Are the Blue Jays actually being underrated entering the season?

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Heading into the 2023 season, the Toronto Blue Jays seem to have settled in as something like the seventh best team in baseball according to most projections.

Opening Day power rankings at, ESPN, The Athletic, and Bleacher Report all have the Jays between sixth and eighth, while BetMGM gives them the seventh best odds to win the World Series, and both Baseball Prospectus and FiveThirtyEight have them projected for the seventh most wins in the majors.

On the surface, this is no great tragedy – a consensus top ten spot is perfectly respectable, and better than you can say for most Jays teams of the last 25 years.

Yet, are the Blue Jays actually being underrated entering the season?

Heading into 2022, the same models which now have the Jays in the back half of the top ten almost universally had them in their top two – they were the darlings of the pundit class, a popular preseason pick to make the World Series. While they didn’t run away with things as some had expected, they spent every single day of the season in a playoff spot despite playing in the sport’s toughest division, inarguably one of the better teams in the league.

Yes, they flamed out dramatically in the playoffs, something I’m sure readers need no reminder of. But have they really fallen so far as to be among potential contenders like the Cardinals and Guardians, excluded from the big boys club of Houston, Atlanta, San Diego, and the two New York teams, perhaps even the gutted Dodgers?

Consider, according to FiveThirtyEight, the Jays added the fifth most net WAR to their roster this offseason, the only team among the top seven in the category to have made the playoffs last year. In other words, they were already among the better teams in the league, and, statistically, they improved more than their peers this offseason.

More than that, many of the most important players on their roster can be described as firmly within the ‘upward trajectory’ portions of their careers.

Think about this: while everyone fawned over Adley Rutschman’s rookie year, breathlessly extrapolating what he might become given more experience as he hit .254 with 13 home runs and an .806 OPS for a surprising Orioles team, not included in the lovefest was the fact that he is actually older than Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Alejandro Kirk. (Ok, he is a month younger than Alek Manoah though.)

The point is, the Blue Jays are not a team whose projections should be sinking because they’re old and in decline. Rather, many of their most important players still have room to grow.

At the same time, they are not a team of inexperienced babyfaces. During their last few trips through free agency, they have supplemented their youthful exuberance with grizzled veteran leadership, experienced players who know what it takes to win, including bringing in Chris Bassitt, Kevin Kiermaier, and Brandon Belt this offseason.

Here is a fun fact: The big bad Yankees, loaded as they are with 30-somethings and literal graybeards, currently have a grand total of two World Series appearances, and one ring, between their entire roster. The Jays, meanwhile, have seven appearances and three rings. It’s not only that the Jays have more young stars than the teams known for having young stars; they have more winners than the presumptive winners.

Simply, they are a team fully formed, and their projections should not be suppressed by a belief that they are a few years away from true contention.

In fact, it might be that the Blue Jays are not just fully formed on the field, but, finally, behind the bench as well. Remember, the team was 46-42 under Charlie Montoyo last year, and 46-28 under John Schneider. This followed a 2021 in which Montoyo’s Jays famously underperformed their Pythagorean record by eight wins, finishing with 91 and missing the playoffs in the dying moments of the regular season. If there is one thing the 2022 preseason predictions which were so high on the Jays may have missed, perhaps it was that it’s hard to win big without a competent manager.

Regardless, what’s clear is that the Jays are trending upwards, both statistically and anecdotally. And yet, projections have them trending down.

So, are the Toronto Blue Jays underrated heading into the 2023 season?

The answer is yes.

But a post-hype sleeper is not the worst thing to be …

Are the Blue Jays underrated, overrated, or have the projections got things just right? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter – @WriteFieldDeep.

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