Blue Jays: What Would a World Series Team Look Like?
By Jim Scott
What does a World Series winning team look like, and what would it take for the Blue Jays to get there?
No team has an All-Star at every position, but to win the World Series takes an exceptional amount of talent. Which begs two questions: What does a World Series winning team look like, in terms of fWAR in the regular season, and how close are the Jays to achieving that level?
World Series winners
If you take the World Series winning teams from 2010-2019 and calculate the total fWAR they received in the preceding regular season, you will find that the median fWAR from position players is 30 and from pitchers is 16. This of course varies from year to year – the 2015 Royals only had 21.8 fWAR from the position players, while the 2016 Cubs had over 37, and the pitching fWAR ranged from 9.4 (San Fran, 2014) to 22.3 (Washington, 2019). But 30 + 16 = 46 is perhaps an appropriate “ballpark”
2022 Blue Jays
So now let’s consider the 2022 Blue Jays in the context of those medians. Start with a few caveats. First, I am looking at the Jays as a whole. So, for example, the Jays might have a below-average offensive outfield, but make up for that with additional infield offence. Second, I have made several assumptions. On the conservative side, I have assumed no major new signings – no Mookie Betts, no Francisco Lindor, no “Thor”. I have also assumed no out-of-the-blue breakthroughs by current Jays’ minor leaguers – no Sean Reid-Foley suddenly developing pinpoint control, or Griffin Conine having more walks than strikeouts. And I have assumed that any players drafted in 2020 are not ready by 2022.
On the optimistic side, I have assumed that existing players continue on their current trajectories with no major injuries or slumps. I also assume that a few current top prospects do make it to the bigs by that time.
Note that when I show a player at a particular position (such as Vladdy at 1B), the WAR figure I show for them includes any ABs at DH or at other positions.
Catchers: Danny Jansen (2 WAR) + Reese McGuire (1 WAR)
Jansen had 1.4 WAR in 2019 in 384 plate appearances with a very unlucky BABIP of .230. His bat was looking good in 2020 spring training, but alas … I see him as the primary catcher in 2022, and with 450 PAs combined with average luck he should easily be able to put up 2.0 WAR. McGuire had a 1.2 WAR in 105 PAs in 2019. I’m not sure he can sustain that pace, but he should still contribute defensively so I have reduced him to 1.0 WAR in 150 PAs in 2022. Note that it is alternatively possible that McGuire is traded by then, and Alejandro Kirk (or Gabriel Moreno) is the backup catcher.
First Base: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (5 WAR)
I assume that Vladdy does not stick at third (although that *is* possible) but that by 2022 he has reached his full hitting potential. Think Miguel Cabrera, or Carlos Delgado, or Albert Pujols (without perhaps quite the defensive skills at 1B).
Second base : Cavan Biggio (3.5 WAR)
Biggio earned 2.4 WAR in 2019 in 430 PAs. Extrapolating the same pace to 600 PAs would give 3.35. Assuming further growth, I assume 3.5 in 2022.
Third base: Jordan Groshans (3)
I assume that Groshans is in the majors by 2022 and that he is putting up above-average-but-not-superstar numbers at third, based on a combination of solid defence and a good bat. Think Cavan Biggio in 2019, but with a full season.
Shortstop: Bo Bichette (4.5 WAR)
Bo earned 1.7 WAR in 212 PAs in 2019. Extrapolating to 600 PAs would give 4.8 WAR. It would not be crazy to assume that, with experience, he improves on the -5.2 UZR/150 that he put up in 2019 and turns into a Lindor-esque 6 WAR shortstop, but for this exercise assume that he puts up a solid 4.5 fWAR in 2022.
Outfield: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (3.5), Randal Grichuk (2.5), Teoscar Hernandez (3.5)
Gurriel Jr’s 2019 extrapolates to 3.1 WAR over 600 PAs, despite his slow start. And this was his first year in LF. Assume that he will be a better fielder in 2022, and that he can maintain his 2019 wRC+ of 124, and he should be an above-average but not star 3.5 WAR OF. Think Tommy Pham, or Michael Conforto.
Grichuk averaged 1.93 WAR from 2016-18. Assume that playing centre field (where his defence is well above average) he can return to that level and a bit more for a 2.5 WAR.
Hernandez is very much a wild card. He had a terrible start to 2019, but he earned 1.7 WAR in the second half. And he continued his positive trend in UZR/150, going from -14.6 in 2017 to -12.2 in 2018 to -5.4 in 2019. Assume that he can continue this trend, to become an average defensive right fielder (he has 55 speed and arm, and 50-grade fielding, so the tools are there), and that he can maintain a 120+ wRC+ (his H2 2019 wRC+ was 142), he becomes a second Gurriel – above average, but not a star. Note that if Teo did not pan out, this position could easily be filled by a Joc Pederson – or possibly a Travis Shaw.
Designated hitter: Alejandro Kirk (2)
I assume that the DH spot will be used to rest the position players, but that Kirk will have ~100 games there, as well as a few games at catcher (and possibly at 1B to spell Vladdy).
Bench: combined (2)
I assume that the 4-man bench (remember that the roster will increase to 26 players in 2020), not including McGuire/Moreno, will earn 2 WAR.
Starters: Nate Pearson (4), Hyun-Jin Ryu (3.5), Alek Mahoah (2.5), Simeon Woods Richardson (2.5), Anthony Kay (2)
Assume Nate is a solid success (think Sonny Gray in 2019) but not a superstar. I also assume that Ryu, who earned ~5 WAR in 2019, declines by 0.5 WAR per year and is only a 3.5 WAR pitcher in 2022. And I assume that both Manoah and SWR are up in the bigs and producing in 2022, but not (yet?) at star levels.
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
Note that the 2022 rotation is a particularly fuzzy part of this projection, in that many other scenarios are possible. Could Ryan Borucki, completely recovered from his injury issues, be back and building on his 1.7 fWAR in only 97 innings in 2018? How about Trent Thornton and his 1.9 fWAR in 2019? Could Adam Kloffenstein, or Eric Pardinho, or Julian Merryweather have forced themselves into the conversation and onto the roster? Perhaps another way for me to state this prediction is that the 2022 Jays get 7.5 WAR from Nate and Hyun-Jin, and 7 WAR from some combination of three of their other options.
Also note that these figures include all starters, even though I only show the top five.
Bullpen: combined (2)
The Jays’ bullpen earned a combined 1.9 WAR in 2019. I assume a similar number in 2022
The total: 45.5 WAR
When you add up all of these assumptions, you get 45.5 WAR, or essentially the same figure as the median World Series winning team of the past decade. (And no, I honestly did not jig these numbers to get that result!)
The bottom line
Any projection three years into the future is nothing more than an educated guess – one scenario among many. And any one of the individual assumptions in this projection could be challenged. But in aggregate, I believe it to be reasonable – particularly since it does not assume any additions through trade or free agency. And in aggregate, it paints a very attractive picture.