Blue Jays: The outfield competition is in full swing

SARASOTA, FL- MARCH 09: Anthony Alford
SARASOTA, FL- MARCH 09: Anthony Alford /

When Spring Training opened for the 2020 MLB Season, Toronto knew two things about their outfield. The first was Lourdes Gurriel Jr was going to be the starting left fielder and Randal Grichuk was going to hold down one of the other two spots in the outfield.

The question remained who was going to hold down the Blue Jays third outfield spot and who was going to be the fourth outfielder.  Here is a look at how the outfield battles have gone.

Locked and Loaded
Lourdes Gurriel Jr
Age: 26

Lourdes Gurriel Jr is coming off a 20HR, 50 RB, .277 AVG in just 84 games last year and many had him projected to be the third hitter in the line-up. He has struggled at the plate so far this spring as he is 0 for 11 with three strikeouts. Gurriel would need a disastrous spring for the team not to start him in left field for the season opener.

Randal Grichuk
Age: 28

Grichuk has gotten into five games so far this year collecting 12 plate appearances and only striking out once with two walks, two hits (one a double). It is shaping out that Grichuk will be the everyday center fielder this season. Grichuk has played 250 games over his career in center field, including 62 last season.

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Teoscar Hernandez
Age: 27

Hernandez is coming off a 26 HR, 65 RBI year, however, he batted just .230 and had 153 strikeouts in just 417 at-bats. There is no question there is pure power off of Hernandez’s bat, however, his defense is a little questionable. It appears Hernandez is locked for a spot on the Blue Jays roster, the question is whether he will play the outfield or become more of a full time designated hitter. Hernandez has currently appeared in six games this spring going 3 for 14 with a double and triple to go with three strikeouts.

In the Battle
Derek Fisher
Age: 26

It appears with how much Ross Atkins paid for Derek Fisher at last year’s trade deadline he will be given every opportunity to fail. After the trade Fisher got 94 at-bats and struck out 43 times to go with a .161 batting average while always making fly balls look like an adventure. Fisher has got into five games so far this spring and has gone 3 for 12 with a double and three strikeouts.  I’d like to see the team have a very short leash with this player.

Billy McKinney
Age: 25

McKinney was acquired in 2018 as part of the J.A. Happ trade and has played decent in his time in Toronto. McKinney has had a high frequency to strikeout but has had some surprising power.  McKinney belted 12 home runs last year in just 251 at-bats. This spring McKinney has looked good at the plate as he has gone 5 for 12 over six games that have included a pair of doubles and a home run. An impressive tool he can use to his advantage was seen last Friday when he put down a bunt to defeat the single and collected a single. If the season started today, McKinney would be my choice in right field.

Anthony Alford
Age: 25

If it seems forever since Anthony Alford was drafted by the Blue Jays it is because it has been.  Alford was drafted way back in 2012 and he is at a time where he needs to either prove it or move on.  Alford is possibly the best defensive outfielder the Blue Jays have in camp in the outfield, but he has not been able to follow it up at the plate.

Alford looked very impressive in the opening game this spring as he lined a single up the middle, stole second, stole third and eventually stole home for what would be the game-winning run.  He also looked impressive at the plate this weekend when he hit a triple and would eventually score, however that has been it for him. Alford has got into seven games so far this spring going 2 for 14 with a whopping 10 strikeouts. The 25-year old has been given every chance to make an impact this spring but looks as though he may never be able to make the next jump.

Making an Impression
Patrick Kivlehan
Age: 30

Surprisingly, the Blue Jays have given Patrick Kivlehan a lot of playing time this spring and has hit decently.  Kivlehan split the 2019 season between the Pittsburgh and Toronto minor league systems where he hit 32 home runs. This spring, Kivlehan has gone 3 for 11 with a home run with four strikeouts.  Kivlehan has father time working against him, as he will turn 31 later this year and is at least a couple of years older than everyone else in camp.

Forrest Wall
Age: 24

Forrest Wall is starting to build some traction in passing Anthony Alford in the prospect watch.  Wall finished the 2019 season playing in both Buffalo and New Hampshire with a .268 average and 45 extra-base hits.  So far this spring, Wall has gotten into five games going 4 for 8 with a triple and home run on just one strikeout. Wall is starting to turn a lot of heads and while he may not break camp with the team he could be seeing time in Toronto this year.

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With the 2020 season starting at the end of the month it doesn’t look like you will see much of a change from last year’s outfield. Lourdes Gurriel Jr will be in left field and Randal Grichuk will be in right field.  It looks as though the Blue Jays will likely carry all of Derek Fisher, Billy McKinney and Teoscar Hernandez on the active roster. Hernandez will likely see a lot of time at DH with Fisher and McKinney battling for playing time in right field. Unfortunately, Anthony Alford looks as though he is failing at his attempt to make the next jump.

What would your outfield look like?