30 Clubs in 30 Days: Toronto Blue Jays

Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving needs surgery on his knee and it looks like he’s going to undergo a procedure on it. It’s unknown how long he’ll be shelved for but with the playoffs right around the corner, as a Celtics fan I’m very nervous. Granted the Celtics are capable of winning without him, as they’ve shown in the past couple weeks, but if they’re going to topple the Cavaliers and Raptors, they need Kyrie at his best. So to take my mind off things, let’s get to our final American League edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days featuring the team up north, the Toronto Blue Jays.

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2017 Results:

Record: 76-86, 17 games behind Boston Red Sox, 9 games behind Minnesota Twins for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Jaime Garcia, OF Randall Grichuk, OF Curtis Granderson, 3B Yangervis Solarte, RP Tyler Clippard, RP Seung Hwan Oh, SS Aledmys Diaz, RP Craig Breslow, RP Al Albuquerque, RP John Axford

Notable Offseason Subtractions: RF Jose Bautista, 2B Darwin Barney, LF Michael Saunders, 2B Ryan Goins, SP Brett Anderson, SP Tom Koehler, C Miguel Montero

Best Offensive Player: 3B Josh Donaldson

Best Pitcher: Marcus Stroman

Depth Chart:

C-Russell Martin, Luke Maile

1B-Justin Smoak, Kendrys Morales (DH)

2B-Devin Travis

3B-Josh Donaldson, Yangervis Solarte

SS-Troy Tulowitzki, Aledmys Diaz

LF-Curtis Granderson, Steve Pearce

CF-Kevin Pillar

RF-Randall Grichuk, Teoscar Hernandez

SP-Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada, JA Happ, Jaime Garcia

Bullpen-Roberto Osuna (CP), Seung Hwan Oh, Tyler Clippard, Aaron Loup, Craig Breslow, Ryan Tepera, John Axford, Al Albuquerque

Coaching Staff:

Manager-John Gibbons (6th season in this stint with Blue Jays, 10th overall)

Hitting Coach-Brook Jacoby

Pitching Coach-Pete Walker

1st Base Coach-Tim Leiper

3rd Base Coach-Luis Rivera

Bench Coach-DeMarlo Hale

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The Blue Jays are in a tough spot right now, especially when you take into consideration the offseasons the Red Sox and Yankees had. There’s virtually no shot at them winning the division despite having a pretty talented roster in the grand scheme of things. Here’s how I expect them to line up in 2018.

1. Kevin Pillar-CF

2. Josh Donaldson-3B

3. Justin Smoak-1B

4. Kendrys Morales-DH

5. Troy Tulowitzki-SS

6. Russell Martin-C

7. Randall Grichuk-RF

8. Curtis Granderson/Steve Pearce-LF

9. Devon Travis-2B

When you take into consideration the hitter-friendly conditions at the Rogers Centre, this has the look of a lineup that could score a lot of runs. But last season they didn’t. They finished 26th in the Majors in runs scored last season and while they have gotten rid of dead weight like Jose Bautista, they didn’t make enough changes to really get excited over their prospects for the 2018 season. The one guy we can count on being really good at the plate is Josh Donaldson. The 2015 AL MVP, Donaldson was great again in 2017 despite battling injuries, hitting .270 with 33 home runs, walking 15% of the time, and being worth 5.0 WAR despite playing only 113 games. He also almost killed me last season. I went to a Blue Jays-Cubs game at Wrigley Field right before I was to head back to Indiana when I sat down with my burger and fries that my mom and I had gotten from the concessions. The Blue Jays were taking BP and Donaldson smoked one down the left field line where our seats were. I heard the people in front of me scream a little bit as the ball just missed my head and hit an empty seat just a few seats down and roll past my feet into another aisle. If I wasn’t awake before, I was after that. Justin Smoak had a breakout year for the Blue Jays, hitting .270 with 38 home runs, 90 RBI, and a 3.4 WAR. After those two, though, the Jays did not hit up to their capabilities. Hell, the fifth best WAR by a position player on the team belonged to career minor leaguer Teoscar Hernandez, who only played 26 games in Toronto and had a 0.7 WAR. Troy Tulowitzki continues to trend downwards as he only played 66 games and hit 7 home runs and hit .249 for a 0.0 WAR. It seems like so long ago that he was unanimously considered to be the best shortstop in the game with the Rockies. Despite playing great defense, Kevin Pillar was lackluster at the plate, only reaching base at a .300 clip. And don’t even get me started on Jose Bautista’s 2017 season, as he had the lowest batting average in the Majors at .203 and was worth -0.5 WAR. Just underachievement everywhere you look with this Blue Jays roster. However this team is also capable of scoring a ton of runs if you aren’t careful with them. Just because they underperformed in 2017 doesn’t mean 2018 is going to be a repeat of those failures. They’re only a couple years removed from back-to-back postseason appearances.

