The Toronto Blue Jays were projected to be contenders as recently as a few seasons ago. No one thought that the projection would be the 2021 season. In a powerhouse division that includes the Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, and the Boston Red Sox, the Jays more than held their own. Toronto went 91-71 and even held first place in the AL East at times. They battled injuries from stars like Nate Pearson, Hyun Jin Ryu, Jordan Romano, George Springer, and Julian Merryweather but still pulled through with 91 wins.
At the trade deadline, there was a clear need for pitching and the Blue Jays surely took care of that need by acquiring Jose Berrios from the Minnesota Twins and parting with top prospects Austin Martin and Simeon Woods-Richardson. They also acquired Brad Hand for catching prospect Riley Adams from the Washington Nationals but that proved to be a poor move as they DFA’d Hand as the season wound down. Earlier in the summer Toronto also swung a trade to acquire Corey Dickerson from the Miami Marlins in exchange for Joe Panik. The Blue Jays really had plenty clicking for them. If there wasn’t a player named Shohei Ohtani playing in the same league, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. would be unanimously taking home the MVP honors. Robbie Ray will likely go home with the AL Cy Young award, Alek Manoah will contend for Rookie of the Year, and many other players broke out. Marcus Semien set the highest home run total for any player to play second-base ever. Teoscar Hernandez broke out, Bo Bichette continued his stardom, and Romano showed his backend potential. The Blue Jays had lots of clicking for them.
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Manager: Charlie Montoyo
Position: Fourth in the AL East
Postseason: Missed by one game
The Canadian Franchise improved greatly from 2020. Ray regained his dominant form, Hernandez and Randal Grichuk broke out, Semien improved greatly, and the youngsters, Bichette, Vlad Guerrero Jr, and Alek Manoah looked mature beyond their years.
The pitching was questionable heading into the season but after acquiring Berrios, the rotation looked really scary with Berrios leading Hyun Jin Ryu, Steven Matz, Ray, and Manoah. The bullpen was shaky but not terrible. The offense was scary and young. The entire lineup was a hard out and a big pain.
The depth of the Blue Jays system supplemented any small injuries that came up. Toronto even saw some flashes of great recovery from Pearson towards season end. The Blue Jays missed the playoffs by one game but look really scary for 2022
MVP/Best HItter: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Guerrero Jr. put up one of the scariest lines of any 22-year-old ever. He set records for home runs, and RBI’s for his age and almost won the triple crown. Through all but one game, the young star hit .311/.401/.601 with a scorching 1.002 OPS. He also hit 48 home runs and 111 RBI’s. When you think of the Blue Jays, you think of Vladdy.
Cy Young: Robbie Ray
Taking the American League ERA title, Ray pitched one of the best seasons of his career and showed the Blue Jays what they hoped they were acquiring. Through a fully healthy season and 32 starts, Ray had only two bad outings. He did everything in his power to get the Blue Jays to the postseason but some other teams still beat them out. Through 193.1 innings, Ray pitched to a 2.84 ERA with 248 strikeouts and a 1.04 WHIP. Just for context that is the most innings, strikeouts, WHIP, and best ERA in the American League. One can expect some hardware for Mr. Ray this winter.
Best Relief Pitcher: Jordan Romano
Romano had a funky season after coming in as an afterthought. Then when he got hurt he came to the forefront. After returning he moved into the closer role. He finished the season seventh in the American League in saves with 23 and led the Blue Jays in that category also. In 63 innings he compiled a sparkling 2.14 ERA with 85 strikeouts and a 1.05 WHIP. Notice all these Blue Jays pitchers breaking out? Coincidence? I say not. Credit to the pitching coaches up north for developing two of the best pitchers in the league this season.
Best Fielder: Marcus Semien
If not for Guerrero Jr., Semien will get the MVP honors after the monster season he just put up. Along with that monster season on the offensive side of the ball, his defense is the reason for many wins and runs saved. Logging 1246.1 innings at second base and 134 at shortstop, Semien comes in just ahead of Bichette in defensive innings logged on the Blue Jays. He also has a .985 and .984 fielding percentage on those respective positions. He helped start 91 double-plays and assisted 363 plays. This is one big reason all the Blue Jays pitchers love playing with Semien on their six.
Comeback Player: Steven Matz
Many thought Matz needed a change of scenery after posting a 9.68 ERA for the New York Mets in 2020. Well, leaving New York helped mightily. Matz logged the most innings per start in three years and posted his second-best career ERA. Though 29 starts, the Long Island native pitched to a 3.82 ERA through 150.2 innings, with 144 strikeouts and a 1.33 WHIP. If this isn’t called a comeback then I don’t know what is.
The Blue Jays will be losing two players that were key contributors to the 91 win season. Semien and Ray will likely be departing in free agency. The Blue Jays will hope to re-sign one of them and plug in some young rising stars at the spots otherwise. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is a former infielder and may get some looks and second base. Pearson once healthy looks like a frontline starter. Gabriel Moreno, one of the top catching prospects in the game is knocking on the door. Jordan Groshans and Otto Lopez, two infielders, look to almost be ready for the show. The Blue Jays are more than equipped for another deep postseason run without any moves. They for sure are equipped after many expected additions.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images