Blue Jays: Biggest additions, subtractions and breakout candidates for AL East rivals

Masataka Yoshida Boston Red Sox Press Conference
Masataka Yoshida Boston Red Sox Press Conference / Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/GettyImages
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Tampa Bay Rays

Biggest addition: RHP Zach Eflin

While his past performance suggests that Zach Eflin is a pretty average starter, we all know that if the Rays target a pitcher, they likely see something worth being excited about. Eflin spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Phillies, the majority of which he spent as a starter. In 2022, he spent some time coming out of the 'pen, but it appears as though he'll be starting full-time for the Rays. Over the last four seasons, Eflin has a 105 ERA+ in over 400 innings pitched, but some advanced metric show that he could be much better. He has an elite hard hit percentage, great walk rates, and well above average expected numbers per baseball savant. Led by a healthy Tyler Glasnow and Shane McClanahan, the Rays rotation is looking to be much more impactful that we've seen it in the past, and Zach Eflin is set to be a big part of that.

Biggest loss: CF Kevin Kiermaier

Blue Jays fans should be intimately familiar with Kevin Kiermaier at this point, as the Rays legend signed in Toronto this offseason. Over his nine seasons with the Rays, Kiermaier was one of, if not the best, fielders in baseball, and took away numerous hits from the Blue Jays while patrolling center. He's been a pretty mediocre hitter for most of his career, but beyond just what he brings on the field, his presence in Tampa will be sorely missed. The Rays probably aren't too concerned about filling his offensive numbers, but his defense and leadership are a huge loss.

Breakout candidate: OF Josh Lowe

The Rays almost always have a number of young players with tons of potential, so it can be hard to predict exactly who pans out, but Josh Lowe has all the makings of a breakout star for 2023. The younger brother of Texas Rangers' first baseman, Nate Lowe, Josh appeared in 52 games with the Rays last year but struggled to the tune of an 83 wRC+. While most projection models expect Lowe to improve and become a more league-average hitter, he has a shot to be much more than that. In his 191 games at the AAA level, Lowe posted a .934 wRC+ with 36 homers and was a top 50 prospect in MLB before exceeding rookie status last season. He has the traits of a three true outcomes hitter, with high home run, walk, and strikeout totals in the minors, and this is something that can often translate to the major league level. He'll probably never be a high-average player, but expect him to slug, especially as a lefty when the Rays visit the new right field wall in the Rogers Centre. Outside of his potential at the plate, Lowe also has lots of potential in the field, with great speed and arm strength. Not all of this came together in his rookie season, but he's an incredibly talented athlete, and the type of player we often see the Rays turn into an impactful, everyday starter.

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