Blue Jays: Three internal keys to success for the upcoming season

David Corcoran
Wild Card Series - Seattle Mariners v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Two
Wild Card Series - Seattle Mariners v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Two / Mark Blinch/GettyImages

The Blue Jays Grapefruit League season got underway Saturday afternoon and the club is working towards a championship-caliber season. To do so, the organization will need several things to go right and here is a look at some key objectives the club must have go smoothly throughout the season.

A healthy George Springer

Going into the 2021 season, the Blue Jays signed one of the top free agents on the market in George Springer to a six-year deal.  He has now been around for first two seasons of the contract, but he has suited up in just 211 of 324 games; and that does not factor in how many of those games he was nowhere close to 100% healthy. 

Springer is an elite level defender and one of, if not the best leadoff hitters in the game. The team is always at next level when he is penciled into the starting lineup. Over a 162 game pace since joining the Blue Jays, Springer has averaged 36 home runs and 95 RBI, despite playing with discomfort in most of those games. He makes the lineup so much more dangerous, because no player that comes into the lineup in as a replacement can add the punch that he has.

Springer recently told reporters in Dunedin that he is healthy coming into camp and stated “it feels good to feel good”.  It is believed that Springer will be the everyday right fielder, however, it would be smart to the team protect his body a bit more and use him as designated hitter at least twice a week. Having Springer at his best throughout the whole season can not be stated enough how much it will impact the entire lineup.

José Berríos bounce back

Between 2017 and 2021, José Berríos started a combined 133 games, posting a 57-40 record with a 3.74 ERA and 1.17 WHIP.  He did not have one season during that time where he had an ERA higher than 4.00, but when 2022 ended, the Puerto Rican pitcher found himself with an ERA of 5.23 and led the American League in earned runs allowed and hits. 

What you can look at is how bad Berríos was in 25% of his starts, in which eight times he failed to get out of the fifth inning. However, if you compare the other 24 starts, he was near elite in those games.  In his eight, what we will call horrid starts, Berríos went 0-5 with an 18.63 ERA compared to his other 24 starts, he finished with a 12-2 record with a 3.09 ERA.

So, the question is was Berríos really that bad and will it be hard to get back to his previous career track record? Berríos was not that far off from his usual self and one can argue for a good chunk of the season he was even better. He should be able to rebound and although he is slotted into the third starter role, he could provide some top of the rotation pitching.

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Catcher duo for the whole season

After ending the 2022 season one of the questions was, what were the Blue Jays going to do with their trio of catchers in Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk and Gabriel Moreno?  The answer came when they traded Moreno to the Arizona Diamondbacks to acquire Daulton Varsho.  The club is now counting on Jansen and Kirk to remain healthy and be the duo for the season. 

Having both catchers staying healthy for the whole season has factors throughout the lineup. With Moreno gone, the club does not have an answer close in their organizational depth in the minors to replace either Kirk or Jansen long term. One could argue that the club now has Varsho, who has been a catcher throughout his career, but he is best suited for an everyday role in the outfield. The newly acquired super-athlete started 103 games in the outfield and many analysts have commented on his elite defending capabilities. This is while he still started 18 games around the plate. Versatility is something that Ross Atkins looks for in his players, but in this case having Varsho master the outfield will help the club for years to come.

Jansen has had some injury troubles the last couple of years as he has spent two stints on the injured list in each of the last two seasons, while Kirk spent sometime on the 60-day IL in 2021.  Both current catchers have become two of the best in the American League at their position and without much depth at that position in the minors, it will be key to keep them healthy to also have one of the best left fielders stay at his position.

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