Become a Club Homestand member on www.homestandsports.com to gain access to all Rivoli shows, the Home Stand newsletter, the Club Homestand SLACK channel, and more!
As the calendar turns to 2018, the Toronto Blue Jays are hoping to put their 2017 woes in the past. If they can fix these eight issues, playoff baseball could return to Toronto this year.
Get faster in a hurry
The 2017 Blue Jays were the second slowest team in baseball. They stole just 53 bases and grounded into 153 double plays. Losing Jose Bautista (who was the slowest outfielder in the Majors last year), should help, but Toronto will need either Anthony Alford or Dalton Pompey to contribute on the basepaths next season.
Create clutch contact
An inability to convert with runners in scoring position plagued the Blue Jays last year. Though Ryan Goins hit a shocking .330 in run-scoring opportunities, the team as a whole hit just .230. Without Goins, Toronto needs to find another lucky bat and improve its timely hitting if the team wants to find success in 2018.
Buy a backup backstop
Aside from Russell Martin, Blue Jays catchers hit .152 and connected for just seven home runs in 2017. Catching prospect Danny Jansen attracted attention within the organization, slashing .323/.400/.484 across three minor league levels last year, but the 22-year-old might not be ready to see Major League action in 2018. Toronto should look to add someone like Rene Rivera on a one-year deal.
Insure the injured infield
Devon Travis and Troy Tulowitzki combined to play just 116 games last season. 2016 All-Star Aledmys Diaz is a nice addition for the Blue Jays, but Ross Atkins remains determined to add another versatile infielder. They’ll have to add another capable bat, because one-dimensional defensive players don’t cut it in the AL East.
No more dismal defense
The Blue Jays were the worst defensive team in the Majors last year, according to MLB Statcast’s Out Above Average metric. In the outfield specifically, they ranked 24th in defensive WAR and — without Kevin Pillar in centerfield — it could have been much worse. That can’t continue if Toronto wants to contend next season.
Pitching health isn’t easily fixable, but a successful Blue Jays team can’t use 14 different starting pitchers next year. Aaron Sanchez will need to get his blister issues under control, but with so many injury concerns in the rotation, it might be wise for Toronto to bring in another workhorse starter to fill in the backend of the rotation.
While the Blue Jays bullpen wasn’t terrible in 2017, they struggled to hold onto leads, blowing a Major League-leading 26 saves last year. While Roberto Osuna dominated with 11.67 strikeouts per 9, his ERA ballooned to 3.38 in just 64 innings. The 22-year-old shouldn’t be replaced, but Toronto needs to find a way to convert in crunch time.
Connect with the curve
The Blue Jays couldn’t connect against offspeed pitches last year. They ranked 27th in batting average against offspeed offerings, hitting just .208, but were even worse against the curveball, batting .189 with 16 home runs against the pitch. Toronto needs to change up its batting order next year, adding someone who can capitalize on offspeed pitches. Eduardo Nunez is one player the Blue Jays could look at, the 30-year-old infielder hit .320 with 15 extra-base hits on offspeed pitches last season.