Blue Jays: Determining who could win the 26th spot on the roster
By Reuben Gasee
With the addition of a 26th roster spot in the big leagues this year, who might the Blue Jays carry to help bolster their bench?
One of the multiple new rules Major League Baseball implemented for the 2020 season is that roster sizes increase from 25 to 26 from Opening Day until August 31st. Once September 1st rolls around, the roster size increases to 28, but there’s a catch to the rule: From Opening Day until August 31st, a maximum of 13 pitchers can be on the team, which that number goes up to 14 on September 1st.
With Opening Day getting closer and closer each day, let’s see who the 26th man could be on the Jays roster come Opening Day.
First let’s layout who’s already on the team (All roster spots are projected by me)
- Hyun-Jin Ryu
- Tanner Roark
- Chase Anderson
- Matt Shoemaker
- Trent Thornton/Shun Yamaguchi
The rotation is set with the exception of the 5th spot, which should go to Trent Thornton, as many reports are saying it’s his spot to lose and he’s fared better in Spring Training so far than Yamaguchi has.
McGuire should be on the Opening Day roster unless his court case interferes, in which case his spot would go to Caleb Joseph.
1B: Travis Shaw
2B: Cavan Biggio
3B: Vladimir Guerrero Jr
SS: Bo Bichette
The infield is basically set. The only change you might see is when the Jays are facing a left-handed pitcher, in which Shaw may be on the bench and Rowdy Tellez would play 1B. Like Shaw, Tellez is also a left-handed hitter, but he’s more effective against southpaws.
LF: Lourdes Gurriel Jr
CF: Randal Grichuk
RF: Teosacar Hernandez
Charlie Montoyo has already confirmed that Randal Grichuk would play CF. With Gurriel’s play when he came back from his demotion, LF is his and the Jays have a multitude of guys that can play RF, but Hernandez seems like the best bet to get the job.
Tellez will be the primary DH for the Jays in 2020. He may also see time at 1B if he can handle it defensively.
CL: Ken Giles
SU: Rafael Dolis
SU: Shun Yamaguchi
MR: Wilmer Font
MR: Anthony Bass
LR: Sam Gaviglio
LR: Thomas Pannone
LR: A.J. Cole
Giles, Dolis, Yamaguchi (assuming he isn’t in the rotation), and Font are going to be in the bullpen on Opening Day. The other four spots are up for grabs, but each of the four that aren’t guaranteed a spot in the pen have a reason for being on my list. Bass posted a .179 opponent average with the Mariners last season in a career-high 44 games. Gaviglio threw 95.2 innings all out of the pen last year and has tons of experience throwing multiple innings of relief, which will be valuable to the Jays and Charlie Montoyo. Pannone is a lefty and is the only one in the Jays bullpen, which they will need. Cole has been on the radar for a while and is a former top prospect. The Jays will most likely give him a chance to show he’s still got some stuff left in the tank.
OF: Derek Fisher
OF: Anthony Alford
Both Alford and Fisher are out of minor league options so if they don’t make the team, they’ll be exposed to waivers, which they will most likely be picked up if they do become available. Alford provides the Jays with speed and defence while Fisher gives the Jays a decent power bat off the bench.
There is a list of 25 players. With five guys in the rotation and eight in the bullpen, the 26th man will have to go to a hitter. Here are some players who could grab that final 26th spot.
Last season in 120 games with the Jays, Drury slashed .218/.262/.380. He is a versatile player as he has experience playing 2B, 3B, LF and RF.
The Jays signed Joseph on a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training. He has a career slash line of .223/.270/.350 with a career fielding percentage of .993 behind the dish. Montoyo could opt to go with three catchers and bring Joseph on the roster as the 26th man.
Panik is a fantastic contact hitter with a career average of .271 and a career OBP of .334. He has 657 career hits compared to going down on strikes just 253 times. He has only played 2B at the major league level, but he has experience playing SS in the minors.
Tejada might be best known for being the victim of Chase Utley’s takeout slide in the 2015 NLDS. Tejada holds a career slash line of .250/.324/.317. Tejada is a middle infielder with a little experience playing 3B.
Espinal has yet to reach the majors as he was the piece acquired from the Red Sox in the Steve Pearce trade in 2018. Espinal’s career minor league slash line is .285/.345/.390 and comes with some speed.
In 84 games with the Jays last year, he slashed .215/.274/.422. McKinney can play LF and RF.
I think Joe Panik will nab that final spot due to his elite contact hitting ability, as he has a knack for putting the ball in play a lot and not striking out often. A guy like Panik is hard to find these days with the increase of power hitting, home runs and strikeouts.
Who do you think will grab the final roster spot on the Jays roster to start the season?