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Pitching was quietly a pretty solid element of the 2017 Blue Jays. They had a team ERA of 4.42, which was 14th best in the Majors, and they’re spearheaded by one of the most promising young right-handers in Marcus Stroman. After winning World Baseball Classic MVP with his masterful performance in the USA’s championship win over Puerto Rico, Stroman was able to carry that success over to the Blue Jays by throwing 201 innings, posting a 3.04 ERA and was worth 3.4 WAR. His K/9 rate of 7.34 was a little low for my tastes but despite playing in a hitter-friendly park in Toronto he did a good job of keeping the ball in the yard, as his 0.94 HR/9 was 4th best in the American League. JA Happ was also solid for Toronto as he had a 3.53 ERA and struck out nearly 9 batters per 9 innings. However after that there were a lot of struggles. After stellar 2016 seasons, both Marco Estrada and Aaron Sanchez underwhelmed in 2017, Estrada being due to overall performance and Sanchez being due to injury. Estrada carried a 4.98 ERA after 4 straight seasons of being under 4 while Sanchez only made 8 starts after posting the American League’s best ERA in 2016. Sanchez is a guy I’d be confident in returning to his old form, as he’s a sinkerballer who can throw it 95 mph and with that kind of movement at that speed, expect a lot of splintered bats. Estrada concerns me a little more because he doesn’t throw hard like Sanchez does and he relies a bit more on his control, which has been failing him as his BB/9 has risen in each of the last 4 years.

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Toronto’s bullpen, particularly closer Roberto Osuna, got off to a rough start in 2017. Osuna’s ERA was around 10 for much of April but he was able to drop it significantly by season’s end and finished with the 3rd best WAR amongst relievers, trailing only Craig Kimbrel and Kenley Jansen. Osuna also saved 39 games and struck out nearly a dozen batters per 9 innings. However there was a lot of turnover in this ‘pen in the offseason as after Osuna, Aaron Loup is the only guy of note that’s returning. Guys like John Axford, Al Albuquerque, and Craig Breslow have had success in the past, however their records of late haven’t been very promising and this bullpen could be one of the shakier units in baseball.

Overall, Toronto has one of the more talented rosters on paper but everybody seems to be trending in the wrong direction with the exception of Josh Donaldson, Justin Smoak, and Marcus Stroman. If they struggle in the first half like they did all of last season, then I wouldn’t be surprised to see the phones ringing around the trade deadline. There are a lot of assets on this team that could help contending clubs and I think the Blue Jays would be wise to look to acquire some top prospects in order to build towards the future.

Projected Record: 78-84, 4th in AL East

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me for the final time in this segment as I preview the Washington Nationals, who are in their last chance to try and win their first World Series title as Bryce Harper will likely be leaving after the season. Let me know what you think of the Blue Jays’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: St. Louis Cardinals

Tough news out of Los Angeles as Dodgers manager Dave Roberts announced that stud third baseman Justin Turner broke his wrist when he was plunked by a pitch. You hate to see any injury happen, especially during Spring Training when the games don’t matter and they’re just there for you to get back into the swing of things. Here’s to hoping for a speedy recovery for Turner. On a happier note, it’s time for the latest edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days featuring the St. Louis Cardinals.

