The Blue Jays were well represented at the All-Star Game with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Teoscar Hernandez, Marcus Semien and Bo Bichette all representing Toronto in their first career All-Star appearances.
After a quartet of Blue Jays players helped the American League down the National League 5-2 in the All-Star Game on Tuesday night, it’s time to review the first half of the season. Toronto has one of the best batting lineups in all of baseball, but a struggling bullpen has held them to a 45-42 record for third in the AL East. There’s still time to turn things around, but can manager Charlie Montoyo do it with this roster, or could a blockbuster trade be needed? Let’s check out the Toronto Blue Jays’ midterm report card grades.
Batting Lineup: A
The Blue Jays have fielded a championship batting lineup throughout the season. Led by All-Star Game MVP Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto is averaging 5.1 runs per game. That mark ties them with the Boston Red Sox for third in the American League, trailing only the Houston Astros (still waiting for them to announce that trashcan sponsorship) and the Chicago White Sox.
Marcus Semien, Bo Bichette, Guerrero and Teoscar Hernandez, who all represented the Jays at the All-Star Game, have made up the top four of the batting lineup for the majority of the season. With George Springer finally healthy, he’ll shift to the leadoff spot, which gives Toronto the kind of depth a lot of teams will struggle to contend with.
Guerrero has been an AL MVP candidate all season and the award should come down to him or LA Angels DH/pitcher Shohei Ohtani. League-wide Guerrero is first in batting average (.332), RBIs (73), on-base percentage (.430) and OPS (1.089). He’s also second in home runs (28) and slugging percentage (.658) and tied with Bichette for fifth in hits (105).
The only negatives in the lineup are from third base and catcher. Cavan Biggio, Santiago Espinal and since-traded Joe Panik have only managed a .700 OPS, 21st in the majors. Normally a second basemen, Biggio has picked up the majority of starts at third this season, but his .235 batting average hasn’t been enough.
The catchers have also struggled as the Blue Jays catching position is 23rd in offence. Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire, Riley Adams and Alejandro Kirk have combined for a .210 average. Still, the big bats in this lineup are good enough to hide a couple of below average batting positions and overall, Toronto’s offence is among the best in baseball.
Guerrero is not just thriving with the bat this season, he’s also been a big benefit on first base. He’s been able to dig, leap and stretch for balls and cover up some of the growing pains in other areas. Bichette’s All-Star abilities at the plate haven’t translated to shortstop. He struggles with throwing accuracy and he ranks 24th in defensive runs saved above average, among shortstops who have started at least 10 games. Third base has been an issue all season. Biggio is a true second basemen forced to play third because Espinal has shown he’s not an everyday third basemen yet. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has struggled in left field at times, but his arm has often helped him recover.
Starting Rotation: B
The starting rotation is one area that has been a bit of a pleasant surprise. Hyun-Jin Ryu has had some ups and downs, but overall, he’s been the ace of this rotation. The Jays have been able to rest Ryu a fair amount thanks to strong performances from Robbie Ray, Alek Manoah, Ross Stripling and Steven Matz. The only disappointment has been top prospect Nate Pearson, who failed to make an impact in his first call-up to the majors. Pearson is still young, so there’s still plenty of time for him to develop.
It’s no secret the bullpen is what has failed Toronto this year. Give them an ‘F’, a ‘0’, a ‘frowny face sticker’, take your pick. Poor performances and injuries to relievers like Rafael Dolis and Tyler Chatwood have forced GM Ross Atkins to trade for Adam Cimber and Trevor Richards, but it’s not enough. The Jays are tied with the Baltimore Orioles for dead-last in the American League with 15 total saves. You can hit all the homers you want, but without a true closer, you’ll never win.
Final Grade: C+
There’s a lot of talent on this roster, but there’s still major holes to plug. You can’t hide behind your bats forever, at some point the bullpen needs to step up if the Jays have a hope of picking up a Wild Card spot.