Blue Jays debates: Pick 2016’s opening day roster shocker


As the Blue Jays gather in Dunedin, Florida for spring training, it’s time to call your shot on the player that will shock us all by cracking the roster

We spend the major league offseason discussing the coming year with a level of certainty. Looking at a team full of locked-in players, only a handful of available jobs remain, and lining up for those jobs are small crowds that we know and expect.

But what about the unexpected?

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Entering spring training just one year ago, few (if anyone) gave Roberto Osuna and Miguel Castro a legitimate shot to crack the opening day roster. Their raw talent and long-term projections were immense, but last year’s camp was expected to be little more than a learning experience for them. How wrong we were.

You’ll find unexpected names like this on every opening day roster as you scroll back through the years. Names like Colt Hynes opening the season in the bullpen last year, or the now-forgotten Moises Sierra cracking the 25-man out of camp in 2014. Whether due to an injury above them or a breakout performance of their own doing, the expected roster rarely survives to opening day.

That brings us to this year. Who is the Blue Jays dark horse that you’re willing to hitch your wagon to? We’re not talking players who are already on the cusp here, like a Junior Lake or Roberto Hernandez, but further-off possibilities who would produce a real story if they rose to the occasion.

The bullpen is full of veteran candidates. The lefty-righty Pat Venditte will have a real shot at the roster, while Scott Diamond was reportedly told by management that he’d be given an opportunity out of the bullpen if possible. Perhaps a name like Scott Copeland, Arnold Leon, or Brad Penny surprises.

Positionally, could an Andy Burns, Casey Kotchman, Jon Berti, Matt Dominguez. or Jio Mier break through on the infield if a door opens?

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Then, there’s the young talent, which might be the group to watch. The Blue Jays will have top prospects Conner Greene and Anthony Alford in camp, and while Alford is likely boxed out for now, stranger things have happened than Greene stealing a bullpen spot (either now or later in the season). Roemon Fields and Dwight Smith Jr. will also see a look in the outfield, while lefty-specialist Chad Girodo will join Rule 5 pick Joe Biagini in the race for a final bullpen spot.

Easy money would point you towards the bullpen here, given that the large group of candidates circling the final jobs do not have a great gap in talent between the top and bottom. If there is some electricity to lasso in a high-velocity arm (much like we saw twice last spring), Toronto’s opening day roster could easily go another unexpected route.

Who’s your dollar on this time?