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2017 Results:

Record: 83-79, 9 games behind Chicago Cubs, 4 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: LF Marcell Ozuna, RP Bud Norris, RP Jason Motte, RP Luke Gregerson, RP Miles Mikolas

Notable Offseason Subtractions: SP Lance Lynn, SS Aledmys Diaz, RF Stephen Piscotty, LF Randal Grichuk, RP Seung Hwan Oh, RP Zach Duke, RP Juan Nicasio, RP Trevor Rosenthal

Best Offensive Player: LF Marcell Ozuna

Best Pitcher: Carlos Martinez

Depth Chart:

C-Yadier Molina

1B-Matt Carpenter, Jose Martinez

2B-Kolten Wong, Greg Garcia

3B-Jedd Gyorko

SS-Paul DeJong

LF-Marcell Ozuna

CF-Tommy Pham, Harrison Bader

RF-Dexter Fowler

SP-Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas, Luke Weaver, Alex Reyes

Bullpen-Luke Gregerson (CP?), Bud Norris (CP?), Tyler Lyons, Dominic Leone, Brett Cecil, Matt Bowman, Jason Motte

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Mike Matheny (7th season with Cardinals)

Hitting Coach-John Mabry

Pitching Coach-Mike Maddux

1st Base Coach-Oliver Marmol

3rd Base Coach-Jose Oquendo

Bench Coach-Mike Shildt

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No matter how untalented the Cardinals’ roster may seem to be, they always find a way to remain relevant. No more was that true than in 2017, where they went 83-79 despite their best offensive player being Tommy Pham, who had been their fourth outfielder for quite some time. Granted, Pham had an excellent season, but he hasn’t shown that he can keep that success up for a prolonged period of time. Here’s how the Cardinals are projected to line up in 2018.

1. Dexter Fowler-RF

2. Paul DeJong-SS

3. Tommy Pham-CF

4. Marcell Ozuna-LF

5. Matt Carpenter-1B

6. Yadier Molina-C

7. Jedd Gyorko-3B

8. Kolten Wong-2B

9. Pitcher’s Spot

The Cardinals made a big splash in the offseason when they acquired Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins in exchange for prospects that included Magneuris Sierra. Ozuna had a Hell of a season in 2017 that got overshadowed by Giancarlo Stanton. He hit .312 with 37 home runs and 124 RBI in 159 games for a 4.8 WAR. That’s some MVP caliber hitting right there. In fact, he probably got the least press between the Marlins’ big-3 outfield that he shared with Stanton and Christian Yelich, all of whom now play elsewhere. Now that he’s the biggest star in his own lineup, perhaps Ozuna will finally get the recognition he deserves. I briefly mentioned Tommy Pham above and it’s worth talking about just how good he was in 2017. Pham hit .306 with 23 home runs and 73 RBI while stealing 25 bases and playing an excellent left field. Manager Mike Matheny is going to move him to center this season and push Dexter Fowler into right to try and put forth the best defensive lineup possible. Paul DeJong was also a breakout stud as a rookie. In 108 games, DeJong hit .285 with 25 home runs and 65 RBI. He walked very infrequently, as his 4.7% walk rate would’ve been the 11th worst in the Majors had he had enough at bats to qualify. However this performance was good enough for him to finish 2nd in NL Rookie of the Year voting behind Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers. Jedd Gyorko has been a pleasant surprise since joining the Cardinals prior to the 2016 season. He hit 30 home runs in 2016 and despite hitting 10 fewer in 2017, he was able to bring his average up from .243 to .272. Yadier Molina is the biggest name on this roster and he is quietly continuing to be amongst the game’s very best behind the dish. Last season, Molina was an NL All Star, including hitting a home run in the game, and hit .273 with 18 home runs and a team-leading 82 RBI while continuing to be an absolute stud behind the plate. He is 35, though, and being a catcher at that age isn’t exactly easy work but Yadi hasn’t shown any real signs of slowing down just yet.

