Having been following the Jays pretty fanatically for over 30 years, I’m used to the extremes. For the first 8 years I never had to tolerate a bad, non-contending team. Then, like the rest of the old-time fans I learned that “Interbrew” was one of the worse profanities in my vocabulary. Over the course of 20+ years there were glimmers of hope and those were fun when a team was surprisingly good (Like the Tim Johnson team) and soul crushing when they “won the offseason” and then were horrible anyway (2013 being the most notorious example, the only season I completely quit on part-way through because I JUST couldn’t stand it). So yes, I know about high expectations that failed, and low expectations that you put up with.
I confess that both of the last two seasons ground on me because I felt that it was perfectly reasonable to be reasonably optimistic in the Spring. I can go back now, I’m sure you can too, and say “If not for Sanchez’s blisters…” about five or six things each year which made the difference between the “on paper” Jays in March and the “on turf” team in August. I feel abused by the last two years, not by any individual player coach or executive but by the proverbial baseball gods. Management, in my view, honored the fans by trying to position the team to take advantage of their talent and they still failed. Twice. I’ll be a little bitter about that for some time to come.
In light of that disappointment, I had prepared myself for this to be a “just tolerate it” season. Oh I mean sure, Vladdy was coming and that was surely going to be fun, and he’s certainly not the only player or potential player for the team I’d be interested in but the consensus among, well, most everyone is that the team would be BAD and that takes the edge off being excited about an individual player. But the more I look at it – the more I’m thinking that unless you assume the curses of the last two years continue…maybe they won’t?
So being the unrepentant optimist that I am, almost against my will I’m adding up in my head all the things that have me excited about the 2019 Blue Jays. In no particular order…
Valddy. Duh. Just assume I filled this spot with basically the same things you’re already thinking right now.
Bo! – I refuse to resign myself to the assumption that the will play the service time game with a superstar prospect who’s starting the year in AAA. It’s certain he’ll be there until well beyond the Super Two period is past, probably after the Break. But I’m approaching the season as if he is surely going to play in Toronto this year if healthy.
Stroman & Sanchez. I mean come on, Sanchez of the ’16 vintage doesn’t make this team much more interesting? It can happen and i want to see it if it does. Fangraphs DC projects 1.3 WAR for him but in ’16 it was almost three times that. Stroman has a better projection but it’s still not as high as what he gave the team in ’16 and ’17. That’s another three (projected) wins right there. That’s not all? What if Shomemaker joins them in reclaiming his last healthy year? That would be another two. Buchholz is unpredictable but you have to thin there’s some potential to top his projection.
Randal Grichuk – Anyone who’s read my stuff over the last decade knows why I’m excited about Randal – if you isolate his stat line to the games he played after he came back from losing a month to injury you have to get excited. Extrapolated to a full season it comes out to 50 doubles and 39 homers with an .873 OPS. He MIGHT do that over a full season, maybe even better. It’s one of the things I’m watching for.
Danny Jansen – Only Gary Sanchez has a hire projected WAR than the Blue Jays other rookie hitter.
Anthony Alford – I know Kevin Pillar is here, I know he’s a real guy that many fans like, I know the marginal trade value is questionable – but I started believing in Alford when he was still playing football, and calling him one of the Jays top 10 prospects and I continue to have a lot of emotion invested in his success. I may have to wait until August but I’m here for it.
Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. – Maybe he’ll never be a great or even average glove man, but I believe he can really hit and he seems like a player who could be a real fan favorite.
Brandon Drury – Lord knows where they will play him but I want to know if we actually go something to be proud of for JA Happ. A lot of people who know things seem to think there’s a lot more there than we’ve seen.
Finally, I’m watching the young pitchers. I’m not sure if it’s Sean Reid-Foley who breaks out, or David Paulino, or Trent Thornton or maybe someone we don’t yet see coming. But someone is going to step up the way Borucki did last year and it will be fun.
This season will be fun. I believe. more wins than last year, with health, probably closer to .500 than anyone dares to think. Don’t be negative, let me have this while I can.