Stoeten Hijacks Sportsnet’s MLB Preview Roundtable!

It’s here! Baseball season is finally here! And with it comes everybody’s favourite: ponderous and ultimately meaningless prediction-y content!

And while I’m not much for producing anything like that of my own volition, will I take a piece where somebody else has meticulously collated commentary on the upcoming Blue Jays season from people who surely know better than I do and inject my own dumb takes on otherwise reasonable questions? You bet your ass I will!

And so here I present my hijacking of Sportsnet’s MLB preview roundtable. As always I haven’t read Shi’s or Jeff’s or Mike’s or Ben’s or Arden’s answers…

Who’s one Blue Jays player whose 2017 season could have an unexpectedly significant impact on the team’s success?

Honestly, there aren’t many Blue Jays I don’t expect success from, so the pool of potential answers for this question is rather small. It can’t be Justin Smoak — or… well… it could be Justin Smoak, but even among the guys I don’t expect much from, I don’t expect much from him. I’d be very fine with it being Ezequiel Carrera, as the Jays sure seem to believe in him in ways that I don’t fucking understand — though Mark Shapiro’s “darling of the analytical world” comment from a radio hit the other week continues to stick with me — but I’m going to go with the fashionable pick and say Kevin Pillar.

I’ve never been a huge believer in Pillar this thing where everybody thinks that one year Pillar’s magically going to break out as a hitter, because it always seemed like he was trying the same thing and expecting different results, and because it’s not easy to just “be better” at recognizing and laying off pitches. Except maybe it is! It’s so far so good for the more disciplined Pillar, and what I love about what he’s trying to do is that if it works and he keeps it up, it’s not just going to increase his walk totals in the aggregate, it’s going to lead him into more favourable counts, as well. I’m not holding my breath for a big offensive breakout from Pillar to actually happen, but I’m a lot more ready to believe it’s possible.

If he does that, it makes everything else for this team so much easier. Two black holes at the bottom of the lineup are better than three.

* * *

What player could the 2017 Blue Jays least afford to lose for an extended stretch?

Josh Donaldson. Without question, without hesitation.

There are several players who are vitally important to this team. I wrote over the weekend for VICE Sports about how Troy Tulowitzki is the key to this season, and I’m not taking that back. It’s just… Josh Donaldson. I mean… Josh Donaldson. Josh Donaldson. Josh Donaldson. Josh Donaldson. Josh Donaldson.

Any other answer is kind of absurd. Since Donaldson arrived in 2015 he’s been worth 16.3 WAR. The next highest current Blue Jay over that span is fuckin’ Pillar at 7.5, followed by Bautista at 5.8. (Yes, yes, Edwin is at 8.4 and they didn’t bring him back and Mark Shapiro ran over your dog. I know.)

In the Majors over that span, the only player with a higher WAR is Mike Trout.

I mean… holy fuck. It’s Josh Donaldson.

* * *

What MLB team will you go out of your way to watch in 2016?

In 2016? That was the Dodgers and Vin’s last hurrah. This year, it’s probably just whichever west coast game has the most compelling matchup of teams, pitchers, and the prettiest backdrop. It’s really Jays first for me, and then everything else is background noise. I’ll put it on but “watch”? Maybe not the most accurate word.

If history had been a little different (i.e. if the thought of it didn’t turn my stomach), I’d probably be more inclined to check out that Syndergaard guy pitch for the Mets on a regular basis.

* * *

Who’s one player you could see putting together a monster year (other than Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw)?

Nolan Arenado comes to mind. So too does Syndergaard. And I’d love to put Eric Thames or Giancarlo Stanton on that list, even though that’s surely asking way too much — but how fun would that be? And there are all the young shortstops: Correa, Lindor, Seager, etc. Aaaaaand Manny Machado reminded us all on Opening Day what a ridiculous talent he is, too.

But what’s amazing is that twice here I’ve named third basemen who are not even as good as Josh Donaldson, which is fucking bonkos. So screw it, I’m gonna be the homer and say it’s Josh motherfucking Donaldson (please stay healthy Josh).

* * *

The Rays, Angels, Marlins, Rockies and Diamondbacks all finished below .500 last year. Are any of those teams potential 2017 sleepers in your view?

Welcome to the second Wild Card era, where every team is a sleeper!

Honestly, though, I think that literally every one of those teams has a chance to surprise. Some more than others, of course.  I’m not so sure of the Marlins’ rotation and I’m a little worried about Giancarlo not taking the next step. The Rockies right now need some health. The Diamondbacks’ rotation needs to get it together. The Angels Garrett Richards to be all the way back, at the very least. And the Rays need to find some offence to go with a nice pool of starters (and to do so before half those starters get traded). But seriously, any one of these teams could make some genuine noise if things break right.

It’s gonna be a fun season!