400 twice. He’s finished top 10 in slugging percentage in each of those seasons as well. He’s consistently lowered his strikeout rate. On top of all this, he has an absolute cannon of an arm. Bautista is the leader of the Jays, and many would agree on the fact that he is the team’s best player. The only thing that can stop him is injury. If he stays healthy, there’s little doubt he won’t be in the MVP discussion.

Grade: A

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Toronto Blue Jays

Designated Hitter:

Gone are the days of Edwin Encarnacion being known as ‘E5’, his former nickname the result of his atrocious third base defense. Encarnacion should spend much of the 2015 season at the DH position, and few are better with the stick than the Jays’ slugger. He’s finished in the top 10 in home runs after each of the past three years. 40 home runs are not out of the question for the upcoming season, nor is OPS over .900. There are only 15 players in the MLB granted the designated hitter position, and Encarnacion may very well be the best. Dioner Navarro will get his share of at bats at DH too, and say what you want about clutch hitting, but Navarro established a knack for coming up big last year.

Grade: A

Starting Rotation:

So many question marks, so few answers. Here’s what we know; R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, and Marcus Stroman are locks to be in the starting five, Drew Hutchison figures to earn another spot, and the fifth spot will be an open competition with Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris, Marco Estrada and Kyle Drabek as the frontrunners. How any of these arms will perform is anyone’s guess. Dickey bounced back last year after a terrible 2013, but he still wasn’t anywhere close to his Cy Young-winning form. At 40 years old, it’s unlikely he will be able to put up the same type of numbers he did that year. For Buehrle, last season was a tale of two halves. The first half of the season saw him put up numbers that earned him an all star spot and vaulted his name into the Cy Young discussion. The second half was significantly worse; over that second half his ERA was two full points higher. Sanchez, Norris, and Stroman have a combined 21 big league starts, but as recent as last year all have been considered top prospects throughout the MLB. Few teams boast the kind of young pitching that the Jays have at the MLB level, but also few teams envy how much reliance the team will have on those young arms. At least, for now, that is.

Grade: B


One word to describe the current Blue Jay bullpen? Unconventional. Of the group they currently have pencilled in, no player has ever converted more than 6 save opportunities in their career. Only Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup, and Steve Delabar have had success in the majors. Delabar, a 2013 all star, spent time in the minors last year and wound up finishing with a 4.91 ERA. The Jays’ need him to pitch as he did in 2013, or things could get ugly. They’re best option to fill the closer role may be Aaron Sanchez. Although Sanchez has only thrown 33 major league innings, he has proven that he’s not afraid to back down from big situations. Need proof? His first career appearance took place against Boston. In front of 35,000+ at Rogers Center. Holding a 5-4 lead. The first three batters he faced were Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, and Mike Napoli. They were retired in order. Yeah, the kid’s got nervous of steel.

Next: Where will Matt Boyd land in 2015?