One year ago, most projection models predicted Vladimir Guerrero Jr. would be the biggest contributor for the Blue Jays in 2019. In actuality, Cavan Biggio led all Blue Jays position players with 2.4 fWAR last season. Vladdy finished tenth on the team with 0.4 WAR.
2020 is a new season and a fresh opportunity for the Blue Jays’ franchise third baseman to make some improvements. Dan Szymborski’s ZIPS projections for the Blue Jays will be unveiled soon, but in the meantime, the 2020 Steamer projections have been released.
Not only does it look like Vladdy will have a bounce-back season, one teammate might equal his total, with a few other Blue Jays nipping at their heels.
|Vladimir Guerrero Jr.||3.6||12th|
|Lourdes Gurriel Jr.||1.4||27th|
Both Guerrero and Bo Bichette are tied with 3.6 WAR projected WAR for the 2020 season, with most of Vladdy’s value coming on offense, while Bo’s WAR projection is evenly weighted on offense and defense this coming season.
The shortstop position in Major League Baseball is extremely top-heavy, and despite Bichette’s strong showing in the second half, he’s still a breakout season away from becoming one of the top ten shortstops is the league. Sandwiched in between Fernando Tatis Jr. and Gleyber Torres is a good place for Bichette to be on this shortstop list.
That may be a modest for projection for Bo, who amassed 1.7 WAR in 46 games played for the last year. Expand that over the course of a full size (triple it, basically) and that puts Bichette in the 5.1 WAR season category. That strangely does not seem out of reach for the Blue Jays’ shortstop.
It’s unreasonable to expect Bichette to carry a 142 wRC+ over the course of a full season like he did in that two-month stint last year, but this is where is ability to play defense makes a difference and bumps up his WAR total the longer he stays in the field.
Last year, Steamer projections were bullish on Guerrero, forecasting a 4.7 WAR season in 2019. That placed him within the top 15 position player projections for the 2019 campaign, which in retrospect, was a massive overshoot. He fell 4.3 WAR short of his Steamer projection of 4.7 WAR.
To compensate, it seems like projection systems have dialled back their expectations for Vladdy a bit in his sophomore campaign, but a 3.6 WAR season would be a tremendous stepping stone for the 20-year-old.
Despite all this, the most compelling story to come out of these 2020 Steamer projections for the Blue Jays might be their young catching tandem. Together, Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire are forecasted to post the 7th and 19th best seasons for catchers in 2020.
As noted by John Metzler in this tweet, the Blue Jays’ catching tandem ranks third in catcher projections this coming season among all 30 MLB teams, with only the White Sox and Phillie ranking higher.
— John Metzler (@bluejaysbeat) January 22, 2020
Jansen even cracked the top ten Steamer projections for catchers, as he received the highest ranking for any Blue Jays player on this list, placing him seventh among all MLB catcher projections for 2020. That might be indicative of how thin the catcher position is across MLB, as Steamer projected Jansen to have the second-highest WAR among all catchers in 2019.
The bulk of Jansen’s WAR is rooted in his defense (he was worth 12 defensive runs saved and 8.1 framing runs in 103 games played last year), so it makes sense that Steamer projects the Blue Jays’ backstop to put forth another solid season in 2020.
However, it’s interesting to note that Steamer projects the Blue Jays to have a 50/50 split behind the plate this season, with both Jansen and McGuire sharing the catching duties. Jansen projects to start 72 games, while McGuire projects to start 75 games.
Slide a little further down the list and Cavan Biggio stays on par with his 2019 season, earning a 2.1 WAR forecast for 2020. Randal Grichuk’s close behind with a 1.8 WAR forecast and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. comes in with a 1.4 WAR projection this year.
Overall, these are solid projections for the Blue Jays’ young position player core. Since these are projections, nothing is guaranteed (Vladdy’s 2019 campaign was proof of that), but these numbers set a strong baseline for Bichette, Guerrero, Jansen and Biggio.