Jordan Romano – 7-1, 23 Saves, 2.14 ERA
For the casual Blue Jay fan that may not know the journey that Jordan Romano had been on before solidifying his role on the team in 2020, I’ll give you a quick recap. The Markham, Ontario native was selected in the 10th round of the 2014 MLB Draft and after spending four seasons in the Blue Jays system he was selected during the Rule 5 Draft by the Chicago White Sox before the 2019 season. The White Sox would sell him to the Texas Rangers one day later and after about six weeks in the Rangers Spring Training he was returned to the Blue Jays. Fast forward to 2020 and he made the team out of summer camp.
In 2021, Romano made the club out of Spring Training but was not the closer, as that role initially went to Julian Merryweather after his brilliant first appearance, but he would quickly go down with an injury. Next up, we had to suffer through the Rafael Dolis closer days, which ended with him eventually being DFA’d and Romano becoming the ninth inning reliever.
While Romano did technically have a blown save on April 8, this was a game he came in the seventh inning in a middle reliever situation that saw him give up the lead. Romano had 23 opportunities this season where he had to either pitch the ninth inning or eighth and ninth inning to close out games for the save and was perfect in those opportunities.
From the time Romano became the closer to the remainder of the season he pitched in 52 games, posting a 1.99 ERA and striking out 77 batters in 54.1 Innings pitched, while holding opposing hitters to a .180 batting average. He finished the season with a 2.3 WAR, which ranked tenth on the team. I don’t believe there is any debate about who the closer will be to start the 2022 campaign.
Teoscar Hernandez – 29 doubles, 32 home runs, 116 RBI, .296/.346/.524
Imagine finishing third in the American League in RBI, while also clubbing 32 home runs and batting .296; and still being overshadowed by three other teammates in your own lineup. That is exactly what happened to Teoscar Hernandez this season. The soon to be 29 year old had a breakout 2020 season that saw him win his first Silver Slugger award and he continued his progression in 2021.
Hernandez had a rough start to the season as he went just 6 for 29 (.207) through his first seven games, which was followed up with him missing three weeks due to COVID. However, once he returned on April 30 he went on a run that continued until the end of the season. From the time Hernandez returned to the team he posted a slash line of .301/.353/.536 with 31 home runs and 114 RBI. Through that time, Hernandez only went hitless in more than two consecutive games twice, which both times was for four games, once in August and once in September.
Hernandez set career highs in almost every offensive category, which included stolen bases when he finished in double digits (12) for the first time in his career. Hernandez has some stiff competition, but has a good shot at winning his second consecutive Silver Slugger honour. Hernandez is amongst the leaders in almost every offensive category among outfielders, as he sits second in batting average (.296), first in RBI (116), fourth in home runs (32), seventh in doubles (29) and second in hits (163) despite missing three weeks with COVID.