No. 1: Regression
The Blue Jays don’t have the 2015 season the just had without some players performing above and beyond expectations. Several players bucked aging trends or broke through with numbers they hadn’t posted before, so in 2016, it’s all about maintaining.
Regression is a tricky term, and all too often it’s thrown around lazily at players who are putting up numbers without making “sense”. With a little context though, it’s easy to see that Toronto’s roster boasts a few at-risk names.
Chris Colabello stands above the crowd following a breakout season at age 31, which is enough reason in and of itself to predict some regression. The main arguing point with Colabello is his 2015 BABIP of .411.
There’s unordinary, there’s absurd, and then there’s Colabello’s 2015 BABIP.
Fangraphs’ STEAMER projections are forecasting that to drop to .322 this season, bringing his average down from .321 to .257 and hurting his power along the way. Some regression here is inevitable, but as long as Colabello can avoid letting it drop that far (which I see being very doable), he’ll be able to give the Jays exactly what they need.
Sticking at first base, Edwin Encarnacion is another candidate. His STEAMER projection of a 2.6 WAR puts him well below the ~4.0 he’s averaged over the past four seasons, and while it’s difficult to accept that as a Jays fan who watches him day in and day out, a regression at this age would fit in with historical trends at the position.
Encarnacion’s simple swing and consistent production in the face of nagging injuries suggests he can ride this wave a little longer, though. Replace “Encarnacion” with “Bautista” in these last few lines, and there’s another case to be made.
Kevin Pillar is another candidate after a breakthrough season of 4.6 WAR, and enters the season with the same 2.6 WAR projection that Encarnacion does.
Even the untouchable Josh Donaldson needs to live up to an MVP-level bar. Regardless of how healthy and productive Donaldson is in his second season with the Blue Jays, that 8.7 WAR from 2015 is a rare, rare accomplishment.
Stay tuned tomorrow for a more optimistic take on the season ahead!