To kill time until we get to the start of Spring Training, I thought it would be good to look at a list of the Top 100 Blue Jays in franchise history. Last week we looked at the player coming in from 96-100, and today we’ll move on to our second instalment.
Blue Jays Top 100 (91-95)
95. Raul Mondesi (2000-2002)
Shortly after the 1999 season, the Blue Jays traded beloved fan favourite Shawn Green to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Raul Mondesi. While Mondesi was not on the same level of Green, he was an effective player in right field and would play two and a half seasons in Toronto. In his two full seasons, Mondesi would have 20-20 performances, and finished just three home runs shy in 2001 from having a 30-30 season.
Mondesi was built like a bull and had a cannon of an arm that led to 18 outfield assists in 2001. His most popular moment in Toronto came during that same season when he stole home against the New York Yankees.
Midway through the 2002 season, the Blue Jays would trade him to the New York Yankees for Scott Wiggins. Mondesi finished his Toronto career playing in 320 games with 60+ home runs, doubles and stolen bases with 196 RBI and a slash line of .251/.328/.470.
94. Yunel Escobar (2010-2012)
Midway through the 2010 season, the Blue Jays traded Alex Gonzalez (the second one, not the first), along with Tim Collins and, Tyler Pastornicky to the Atlanta Braves for Jo-Jo Reyes and arguably the most controversial player in team history Yunel Escobar.
Escobar would play two and a half seasons, and at times seemed to be an above-average defender, and then at times you wonder what was going on with him. Escobar’s best season in 2011 saw him finish at the plate with a .290 average with 11 home runs and 24 doubles while posting a .974 fielding percentage, and it appeared as though at worst he could be an effective player in the lineup. Unfortunately, late in the 2012 season, Escobar put a homophobic slur on his eye black and that is what he will be most remembered for in a Blue Jays uniform. Escobar would be traded that next offseason in the blockbuster trade with the Miami Marlins.
93. Frank Castillo (2000)
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Frank Castillo has, what I believe to be the most underrated season for a Blue Jay of any starting pitcher. Castillo pitched just one season in Toronto, but every time he took the mound he put together enough of a performance to give the team a chance to win. Going into the offseason towards 2000, it appeared that Castillo’s major league career may be at an end, as he had a track record of unsuccessful seasons in the big leagues followed by a full season in 1999 at AAA, but the Blue Jays offered him a contract near league minimum for the 2000 season.
To start the season, Castillo earned the fifth spot in the starting rotation and it did not start out very well, as he had an ERA at 6.83 through his first five starts. Fortunately for him, manager Jim Fregosi continued to send him out to the mound and he turned his season and career around. During Castillo’s 18 starts for the remainder of the season he would pitch at least seven innings eight times, including throwing eight innings once. To finish the season Castillo had a 10-5 record with a 3.59 ERA and a 3.9 WAR. Castillo would earn a two year contract worth $4.5 Million that offseason from the Boston Red Sox.
92. Ted Lilly (2004-2006)
After the 2003 season, the Blue Jays had a Cy Young Award winning pitcher in Roy Halladay, but the rest of the starting rotation was lacking. GM J.P. Ricciardi went out and acquired Ted Lilly who was slotted into the fourth spot in a very deep Oakland Athletics rotation, and was coming off a very good playoff pitching performance where he threw seven innings of two-hit baseball against the Boston Red Sox.
In his first season with the Blue Jays he led the team in wins (12), strikeouts (168) and was named to the All-Star Game for the first time in his career. However, the Blue Jays underperformed and fell well below the .500 mark. Lilly followed up his first season with double digit wins in his next two seasons, including winning 15 games in 2006. He was mostly the beneficiary of strong offensive teams that helped him win games, but you only need to be good enough to get the win.
After three seasons in Toronto, Lilly left the team with a 37-34 record with a 4.52 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP to sign with the Chicago Cubs where he would be named an All-Star once more in 2009.
91. Bo Bichette (2019-2020)
Like the first portion of the article, you are seeing one more young gun join the Top 100 list. Bo Bichette joined Cavan Biggio in a very good 2016 Blue Jays Draft Class when they selected him in the second round from Lakewood High School in Florida. Bichette was also part of a very deep 2018 New Hampshire Fisher Cats filled with elite level prospects that won the Eastern League Championship, where he was the starting shortstop.
Bichette would be called up to Toronto in late July the next season (2019) and hasn’t looked back since. Bichette started his Major League career with an 11-game hitting streak that saw him hit a double in eight consecutive games during that run. He immediately became the starting shortstop for the club and has gravitated to a leadership role on the team despite playing in just a short period of time. It is still a question whether he will remain at his current position or slide over to second base, but there is no question he will continue to bat at the top of the lineup. Through just 75 games, Bichette has hit 27 doubles, 16 home runs and has a slash line of .307/.347/.549. He is a fun player to watch and has a lot of upside, as he is still just 22 years old.
In the next article we will see some players that manned the hot corner, among a couple other positions.