The Blue Jays have gone in a different direction from previous years for the upcoming season after moving on from the offensive Lourdes Gurriel Jr and Teoscar Hernández, replacing them by the more defensive Kevin Kiermaier and Daulton Varsho.
The club looks to take a run at a deep playoff run and if they are to do so, they will need to have a lot of things go right. Here are some “bold” predictions on what may come from the 2023 Blue Jays season.
No. 1: Daulton Varsho breaks out and receives consideration for AL MVP
Earlier in the offseason, Ross Atkins acquired super-athlete Daulton Varsho from the Diamondbacks. All signs point to Varsho not yet reaching his potential and looks to still be on the rise. He is coming off his first full major league season finishing with 53 extra base hits in 531 at bats while knocking in 74 runs.
It appears that Varsho will be playing left field for the majority of 2023 and while he has started just 11 games in his career at that position, he is a pure athlete and should excel as he can concentrate on that one spot. In 2022, Varsho started 103 games in the field that was split over three positions, one being catcher. Without needing to worry about the rigors of playing behind the plate, we could be in store for a breakout offensive season.
Varsho hitting 30 home runs and finishing with more than 65 extra base hits is a more than reasonable prediction and he will obviously continue to play elite defense. He is not going to win the AL MVP, but this is going to be the first year in his still-young career that he earns votes.
No. 2: Cavan Biggio becomes everyday second baseman by year end
Over his first two seasons after making his debut, Cavan Biggio played in 159 games finishing with 33 doubles, 24 home runs and 76 RBI while posting a .240/.368/.430 slash line and a .798 OPS. Unfortunately, 2021 and 2022 were littered with injuries that has caused the former Double-A MVP to fall off of being an everyday player.
As we prepare for the upcoming season, Biggio is entering Spring Training healthy for the first time in a long time. He’ll be in an uphill battle for playing time as he has likely lost all playing time at first base with the signing of Brandon Belt, as well as battling Santiago Espinal and Whit Merrifield for playing time at second base. Merrifield will likely get a lot of time in the outfield, so the first real battle for playing time for Biggio will be with Espinal. Espinal struggled in the second half of the season last year as he had just five extra base hits over his final 40 appearances while posting a slash line of .252/.320/.315.
If healthy and able to get back to where his potential was a couple seasons ago, Biggio could steal back the spot at second base and add an important bat in the lineup.
No. 3: Danny Jansen wins a Silver Slugger
Danny Jansen has always been a streaky hitter and he gave a lot of excitement how he finished the 2022 season. By August 20 last season Jansen was batting a lackluster .197, he proceeded to miss a couple games, then came back and got hot. In his final 31 games last year, Jansen posted a slash line of .344/.431/.634 with a 1.066 OPS while hitting 15 extra base hits in 93 at bats. Jansen would set career highs in almost every offensive category last year including having a batting average 48 points higher than his previous career average.
Like Biggio, Jansen has battled several injuries over the last couple of years, but when healthy he gives glimpses of his offensive potential. The problem has been staying healthy and doing it for a full season. If Jansen can stay healthy, I believe he has the capabilities of being the top hitting catcher in the American League.