The 10 most important Blue Jays players heading into the 2023 regular season
By Eric Treuden
10. RHP Erik Swanson
Honorable mention(s): Jordan Romano, George Springer
The only reason Swanson gets this spot instead of Romano is simple: he has never pitched in the American League East and will need to continue his dominance from last year if the Jays' bullpen is to have any hope.
Romano is going to be a dominant force once again in the bullpen. Fans know what they're going to get from him and we are very forutnate to have him in the ninth inning to slam the door on the opposition. He'd likely rank 11th on this list.
Swanson, however, is a wild card. The 29-year-old spent the first four years of his big league career on the Mariners and didn't become a top tier reliever until last year. A starter-turned-reliever, Swanson made 57 appearances for the Mariners last year, posting a 1.68 ERA and a just-as-impressive 1.84 FIP in 53+ innings of work. He is important enough to make the list because his continued success is crucial for his new team.
9. LHP Yusei Kikuchi
Kikuchi is entering the second season of a three-year, $36M contract he signed prior to the 2022 campaign. The 31-year-old had a difficult time getting going last year, stumbling to the finish line with a 6-7 record, 5.19 ERA, 5.62 FIP and 75 ERA+.
In Spring Training, the former Seattle Mariner and 2021 All-Star looked like a whole new pitcher. Through his first six appearances and 18 innings pitched, he had a sparkling 1.00 ERA with 25 strikeouts and just earned runs allowed.
Haters will point to his 10 walks in that time, which is a valid concern. He typically hasn't been a serial walker in the big leagues, so there's reason to believe he dials this down a bit once the regular season rolls around.
The four-year MLB veteran seems to have found his mojo in the early goings of the season. If he is able to continue this hot streak into the regular season, he will be an extremely important part of the roster.