The Blue Jays are sending three representatives to the 2016 MLB All-Star Game, with the potential for a fourth in Michael Saunders
The MLB All-Star game is littered with young, dynamic talent. The era of Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Kris Bryant has grown fans accustomed to stars who are headlining acts from day one without many growing pains at the MLB level.
Marco Estrada (5-3, 2.93 ERA, 104.1 IP)
Estrada’s path to the All-Star Game has been entirely unexpected. When he joined the Blue Jays from Milwaukee in a one-for-one swap including Adam Lind, Estrada represented a sixth starter, potential swing-man, and some welcome salary relief. Whoops.
After joining the Blue Jays with a career 4.23 ERA between the Brewers and Nationals, Estrada was one of 2015’s true breakout pitchers and has gotten even better in 2016. An ailing back may slow the 33-year-old over the coming weeks, but with a unique mix of fastball location and a changeup that falls right off the table, there are few pitchers similar to Estrada. His two-year, $26 million contract is already looking like one of the top deals from the last offseason.
Josh Donaldson (.304 AVG, 22 HR, 60 RBI, 77 R)
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Entering 2013 as a 27-year-old former catcher, Josh Donaldson was wrongly viewed as just another “guy”. He was coming off a season where he put up a .687 OPS over 75 games, but all of the sudden, he stole MVP votes. Go figure.
The blockbuster deal in late November, 2014 brought The Bringer of Rain to Toronto for Brett Lawrie, Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin, and Franklin Barreto, a deal that looks even better with the benefit of hindsight (though Barreto still holds great potential).
This is Donaldson’s third consecutive All-Star Game, and coming off winning the American League MVP Award in 2015, he’s already positioning himself for another spot in that same conversation this season. Last night against the Royals he set a Blue jays club record for runs scored before the All-Star break with 77 and is on pace to challenge for another 40-homer campaign.
Edwin Encarnacion (.267 AVG, 22 HR, 77 RBI)
He was originally a minor piece, a “throw-in” perhaps, in the deal that saw Scott Rolen go to Cincinnati. The Blue Jays also acquired Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart in the deal. Often forgotten, however, is how the Blue Jays almost lost Encarnacion before his true dominance began at the Rogers Centre.
The Oakland Athletics claimed Encarnacion off waivers from the Blue Jays in November of 2010, but the A’s released him less than one month later and he re-upped with Toronto.