Blue Jays Prediction: Record will improve in 2019 despite the rebuild
The infield picture is going to look at a lot different in Toronto next season, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
On paper a lineup that consisted of Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki, Justin Smoak, Devon Travis, Aledmys Diaz, and Yangervis Solarte sounded like it had a lot of potential, but obviously that’s not how things worked out. Smoak and Diaz were both assets, and Travis stayed healthy for once, but beyond that things were a pretty big disaster.
Tulowitzki never played a game in 2018 after having surgery on both heels last spring, and Donaldson was limited to just 36 games before being traded to Cleveland before the August waiver traded deadline. Solarte started off on a hot streak and earned the adoration of fans early in the season, only to have such a disastrous second half that the Blue Jays didn’t even tender him a contract this winter.
Next season it looks like they’ll start with an infield that will include Smoak, Travis, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Brandon Drury, Richard Urena, and eventually Vladimir Guerrero Jr, if he doesn’t break camp with the team. There are a lot of wild cards in the new group, but the potential of Guerrero and even Gurriel Jr. is hard not to get giddy about, and both Drury and Travis are better than they showed in 2018. If Smoak isn’t traded then I expect he’ll put up numbers that should be pretty similar to what we’ve seen over the last couple of seasons.
The other unknown with this group is who will do the majority of catching, although it’s highly likely that Danny Jansen will get the call. Russell Martin is still a worthy MLB catcher, but in the final year of his deal and getting to the later stages of his career, I fully expect the Blue Jays will eat some of his contract and find a trade partner this winter.
If he’s still around then I expect the duo would split duties at the position, and provide an improvement regardless. Martin hit just .194 last season while battling a few injuries and giving way to the youngsters in the fall, but I don’t think that’s a fair representation of what he can still do. His OBP was still .338 last year, and again, if he’s healthy I think he’s much better. And if he’s replaced by Jansen and/or Reese McGuire I’m confident that those two can provide an improvement on Martin’s 2018 numbers as well, even if they need some time to adjust to a full season at the highest level.