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Pitching for the Cardinals is where things might get a little tricky. Carlos Martinez is an absolute stud on the mound but after him there are a lot of question marks. While Martinez carried this staff by going 12-11 with a 3.64 ERA and nearly 10 K/9, the rest of the rotation left something to be desired. Michael Wacha was inconsistent, carrying a 4.13 ERA while Adam Wainwright, their former ace, hasn’t been good since 2014. Wainwright had an ERA of 5.11, however he carried a FIP of 4.29, which isn’t great but suggests that the defense behind him wasn’t doing him any favors. This is the second year in a row that there was a pretty big discrepancy between Wainwright’s ERA and his FIP, as in 2016 his numbers were 4.62 and 3.93, respectively. Luke Weaver is a young pitcher who showed some pretty promising stuff in his first taste of big league action. In 13 appearances and 10 starts, Weaver went 7-2 with a 3.88 ERA, a 3.17 FIP, nearly 11 K/9, and a BB/9 rate of 2.54. If he takes the next step in his development, the Cardinals could have a potentially deadly 1-2 punch of him and Martinez.

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The Cardinals bullpen looks pretty rough. Luke Gregerson is listed as the closer at the moment but they do have other options, such as Bud Norris and Brett Cecil. However Gregerson never really sniffed the closer’s role in Houston, even in the postseason when guys like Ken Giles were struggling mightily, which should tell you a lot about what Astros manager AJ Hinch thought of him. Bud Norris was okay as a closer for the Angels last season, as he saved 19 games and struck out over 10 batters per 9 but also carried an ERA over 4. Brett Cecil is another guy with closer’s experience in Toronto and he made the most appearances for the Cardinals last season, appearing in 73 games and posting a 3.88 ERA. The Cardinals haven’t seemed to be able to find their closer since the days of Jason Isringhausen, though and last season was real proof of that. They thought Trevor Rosenthal was going to be that guy but aside from a high strikeout rate he could never really find his command as he often walked batters to the point of giving Cardinals fans heart attacks. Seung Hwan Oh was another guy they thought would be the closer they’ve been looking for, in fact his nickname overseas translated to “The Final Boss,” which is about as perfect a nickname for a closer as you’re going to find. However he struggled mightily as the Cardinals’ closer last season, posting an ERA of 4.10. Nobody in the St. Louis bullpen is the answer, but Matheny hopes they can at least tide things over until they do eventually find that guy.

Overall, I think the Cardinals are going to be pretty good. In my opinion, they’re the best-run organization in baseball, that hacking business aside, as the team never seems to be bad. Even when they’re not great, they still find a way to make an impact on the MLB Season. In fact, when they won the World Series in 2006, they finished with a regular season record of just 83-79, the worst record ever by a World Series champion. You may also notice that that was the record they finished with in 2017 yet it landed them in third place in their division. I expect that the Cardinals are going to be solid once again this season but I don’t think the addition of Ozuna is going to be enough to put them over the top and make them a serious threat to the Cubs in the NL Central as their pitching still needs some work.

Projected Record: 85-77, 3rd in NL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Tampa Bay Rays, who pretty much blew up the entire team in the offseason yet will still probably find some way to be pesky little shits. Let me know what you think of the Cardinals’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: January 20

So I really have nothing to write about here. Like, actually nothing. No big moves, no big stories, no personal stories that come to mind. Nothing. So I’m going to try out a new kind of segment where I briefly talk about things that catch my eye in the sporting world, things that probably aren’t worthy of their own blog by themselves but something that I have some short thoughts on. So with that, let’s try this out.

I mentioned when Marcell Ozuna was traded to the Cardinals that St. Louis suddenly had a VERY overstocked outfield. Shortly after Ozuna was traded, the Cardinals sent Stephen Piscotty to the A’s. Well the outfield just got a lot cleaner as they traded Randall Grichuk to the Blue Jays for reliever Dominic Leone and minor leaguer Connor Greene. Grichuk has shown some flashes for the Cardinals but he hasn’t been able to take that next step to becoming the stud I think he can be. A trade to the Blue Jays could be the change of scenery he needs, especially considering he’s basically a lock to start in that outfield, as outside of Kevin Pillar there is basically no depth. Hell, they just signed Curtis Granderson off the streets, whom the Dodgers had traded for midseason then didn’t even bother putting him on the World Series roster. As for the Cardinals’ return for him, Dominic Leone is a solid reliever who I think has the potential to be an 8th inning guy for them. He has shown in the past that he is a very capable right-handed arm out of the ‘pen and I think this was a good exchange for a Cardinals team that sorely lacks bullpen strength. And I have no idea who Connor Greene is.

