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Do the Toronto Blue Jays have the best lineup in the AL East?

BUFFALO, NEW YORK - AUGUST 12: Nate Pearson #24 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts as he is taken out of the game during the third inning of an MLB game against the Miami Marlins at Sahlen Field on August 12, 2020 in Buffalo, New York. The Blue Jays are the home team and are playing their home games in Buffalo due to the Canadian government’s policy on COVID-19. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NEW YORK - AUGUST 12: Nate Pearson #24 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts as he is taken out of the game during the third inning of an MLB game against the Miami Marlins at Sahlen Field on August 12, 2020 in Buffalo, New York. The Blue Jays are the home team and are playing their home games in Buffalo due to the Canadian government’s policy on COVID-19. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images) /
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After landing star CF, George Springer, it wouldn’t be so far-fetched to suggest that the Blue Jays have the most dominant lineup in the AL East. Between 2017-2019, the Blue Jays offence (and team for that matter) was an abysmal one filled by mediocre, aging placeholders like Kendrys Morales, Yangervis Solarte and company. For the first time in years, it finally feels warranted to at least place the Blue Jays bats in the same ballpark as the Rays and Yankees.

As it pertains to the 2020 AL pennant champion Rays, the fairly unanimous consensus is that their extremely deep crop of pitchers is what got them so far last season. To add insult to the injury of losing in the Fall Classic, they just traded their former Cy Young award winner, Blake Snell, presumably to shed payroll.

The Rays have a great crop of position players like Brandon Lowe, Austin Meadows and Willy Adames, but in terms of strictly offence, the Rays simply aren’t as good as the Jays. Last season, the Jays ranked 8th in runs per game while the Rays only ranked 14th. When you add Springer to what was already a better offence than the Rays in 2020, it makes this case all the more obvious.

The one team in the AL East that give the Blue Jays a run for their money on paper is the Yankees. Since the depth charts are so tit for tat, I will flat out compare each positional player on the respective depth charts of the Blue Jays and Yankees. My main criterion for the better offence is the team with more positional depth, not necessarily the team with more established star power.

Catcher – Danny Jansen Vs. Gary Sanchez

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If we are talking strictly offence, then I could just say the words Gary Sanchez and leave the conversation at that. I won’t look too much into Sanchez’s down year in the short 2020 sample size on the account of what he’s done in seasons past.  At a position that averages less than league-average production, Sanchez’s 115 career home runs and 116 OPS+ in less than 1800 PA is impressive. He is probably among the top 3 or 4 hitting catchers in the game. Yankees 1, Jays 0

First Basemen – Rowdy Tellez Vs. Luke Voit

I don’t want to discount Rowdy Tellez’s potential but in this current moment, Luke Voit is the better 1B. They both profile as bat-first first basemen but Luke Voit simply has the better resume. In 2020, he led baseball with 22 home runs and coupled that with a bonkers .610 slugging pct. His .915 OPS since joining the Yankees probably makes him a top 5 offensive 1B in the game.

Though Voit has the better track record, Tellez has tons of upside. In 2020, Tellez had an .886 OPS in limited games and even shored up his swing and miss rate, and K rate that created issues for him in 2019. When Tellez connects, he hits the ball farther than basically anyone in baseball. The man hits nukes, google it. It’s just a matter of getting at bats and experience under his belt. Yankees 2, Jays 0

Second Basemen – Cavan Biggio Vs. DJ LeMahieu

Although Cavan Biggio arguably has the best plate discipline in baseball, DJ LeMahieu is just much more experienced with bat to ball skills and has a track record featuring silver slugger awards, recent MVP votes and multiple batting titles. As much as I long for players with good plate discipline, I’ve gotta take LeMahieu’s .336 BA since joining the Yankees in 2019. Yankees 3, Jays 0

Third Basemen – Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Vs. Gio Urshela

This may come as a surprise given that Gio Urshela’s slash line is objectively better than Vladdy’s over the past two seasons, but I would take Vlad over Urshela if I had to choose right now. First of all, I’m not even convinced Urshela is the real deal. Although he has hit .310 since joining the Yankees, he has had the luxury of hitting at the most hitter-friendly park in the AL and not to mention, a pretty small sample size for a guy who provided nothing but mediocrity leading up to his Yankees arrival. Over the span of his whole career, he has an OPS+ of just 100. Once Urshela can become the player he is over multiple full seasons, I will start to believe it.

