The MLB offseason has only just started, but those fine folks at ESPN are already looking ahead to next year with their way-too-early power rankings. Of course it's meant to be a fun exercise, although Blue Jays fans may not be feeling in a particularly jovial mood, given how the team's season ended in Minnesota.
As per the saying that perception is reality, it's arguably a straight 50-50 chance Blue Jays fans will either take their team's ESPN power ranking as a positive or a negative. This is because David Schoenfield has ranked Canada's ball club in 10th position,
On the positive side, this puts the Blue Jays in the top third among all MLB ball clubs. Breaking it down slightly further, they are sixth among all AL teams, which would of course be just enough to qualify for the playoffs. (Also worthy of note, they are ranked third among all AL East teams, behind the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays.)
A genuine contender or not?
However, herein lies the issue, specifically if we put an emphasis on 'just'. We won't go as far as saying the Blue Jays are in no man's land per se, but as much as they are one of the more talented rosters in the Majors, you can still make the case that they're not a genuine contender.
Schoenfield quite rightly notes the Blue Jays as having four pitchers with 30-plus starts, as a positive. They had one of the best rotations this past season, thanks to the combo of Kevin Gausman, José Berríos, Chris Bassitt and Yusei Kikuchi.
However, you could just as easily suggest that to expect such durability again in 2024 will be a tough followup. In addition, we did touch recently on the possibility of certain players having already reached their peak and now being set to trend downwards, including Gausman and Kikuchi. (And let's not forget the whole drama/mess regarding a certain Alek Manoah.)
About that offence...
Schoenfield also makes reference to the Blue Jays' disappointing offence in 2023, which saw them rank just eighth in the AL for runs scored (and tied-14th overall). This was a considerable fall from grace, for a team which scored the second-most runs in the AL last year and fourth-most overall.
The lack of offensive-production is undoubtedly an underachievement, when considering the potential in the lineup. Now throw in that the likes of Brandon Belt, Matt Chapman and Kevin Kiermaier are all free agents, and there's a lot of work (and soul-searching) which needs to be done in the coming months.
Of final note, Schoenfield mentions that John Schneider will be back, despite some of his questionable decisions this past season, particularly the Berríos fiasco in the playoffs. It's safe to predict he will be on the managerial hot-seat in 2024, and he may not last out the year if the team doesn't play up to their potential on a more consistent basis.
Overall, there's no doubt ESPN's power ranking for the Blue Jays is favourable on a Major league-wide basis. However, it also alludes to this being a team which is on the periphery, equally as capable of falling away as becoming a genuine contender.