Predicting the Blue Jays’ Opening Day 30-man roster based on who’s travelling to Boston

The Blue Jays are playing two exhibition games at Fenway Park on Tuesday and Wednesday before kicking off the 2020 season on Friday in Tampa.

Based on the group that the Jays have brought with them, we can start to get a good idea of who will be on the team’s 30-man roster when the season opens up a few days from now.

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The Jays have 60-ish players (honestly, it’s gotten pretty confusing keeping track of the 60-man player pool with non-roster invitees still around and guys being placed on the Injured/COVID List) they can pick from, but the group travelling to Boston was whittled down to 38.

Nobody left behind was really surprising. Heading to Toronto’s alternate camp somewhere will be Alejandro Kirk, Riley Adams, Jordan Groshans, Kevin Smith, Austin Martin, Andy Burns, Patrick Kivlehan, Josh Palacios, Forrest Wall, T.J. Zeuch, Alek Manoah, Joey Murray, Travis Bergen, Ty Tice, Bryan Baker, and the injured guys, Chase Anderson and Julian Merryweather.

The only name I’m actually surprised to not see coming to Boston, and, presumably, not cracking the roster, is Breyvic Valera, who the Jays recently claimed off of waivers. Valera is on the 40-man roster right now, so he might get cut in favour of one of the non-roster invitees that the Jays need to add.

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Another note, Brandon Drury and Wilmer Font, who are dealing with injury/COVID, are not 100 percent to be ready for Friday. According to Arden Zwelling, the Jays will make a decision on Drury on Thursday, but Font is certain to not be ready yet.

Anyways! Opening Day roster prediction time!

Catchers (2):

Roster: Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire

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Taxi Squad: Caleb Joseph

This is a pretty obvious one that doesn’t require much thought. Jansen and McGuire, barring injury, were always going to be Toronto’s two catchers this year. Veteran Caleb Joseph, who would have been headed to Buffalo to be the third-string catcher in a normal season, will hang around on the taxi squad in the event of an injury.

Infielders (7):

Roster: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichete, Travis Shaw, Rowdy Tellez, Joe Panik, Santiago Espinal

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Taxi Squad: Ruben Tejada

This was also a fairly easy one to predict. We knew that Vlad Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and Travis Shaw would make up the team’s opening day infield and that Joe Panik, who was added to the 40-man roster back in spring, would also be around in a bench role. Rowdy Tellez was another clear bet to crack the team given the added spots on the roster.

The change here is Santiago Espinal, who seemed to be very impressive during the team’s Summer Camp. Espinal looked good at the plate in Toronto’s intrasquad games and he had some slick plays on defence. I imagine that Espinal jumped Valera on the depth chart.

I think if Drury is ready to go, he’ll get the nod over Espinal, but that isn’t a guarantee. Drury is one of the guys who could end up being snipped from the 40-man roster in order to make room for some of the pitchers who need to be added.

Finally, we have Ruben Tejada, who will hang around on the taxi squad as veteran depth. He isn’t on the 40-man roster currently and would only need to be added in the event of an injury.

Outfielders (5):

Roster: Randal Grichuk, Teoscar Hernandez, Derek Fisher, Anthony Alford, Lourdes Gurriel

Back in spring training, a big question was which outfielder without options would be let go. It came down to Anthony Alford or Derek Fisher, unless the team opted to roll with a five-man infield. Well, with an expanded roster, that’s now an option, so this is a question the Jays won’t have to worry about. For now.

Eventually, as the roster shrinks down to 26 over the coming weeks, the Jays will have to make a decision on Alford and Fisher. Both players are out of options and sending them down to the minor-league camp would require them going through waivers.

Starting Rotation (5):

Roster: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Matt Shoemaker, Tanner Roark, Trent Thornton, Ryan Borucki

Injured List: Chase Anderson

Chase Anderson getting injured added a little bit of intrigue to an otherwise fairly predictable starting rotation discussion. We knew that veterans Ryu, Shoemaker, Roark, and Anderson were going to be four of the five starters, with Trent Thornton, who led the team in innings last year, leading a “battle” for the fifth spot.

But, with Anderson out due to injury, another spot at the back of the rotation opened up for somebody else. While in a perfect world it would be Nate Pearson’s spot, we all know that the Jays are going to keep their No. 1 prospect down in order to get an extra year of service time. Instead, it’ll be Ryan Borucki getting a chance off the hop.

It sounds weird to say this, but Borucki has benefitted from the time off due to the COVID pause. He missed virtually all of 2019 due to injury and his elbow issues flared up again in spring. With the time off, Borucki has been able to get himself healthy for what will be a pivotal season for determining his role with the organization moving forward.

Bullpen (11):

Roster: Ken Giles, Jordan Romano, Rafael Dolis, Anthony Bass, A.J. Cole, Shun Yamaguchi, Sam Gaviglio, Jacob Waguespack, Sean Reid-Foley, Anthony Kay, Thomas Pannone. 

Taxi Squad: Thomas Hatch

Injured List: Wilmer Font, Yennsy Diaz, Elvis Luciano, Hector Perez

Things start to get a little bit more complicated here.

Charlie Montoyo will have an interesting balancing act ahead of him when it comes to relief pitchers this year. On one hand, the Jays could be surprisingly successful given that the season is only 60 games long, but, on the other hand, there’s only 60 games worth of competitive baseball to go around this summer and a lot of young arms on the roster.

What we know about the bullpen is that Ken Giles will be the closer and the late-inning guys will be Rafael Dolis, Anthony Bass, Jordan Romano, and A.J. Cole, who needs to be added to the 40-man roster. Shun Yamaguchi and Sam Gaviglio are a couple of veterans who will be used in middle- and long-relief roles. Wilmer Font will also likely be a big part of Toronto’s ‘pen once he’s healthy.

After that, the young arms become the priority. The Jays have a handful of spots left on their expanded roster, and it makes the most sense for them to go to prospects who might be part of the long-term future with the club.

Jacob Waguespack, Sean Reid-Foley, Anthony Kay, and Thomas Pannone can all be used out of the ‘pen in various situations and could even be called upon to make a spot start. Another thing is that they’re all already on the 40-man roster.

Even if the Jays wanted to go with veterans like Justin Miller, Brian Moran, or Jake Petricka, there’s the sticky situation of adding them to the 40-man, thus getting rid of somebody else. These guys will stick around in the event that somebody goes on the 45-day Injured List (which is this year’s version of the 60-day IL) but it’s hard to imagine them cracking the roster off the hop.

Remember, somebody will also have to come off the 40-man in favour of Pearson after he’s spent a week in the “minors.”

As the roster gets cut down to 26 over the coming weeks, we’ll surely see guys like Reid-Foley and Kay head back to the Blue Jays’ alternate camp, but, it makes sense for Montoyo to capitalize on the 30-man roster to get them some meaningful innings where he can.