Vladdy’s offensive numbers may be underwhelming compared to Urshela (109 OPS+ in his first two seasons) but Vladdy’s outlook has much higher upside. Firstly, Vlad is 21 years old and multiple aging curves suggest a 21 year old performs at the level of a player in their late 30s. This makes Vladdy’s above average OPS+ all the more impressive. Furthermore, this is why baseball pundits still expect Vladdy to fashion himself into one of baseballs most threatening bats. On the flip side, Urshela only became what he is now in his age 27 season which suggests that it can only go downhill from here. Yankees 3, Jays 1

Shortstop – Bo Bichette Vs. Gleyber Torres

I’ve gotta go with Bo Bichette on this one. Gleyber Torres is the more established offensive player but Bichette has the higher upside. In Gleyber’s first 3 seasons, he has batted between .243 and .278 with an OPS+ of 116. While Torres supplies the pop, Bichette supplies the pop + bat to ball skills. In Bichette’s first two seasons, he has hit above .300 with an OPS hovering right around .900. Not to mention, he is 22 years old and on the rise. Bichette even started his career with 10 extra base hits in just 9 games, breaking a Ted Williams record. This kid is special offensively. Yankees 3, Jays 2

Right Field – Teoscar Hernandez Vs. Aaron Judge

Teoscar Hernandez is a great hitter. Like his teammate Tellez, he has missile-level power and can consistently hit the ball to all fields but I’d be crazy to put him ahead of Aaron Judge just because of one breakout season that occurred when Judge was injured. Although Hernandez was crowned the silver slugger this year (and probably the best hitter on the Jays in 2020), Judge was pacing for the award before he got injured and he’d probably get the award every year if injuries hadn’t hampered the start of his career. In July and August, Judge went off, hitting about 10 homers in the first 2 weeks before suffering yet another injury.

If injuries were factored into this whole thread, then you can argue that Hernandez is more valuable since Judge has missed significant time in the past three seasons. However, this thread is based on offensive talent and Judge is simply the more multi-dimensional player. Like Judge, Hernandez hits bombs and strikes out a lot but Judge has always had the more patient approach, walking more and chasing less pitches out of the zone. In consideration of this and the fact that Judge is way more established, the answer to this one has gotta be Judge. Yankees 4, Jays 2

Centre Field – George Springer Vs. Aaron Hicks

Aaron Hicks is a great ballplayer who does a little of everything: walk, hit, throws hard, covers a lot of ground, performs in the clutch and provides a veteran presence in the clubhouse. Springer and Hicks have a very similar player profile but Springer does everything Hicks does but better. In all of his full seasons, Springer has never hit below .261 while Hicks has only hit above .250 once since 2016. Not to mention Springer’s much better power numbers and postseason success. Springer is widely considered one of the best postseason performers of all time, with a World Series MVP and 19 home runs in 63 postseason appearances. Yankees 4, Jays 3

Left Field – Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Vs. Clint Frazier

Many Yankees fans wouldn’t like to hear this since they think Clint Frazier is the crème de la crème of young players but Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is the much better talent. In fact, Gurriel Jr. is one of the best players on the whole Blue Jays roster. Gurriel Jr. is going to give you about a .300 BA with pop. He may be one the most free-swinging hitters in baseball but when it translates into the numbers we’ve seen, you can’t really protest it.

Clint Frazier is a great young player but in his first 162 games that he has played so far in the big leagues, his numbers are respectable but not eye-popping. He has hit .258 with a modest OBP of .331. He had some pretty decent pop and on-base ability in 2020, hitting 8 home runs in 160 PA and getting on base at a .394 clip. However, as I have with every player, I take 39 games with a grain of salt. Gurriel Jr. is the better hitter. Yankees 4, Jays 4

DH – Randal Grichuk Vs. Giancarlo Stanton

Sorta like the case with Aaron Judge above, Giancarlo Stanton is the much better player at this position despite being injured pretty much all the time. In the past two seasons, Stanton has played just 41 games. When he is healthy, you know what you’ll get from him. He probably hits the ball harder on average than any other player in baseball and just based on peripherals, he will always have tons of upside. Through 4991 career PA, he has .905 OPS and 312 home runs.

Randal Grichuk profiles as a old-Pujols type hitter. He hits a lot of home runs but he is one of the poorest in the league when it comes to plate discipline and on-base skills. To add insult to injury, Grichuk is worse than Stanton at his own strength, namely power. Stanton is the obvious choice here. Yankees 5, Jays 4.

Verdict

The short answer to this is the Yankees. The comparisons suggest that the Yankees simply have more positional depth when it comes to their everyday players. However, the Blue Jays have the better future outlook based on two elements: money and health.

First of all, the two players in my comparisons that probably had the most ground against their respective compared players are the most injury prone players on the Yankees. Yes, Judge and Stanton are objectively more talented than Hernandez and Grichuk but talent and value are two different things in baseball. How ‘valuable’ could we really consider Judge and Stanton when they are never healthy for a full season.

Secondly, the Yankees basically have no breathing room around the luxury tax threshold (which has basically become a salary cap in recent years). The Blue Jays still have years before players like Bichette and Biggio start to get paid and can make their team better until then. As for the Yankees, the most they were able to do this offseason was retain LeMahieu and replace Tanaka and Happ with other pitchers of similar stature.

Next. Blue Jays: Potential third base options for the 2021 season. dark

Everything considered, the Yankees might have the better lineup presently but the Blue Jays are only an acquisition or two/an injury or two from surpassing the Yankees offensive projections.

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