Blue Jays: Top factors for a division title in 2023
2. Health and good vibes
The Jays missed the mark of meeting their full potential last year. There were underperformers, inconsistencies, and naturally, injuries. While rebounds can be expected, it’s the health of certain players that are set to be a focal point of the team’s success this year.
Kevin Kiermaier is the first player to keep an eye on. How healthy is he, and how good will he be if so? Kiermaier is the defensive leader of a now Gold Glove-caliber outfield. While the depth is there to cover for him should he spend some time on the IL, having Kiermaier patrol the outfield for at least 130 games will lead to countless runs being prevented for the Jays pitching staff.
Brandon Belt is another guy who’s injury history raises some eyebrows. Having played with an injured knee the last couple of years, he’s an intriguing bounce-back candidate after an offseason surgery to repair the troublesome leg issue. Through the 2020 and 2021 season across 146 games, the towering first baseman had an OPS+ of 165. That plummeted to a mark of 92 this past season.
Belt is set to be the team's primary designated hitter and will play first base on occasion. A healthy lower half for the former All-Star has the potential to yield a full and productive season for the first time in a while. A dangerous left-handed hitter at the top of the order would be a welcome sight throughout 2023, and Belt was a great choice to fill the role.
The player with the most game changing ability who’s dealt with injuries the last few seasons is obviously George Springer. Despite a slew of injuries all over his body, Springer has still produced when he’s been on the field. An OPS+ of 135 through 211 games over the last two seasons, oftentimes playing through these ailments that wore him down, is an impressive mark for a player entering his mid thirties.
With Springer set to play right field on a more regular basis, Jays fans can wish upon a full and healthy season of Springer production. Having the former World Series MVP leadoff day after day can make a serious impact on this lineup. A leader, an immense talent, and a clutch hitter, Springer’s health is a major factor of the Jays finishing first in this division.