Mel Kiper Jr. released his first Mock Draft and there’s one major gripe I have with it, which if you read it, you know exactly what it is. He put Josh Allen as his number 1 overall pick to the Browns. It’s such a bad decision that I honestly think the Browns could end up doing it. I noted when I scouted the quarterbacks that I wouldn’t take Allen in the first round unless I had a support system around him that would allow him to develop in the time that he might require. The Browns are the exact opposite of that. They are about as dysfunctional an organization as you’ll find in all of sports and Allen will probably be thrown into the fire from day one, which given his need for growth as a quarterback is the worst possible situation for him. But I’ve seen stranger things happen and I’ve been wrong about this type of thing before. I figured Carson Wentz would need a couple years before he’d be ready to be the Eagles’ starter. Turns out he was the starter from Day 1 and an MVP candidate by Year 2. But still, at surface value, this looks like a really bad decision for the #1 overall pick.

Joel Embiid was named an All Star starter, which if you’ve heard the story by now, you know that means Rhianna has to date him. Well Embiid shut that down the only way he knows how, by being himself.

Good for you, man. Aim higher. You could probably land Beyonce if you wanted to. What’s Jay-Z going to do about it? I mean Embiid is the one guy on the planet who can not only get away with wearing his own jersey to the club, but have a video of him saying “Fuck LaVar Ball” go viral and nobody cares. He’s simply the best and I only want good things to happen to him.

The rest of the NBA All Star starters didn’t surprise me so I’m not going to go into too much detail about it. Except that I kind of feel bad for Damian Lillard. Here’s a guy who is amongst the best point guards in the game and he clearly wants to be an All Star so badly, he’s made that abundantly clear, but it’s kind of a logjam right now and everyone seemingly has their guys locked in from the very start of the season. He’ll get his nod someday.

I’m doing my best to be interested in college basketball right now, I really am. This Trae Young kid from Oklahoma looks like one of the biggest beasts I’ve ever seen at that level. But I’m so out of touch with it now that I feel like I wouldn’t be able to write anything that would do justice to anyone involved and I’d be rambling in ways that make me come off as some uninformed asshole trying to sound smart. Plus Purdue is really good this year and I hate that, especially considering Indiana’s rebuild is going a little slower than I had hoped. There have been some sparks, sure, like when they beat Notre Dame and Minnesota. But there have also been the duds like losing to both Indiana State and IPFW at home by at least 20 points each. There’s quite a ways to go.

JD Martinez has said he’s willing to wait until Spring Training to get the deal that he wants. Reportedly the Red Sox have the best offer at 5 years $100M. Allegedly the holdup is Martinez wants a 6th year. I get that Dave Dombrowski doesn’t want to bend to a player’s will, but the Red Sox were one of the worst offensive teams in baseball last season after being one of the best in 2016. They need Martinez and he knows it. I’d be fine with giving him that extra year. Besides, $20M a year for a guy that hit over .300 with 45 home runs seems like a major bargain. Plus, I feel that once Martinez signs, the rest of baseball will be getting their act together, as I feel the ex-Royals and the stud pitchers will start filing in once they see what he gets. So finally the offseason will have a pulse because we’re more than halfway through January and pretty much everybody is still available.

Those underdog masks Eagles players are wearing are terrifying.

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It’s like looking into the eyes of Satan. Apparently Amazon can’t keep enough of them in stock because Eagles fans keep buying them out. Lincoln Financial Field is going to look pretty weird on Sunday night.

Last but not least, I saw that the Mets have invited Tim Tebow to their Major League Spring Training Camp. That’s about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard from a personnel standpoint, but a genius financial move. Tebow has about as big a drawing power as any person in sports at any level so you know that more fans are going to pile in to see what Tebow can do. Which on a baseball diamond really isn’t much, but regardless, the Mets are going to make a little more profit out of Spring Training.

That’s it for this blog. Let me know what you think of these types of segments in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.