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Evaluating the Jays at the halfway point

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TSN Baseball Insider


Although the All-Star game is often referred to as the halfway point of the season, it really isn’t. In fact, we have just reached the midpoint as the Toronto Blue Jays played their 81st game of the season on Wednesday evening in New York. Typically, this is a good time to take stock in where a team is in relation to its expectations. It is difficult to hand out grades for a rebuilding franchise considering the expectations for wins and losses are low. Plus, with many young players the likelihood is that they will have nearly as many tough days as good days. The early years of the rebuilding process are not about winning games, but rather answering questions about players and their growth and improvement.

Championship teams have certain ingredients and the goal during the rebuilding process is to find as many of those as possible from within the organization so that the needs to be filled from the outside are minimal. Not all roles are equal. Some are more important than others and are more difficult to find as championship-calibre solutions.

In a very simplified explanation, the first five hitters in a lineup have to be of a certain level of quality and have the production to be considered a playoff contender. They need to have the ability to get on base and slug the baseball for the necessary run production. It is easier to find hitters to fill the 6-9 spots in the lineup and they are more affordable if they have to be traded for or signed in free agency. Playoff contenders in the AL need to have length, depth and preferably balance (right/left) to get enough runs from every position in the lineup. If the offence isn’t as good as other clubs, then a contender makes up for it in pitching and defence.

Winning teams typically have impact pitchers in three of the five slots in the rotation. This is not to minimize the importance of the 65 or so starts that are made by the 4th and 5th spot in the rotation, but those roles are much easier to fill in an affordable way.

The depth and quality of a bullpen depends upon the overall calibre of the rotation. However, a quality bullpen needs an impact closer, an 8th inning set-up man and several other quality pitchers that can handle high leverage situations in the 6th and 7th innings, including a combination of left-handers and right-handers.

Defensively, a championship team has to have a quality defensive catcher to handle a pitching staff, as well as solid defenders all around the field. Winning teams don’t have to have quality defenders at every position, as sometimes you have to sacrifice a little bit on the defensive end to get additional offence, but as a team you want the defence to be above-average.

When Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins lay out their plans for the future, they look at their roster and evaluate what future roles are to be filled from current Blue Jays. Here is how I see it as of today:

The players who will fill key roles on the Jays’ next playoff contending team are as follows:


Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is a starting 3B who can bat 2nd or 3rd in the lineup.

Cavan Biggio is a starting 2B/OF who can bat 1st, 2nd or 3rd in the lineup.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is a starting left fielder who can bat 2nd, 5th or 6th in the lineup.


Rowdy Tellez may be a........