With Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette headlining the lineup on a daily basis, the Toronto Blue Jays will be a fun team to watch this summer.
About four months after it was supposed to, the 2020 Major League Baseball season opens around the USA on Thursday and Friday – we’ll have a Game 1 preview of the Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday. It’s a coronavirus-shortened 60-game season with the standard playoff format. The Jays are given an over/under win total of 28.5 on the MLB odds, with the under a -120 favourite. That’s essentially equal to 77 victories in a normal 162-game season.
No question that every game will matter in the quick sprint of a season that is 37 percent of its usual length. A five-game losing streak could be disastrous for any post-season hopes.
Toronto Blue Jays 2020 Season Preview
The Jays are going to be at the biggest disadvantage of any team by far because they will not be playing any true home games at Rogers Centre this season. The U.S.-Canadian border is closed for nonessential travel through Aug. 21 (at the earliest) and the Canadian government is mandating a 14-day quarantine for anyone crossing the border. Thus, it simply wasn’t tenable for American teams to come to Toronto. The NHL can have two Canadian hub cities for the Stanley Cup playoffs because the players won’t be leaving those cities until their teams are eliminated.
Toronto is expected to play at its Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo or share a stadium with either the AL East rival Baltimore Orioles or Pittsburgh Pirates. Buffalo makes the most sense from a location standpoint, but the facilities are not major-league quality and the players want that. They deserve all the creature comforts they can get in playing the longest road trip in franchise history.
Baltimore makes some sense in that the Jays and Orioles are set to play 10 games against one another this season as it was. The problem would be the other 50 games as there would be days both would have to play at Camden Yards, one during the afternoon and one at night.
The Blue Jays don’t play the Pirates this season – or any teams outside the AL East or NL East – but have ties to the franchise as former Blue Jays executives Ben Cherington and Steve Sanders are the Pirates’ general manager and assistant GM, respectively. Needless to say, wherever the Jays call home they will bat last like a usual home team, but it’s still a major disadvantage.
Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Odds
Toronto is +450 on the MLB odds board to make the playoffs and -909 to miss out again.
The Blue Jays were one of the biggest spenders this off-season in free agency in landing the likes of pitchers Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark and Shun Yamaguchi as well as third baseman Travis Shaw. The team also traded for Brewers pitcher Chase Anderson, although he’s dealing with an oblique injury and likely to miss at least the first week or two of the season.
The rotation when everyone is healthy should feature Ryu, Matt Shoemaker, Roark, Trent Thornton and Anderson with Yamaguchi in the pen/as a swing starter. Ken Giles returns as the closer. Giles is +900 on a yes-only MLB prop to lead the AL in saves.
However, the clear strength of the Jays is a lineup led by young stars Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio. Guerrero Jr. put on a memorable show in last year’s Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game, although he was so gassed by the final he lost to the Mets’ Pete Alonso. Baby Vlad hit .272 with 15 homers and 69 RBIs in 123 regular-season games.
He will move from third base – where Shaw will play most days – to first base/DH. The DH will be used in every game this season. Guerrero is given over/under totals of 14.5 homers and 36.5 RBIs, but the season must go the full 60 games for that prop to be valid. He is +2200 to lead the AL in hits and +300 to be the first Blue Jay to homer this season.
Bichette is at shortstop and will lead off. He hit .311 with 11 homers and 21 RBIs in 46 games last year and is given totals of 12.5 homers and 29.5 RBIs. Bichette is +1600 to lead the AL in hits. Biggio, a second baseman like his Hall of Fame father Craig, hit .234 with 16 homers and 48 RBIs in 100 games. He has totals of 10.5 dingers and 27.5 RBIs.
The rest of the everyday lineup should include Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Randal Grichuk and Teoscar Hernandez in the outfield, Rowdy Tellez at first base/DH and Danny Jansen behind the plate, although Reese McGuire will catch a few games per week.
Toronto Blue Jays MLB Predictions
The Jays will win fewer than 28.5 games in large part because of no true home games. Go over Guerrero’s totals (he won’t lead the AL in hits) but under on both for Bichette and Biggio. No playoffs this year, but look out in 2021.