Toronto Blue Jays Vs The Los Angeles Angels: Season Preview

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 24: Andrelton Simmons
ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 24: Andrelton Simmons /

FanGraphs projects the Blue Jays to be the 2nd wild card team, and therefore make the playoffs. However, the Angels are right behind the Jays in the projections. Which team is a better bet?

The Blue Jays 2018 projection is 87-75. That is good to be the 5th best team in the American League in the projections made by FanGraphs. The Angels are at 84-78 in these rankings, which is right behind the Blue Jays. In other words, FanGraphs sees the Jays and Angels fighting for the 2nd wild card spot.

The Angels have made some significant additions this off-season. They shored up their infield with the acquisition of second baseman Ian Kinsler, and the signing of shortstop, who will play third base for them, Zack Cozart. Their biggest acquisition however, was the player who every single team wanted, Shohei Ohtani.

Arguably, the Angels are the most improved team since the end of the 2017 season. Meanwhile the Blue Jays, made the trades for Yangervis Solarte, Aledmys Díaz, Randal Grichuk, and the signings of Curtis Granderson, and Jaime García. The Blue Jays are also a very improved team since the end of last season.

The Rotations

  Blue Jays                                                             Angels

It is easy to say the Blue Jays have the better rotation. As it’s been said a few times, the Blue Jays have one of the best rotations in baseball if Aaron Sanchez stays healthy. Talking about health, only one of the Angels 2018 probable starters reached 100 innings in 2017, and that was J.C. Ramirez who pitched 147 innings. You can expect good numbers from Ohtani, and Richards, but Ohtani will likely have a innings limit, and Richard has battled health issues over the past two seasons, so you can’t have a certain idea of what he can bring to the table. Matt Shoemaker also had health issues last season as well, and Tyler Skaggs did not reach 100 innings either.

Therefore the rotation for the Angels is quite a question mark. On other hand the Blue Jays have more reliable starters. Four of the five surpassed 100 innings last season, and if Aaron Sanchez can stay away from the blister, you’ve got another ace in the rotation along Marcus Stroman. From one to five, there’s no question the Jays have a better rotation. Just by looking at the numbers, someone can tell that. However if the Angels starters can stay healthy, they have the potential to have quite a good one too.


      Blue Jays                                                               Angels

There is always less certainty in the bullpens, therefore everything is more debatable. The Angels have lost Yusmeiro Petit and Bud Norris in free agency, arguably their best two relievers in 2017. However, they have good arms like Cam Bedrosian, who has experience closing, Keynan Middleton, and Blake Parker.

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Last year, the Angels bullpen was the 5th best in the majors with a 3.92 ERA. No big names, but effective. One aspect in which the Blue Jays might come out on top is in the closer’s role. The Jays have an established closer in Roberto Osuna, while the Angels have more uncertainty for that role as it is up for grabs in spring training.

In 2017 the Blue Jays bullpen had a decent 4.21 ERA, good for 7th in the majors. If Ryan Tepera, Danny Barnes have a similar season to their 2017 one, the Jays have once again, the chance to have an effective, cheap bullpen. If any of John Axford, Al Alburquerque, Tyler Clippard and Craig Breslow on minor league deals work out reasonably well, the Jays could have a great bullpen, and an even better one than last year. Another big plus would be if Seung Hwan Oh, would have a similar season to his 2016 campaign in which he was simply, one of the best relievers in the game. Lastly, if the Jays decide to go with Biagini in the bullpen, where he has been extremely effective, the Jays could have an even better set of relievers.

Both bullpens are a very similar level by looking at statistics. It is very hard to decide on who has the better one. If Axford and Clippard for example work out well for the Jays, and Tepera, Barnes, Seung Hwan Oh have fine seasons, along a better Osuna than the 2017 with less blown saves, the Jays could definitely have a superior bullpen compared to the Angels bullpen. Those are a lot of ifs though, and the Angels have the potential to have a good bullpen too.


