If there’s one area that I would predict the Blue Jays take a step back in 2019, it would be the outfield. That said, the bar isn’t set so high that it can’t be reached or even easily surpassed.
Curtis Granderson and Steve Pearce and their solid veteran contributions won’t be around anymore, which will open up some playing time for younger options. The same could happen to Kevin Pillar yet this winter as well, as there have been reports linking him to a few other teams in recent weeks, such as the San Francisco Giants. Even if he’s never going to be the offensive contributor we’ve all hoped for, his defence has still brought a lot of value to the table.
Whether Pillar is still around or not, the rest of the group will be made up of some combination of Randal Grichuk, Teoscar Hernandez, Billy McKinney, Dwight Smith Jr., and possibly other young options like Jonathan Davis, Anthony Alford, or even recent outfield convert, Cavan Biggio. While I wouldn’t expect an MVP contender in the group above, it’s possible we see some significant improvements from year to year, especially from Hernandez, who has looked good in Winter Ball recently.
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If Grichuk performs the way he did in the second half for an entire season, then he’ll have a lot more people taking him seriously as a legitimate middle of the order hitter. Despite the fact that he turned things around to turn 2018 into a good season for the most part, I expect he’ll improve over the full 2019 campaign. I also think it’s entirely possible that McKinney and/or Smith could contribute what Granderson did last year, at least from a numbers perspective. There’s also still the possibility that Atkins adds to the group in free agency.
Until we know for sure what’s happening with Pillar and see what the outfield depth charts looks like it’s hard to truly judge. All things considered though, I sincerely doubt there will be a big step backwards, and there’s even the potential for improvement.
Looking at the sum of the parts, I wouldn’t argue that the Blue Jays will be a contender in 2019, even if I’d like to see nothing more. However, when you compare the results of the 2018 season to the potential output from the new group of players, it’s not that hard to see potential improvement, even in the middle of a rebuilding year.