How the story has changed for the better
There may be a few disappointments on this roster so far, but there are also some pleasant and exciting surprises.
I’ll begin by talking about the American League Player of the Month in Marcus Semien, who the Blue Jays have been getting incredible production from thus far. He’s now slashing .289/.357/.512 with 13 home runs, 13 doubles, 33 RBI, and eight stolen bases. He’s also made a smooth transition to second base and has provided above-average defence at a new infield position. As a player that ended up signing a one-year deal in order to re-establish his value, I would think he’s done just that, and should have a lineup of suitors with multi-year offers this offseason.
The second “for the better” player I’d like to highlight is Robbie Ray, who was the first person the Blue Jays brought back last winter. It turns out they knew what they were doing, as the southpaw has been among the best starters in the American League thus far. His long battle with control hasn’t been an issue at all this year, and with a 3.36 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP over 11 starts and 64.1 innings, it’s hard to imagine where this team would be without him.
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Third on my list is the emergence of Randal Grichuk as a must-start player on the roster. As I mentioned earlier when talking about Tellez, there was a time when it looked like there could be a battle for playing time, likely coming down to the two sluggers. Instead, Grichuk has been playing full-time in Springer’s absence and has provided a crucial contribution to the team through the first 60 games. There were fans calling for him to be traded over the offseason, but you don’t hear that discussion any more. Suddenly his contract looks like a more than fair rate for a player that brings so much to the table, and that’s a big improvement on the discussion from a year or so ago.
Last but not least, we can’t finish this discussion off without talking about the emergence of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. as a legitimate candidate for the AL MVP award. We all knew and dreamed of his potential, but I don’t think many people predicted that he’d take three steps forward in 2021. Instead of just getting in better shape and finding a way to contribute, Vlad Jr. has been arguably the most dangerous hitter in baseball so far this year.
The best part is that his success has been balanced throughout the entire schedule, and he’s beating opposing pitchers in whatever way is necessary. Whether that’s with the long ball, hitting a single the other way, or simply taking a walk and leaving the work for Teoscar Hernandez (who has been great too), Guerrero looks like he’s matured five years over the last six months. He’s also become an above-average defender at first base, and really seems to have embraced his role there.
In all the Blue Jays have been pretty much what a lot of expected, with arguably a bit of disappointment in the mix. Individually there are all kinds of stories, and with 102 games left, it’ll be interesting to see who can change theirs for the better, and which ones get worse. Hopefully it all adds up to a team that can find a way to return to the postseason, one way or another.