Blue Jays Bench: Yangervis Solarte, Aledmys Díaz, Luke Maile, Teoscar Hernandez/Ezequiel Carrera

Angels Bench: Chris Young, Kaleb Cowart, Rene Rivera, Chris Carter (maybe), Jabari Blash/Eric Young. 

This is an area in which both teams have improved this off-season. The Jays traded for Randal Grichuk to replace José Bautista, they also signed veteran Curtis Granderson. The most improved area however is the bench. The Jays added insurance behind Devon Travis and Troy Tulowitzki, with Solarte and Diaz, something that will improve the offense compared to last year. Meanwhile the Angels signed all star Zack Cozart to play third base and signed the desired Ohtani. They also traded for Ian Kinsler from the Tigers, and then added to the bench with veteran outfielder Chris Young.

The two forces of the lineups are MVP’s, Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson, without doubt. Both lineups have an MVP bat in their lineup, some might argue Trout is a better hitter, others might argue “The Bringer of Rain” is a better one. Let’s just say they are equal hitters for the sake of this exercise and look at the biggest differences the lineups have.

In the outfield it seems like the Angels have stronger bats. Of course Mike Trout, everyone knows what he can do, but add slugger Justin Upton in left field who has averaged over 30 home runs over his last five seasons.  Then lastly, in right field, a decent offensive bat in Kole Calhoun who has averaged an OPS of .755 in his major league career.

On the other hand, the Blue Jays have a more mediocre offensive outfield. Kevin Pillar is a very irregular bat, who can do anything in center field defensively, but his bat leaves some question marks. Over in left field, the Jays have a very decent platoon with Steve Pearce and Granderson with lifetime OPS of .757 and .775 respectively. Finally in right field, the new acquisition that many people are excited about, Randal Grichuk. So far in his career he’s been an all or nothing type of player. There’s no doubts about his power, but his plate discipline and ability to get on base has lacked in his major league career. He’s still a young player, with a lot of potential and great defensive ability, and his home run total could certainly increase by playing in the Rogers Centre and the AL East.

In the infield, the Angels have improved vastly. Zack Cozart had a tremendous 2017 all star season with an OPS of .933 and 24 bombs. At short, Andrelton Simmons had his best season this past campaign with a respectable .752 OPS and 69 RBI’s. While at second they added one of the best second basemen in the last decade, Ian Kinsler. Although he had a down season in his last year with Detroit at age 35, Kinsler could bring up respectable numbers to the table like his .789 career OPS. The weakest point of the Angels infield is probably first base with a potential platoon between Luis Valbuena and Chris Carter.

The Blue Jays expect another superb season from Donaldson, hopefully without any injuries, and if Troy Tulowitzki can have a similar season to the 2016 one, that would be a huge bonus for the lineup. If Devon Travis can stay healthy, something that has not happened so far, then he might very well be one of the best offensive second baseman. At first, Justin Smoak, if he maintains his 2017 form, there’s no doubt the Jays have one of the best first baseman in the game. Meanwhile, if Russell Martin stays healthy he has proven to be a threat at the plate, while the Angels have gold glover Martin Maldonado behind the plate.

The designated hitters Albert Pujols and Kendrys Morales will look to have better seasons in 2018, both pretty equal at this stage in their careers, although Pujols had a very bad 2017 season for his standards and is constantly dealing with issues in his feet. Add Shohei Ohtani to the DH mix where what he will do is very uncertain as of right now. Japanese pitching isn’t major league pitching. We will see, but there’s definitely potential.

Who’s better?

Overall, they are two very similar teams. The Jays pitching is superior thanks to the rotation where they have a lot more certainty, while the two bullpens have the potential to be great, cheap, effective groups. The lineups can both be very good. The biggest question for the Jays is if Travis and Tulowitzki can stay healthy, even though the backups have been improved.

The Angels will hope for a bounceback season from Pujols, and Shohei Ohtani contributing at the plate too. If the Blue Jays stay healthy, they have a better team overall like the projections suggest. One thing that can be taken away without any doubt however from this comparison is that, seeing the Angels and Blue Jays fighting for the 2nd wild card spot at the end of the 2018 season, would not be surprising.

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