The 2019 Blue Jays season is coming to a close and in this article I will be looking at the possibilities for the Blue Jays outfield for next year.
The Blue Jays will likely carry four outfielders, with the possibility of a fifth once their roster returns to a normal size next season. So for arguments sake, I think it is safe to say that Lourdes Gurriel Jr. will be starting in left field and Randal Grichuk will be starting in right field. The Blue Jays have committed long term to both players and they both produced very well this year. This leaves questions about the starting centre fielder and the fourth outfielder position.
More from Jays Journal
- Blue Jays: Alek Manoah on pace to succeed in possible postseason
- Blue Jays: Bradley Zimmer has carved himself a valuable role
- Anthony Bass has been the shutdown reliever the Blue Jays needed
- Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. open to a long-term contract
- Blue Jays: Snapping cold streaks at the right time
I don’t see Herndandez going anywhere next year, however it will be his make or break season. Hernandez has had a very up and down campaign that has seen him start the season in left field, sent to the minors, then return as the starting centre fielder. Hernandez has some raw power as he has hit 22 home runs in back-to-back seasons. However, he is prone to the strikeout and his batting average has dropped dramatically. Fielding seems to be an adventure on most nights, and making routine plays turn into extra-base hits too frequently. I would prefer one more year on the club, but as the fourth outfielder, however, because of the lack of depth in the outfield, Hernandez will likely be the centre fielder again.
Most Likely Candidate(s)
Derek Fisher and Billy McKinney
Two weeks ago I would have said that Derek Fisher was highly likely to be one of the outfielders on the team due to the price management paid to get him. However, Fisher has struggled mightily and has only started four games so far in September going 2 for 15. There has been nothing that has impressed me since Fisher has joined the Jays, both in the field and at the plate. He has only made one error in the field, but this is more because he takes poor routes and doesn’t get to the balls. I figured he would have be given to entire 2020 season, but now it is looking more likely he might just have May to show if he is part of the team.
Billy McKinney is splitting most of the time with Derek Fisher to see if he wants to win the job away from him, but he isn’t doing much to take the spot. McKinney who was acquired a year ago and has batted just .226 in that time. McKinney still has options left and I can see him fitting into a fifth outfielder role where he spends a lot of time on the QEW next year, going back and forth between Toronto and Buffalo. McKinney shows signs of being a major league outfielder, but then regresses for weeks at a time. McKinney batted .267 in August, but is currently batting .150 in September.
Anthony Alford and Jonathan Davis
Anthony Alford is out of options in 2020, and for that reason he may get a legit chance at making the Blue Jays. For the last couple of years I thought Jays should give him a few weeks to see what they have. Unfortunately for Alford, he has never been given the opportunity for an extended period. Since being recalled in September, Alford has just nine at bats and has collected three hits. He brings better defence than Fisher, McKinney, and Hernandez, and at minimum a replacement bat of Fisher and McKinney.
A very curious player for me is Jonathan Davis. I never really followed him through the minor leagues, but he just kept sticking around and moving up. Of any players the Jays have close to major league ready, Davis has the best defensive side of the game. He reads the ball of the bat very well and takes proper routes (something the other fielders don’t do). His bat will never be great so there isn’t much to look at there, but with a young pitching staff next year the most important thing for the Jays to have is good defence. Davis would be my choice right now as the centre fielder.
The one thought that I cannot get out of my head is Santiago Espinal. Many people might say, who? Espinal was the player the Blue Jays got last year for Steve Pearce and is a middle infielder by training. However, he did play 12 games in centre field in New Hampshire and threw out two base runners in those games. He started the season in AA for New Hampshire where he batted .278 with 21 doubles in 94 games. Espinal finished the season in Buffalo where he batted .317 with eight extra base hits in 28 games. My hope is that he plays all of 2020 in centre field in Buffalo and could potentially become the long-term option out there in the future.
The centre field depth on the Blue Jays is the weakest part of the organization, however they are very deep with middle infielders. The Blue Jays could start more Lourdes Gurriel Jr experiments where you convert a good athlete into that position. What is your group for the Jays outfielders? If it isn’t in the organization, is it trade or free agency?