Spring training is right around the corner, officially.
Though there had been an attempt by Major League Baseball to push back the start of the 2021 season, it looks as though that won’t be happening. The Blue Jays’ pitchers and catchers will report to Florida on Feb. 18 and the rest of the roster is set to arrive on Feb. 22.
Also worth noting, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported MLB’s health and safety guidelines for the upcoming season and the rule and roster-related changes the league is making…
- Teams submit a 75-man spring training roster by 4:00 PM ET on Feb. 12.
- Teams will operate with a 26-man roster during the regular season and the roster will expand to 28 players come September. Teams will also be allowed to carry a five-man Taxi Squad with them on the road. These players will ultimately be considered minor-leaguers while on the Taxi Squad.
- There won’t be a restriction on the amount of pitchers on a 26-man roster nor will there be restrictions on position players pitching.
- Double-headers will be seven innings and MLB is maintaining the extra innings runner starts on second base thing.
- The league and players have not agreed on a universal designated hitter or an expanded post-season. It looks like we’ll be going back to the standard, 10-team post-season for 2021.
None of this is particularly surprising.
We won’t see the players cave on the expanded post-season thing until later on as its a key bargaining chip for them in the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations.
I didn’t mind either of the seven-inning double-headers or runner on second in extra innings. For the latter, I kind of hoped that they would wait until the 11th inning to speed things up, but whatever. These two rules ultimately serve the purpose of reducing wear and tear on players, especially pitchers.
Speaking of the 10-team post-season, based on Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections, the Blue Jays will end up just on the outside looking in. PECOTA projects them to finish with a 85-77 record, third in the East and seventh in the American League.
All things considered, this is a pretty nice projection for the Blue Jays. Despite the big off-season, I don’t think anybody is reasonably expecting the team to explode and win 96 games and push the Yankees hard for the division crown. The offence looks to be very strong but the starting rotation is a bit of a disaster, so coming out with 85 wins, which should put the Blue Jays comfortably in the mix for one of two wild-card seeds, seems fairly reasonable.
That being said, we also shouldn’t put too much stock into simulations like this…
This makes the playoff odds kind of useless, doesn't it? pic.twitter.com/lLHkg8krIE
— Ricky Hart (@EricHartman) February 10, 2021
As the blurb above points out, these simulations are based on every player having a clean bill of health. PECOTA has the Red Sox finishing 80-82, a much better winning percentage than they had in 2020, under the assumption that Chris Sale is going to pitch a full season. It also has the Angels winning 86 games because, in the simulation world, all of Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Justin Upton, and Anthony Rendon play a full season.
Meanwhile, the Rays, who boasted the best record in the American League in 2020, only have 20 percent post-season odds because the simulation doesn’t put into consideration how valuable high-quality organizational depth is. While a team like the Angels with a weak system wouldn’t be able to compensate for the loss of key players to injury, the Rays have a laundry list of good players who can step into roles at the drop of a hat.
What do these considerations mean for the Blue Jays? On the pessimistic side, the projection is likely a bit too friendly because it assumes that Hyun Jin Ryu, a Toronto’s ace who struggles with durability, won’t get injured. But, like the Rays, though not quite to the same extent, the Blue Jays also boast a strong system and have plenty of players, especially pitchers, who could step in and excel in 2021 who wouldn’t have been considered in the simulation.
Anyways! That’s a whole lot of something about nothing. Speaking of farm systems…
Well this certainly upends the Keith Law hates the Blue Jays narrative. https://t.co/Fa1iCYndiL
— Wins and Flosses (@WinsAndFlosses) February 10, 2021
Over at The Athletic, Keith Law has released his pre-season farm system rankings, in which the Blue Jays rank at No. 3, behind only Tampa Bay and Cleveland. Here’s what he has to say…
The Blue Jays have boosted the talent in their system through all three avenues of player acquisition: They’ve drafted very well in the last two years, including landing the player I had at No. 1 on my board in 2020 in Austin Martin; they’ve found a slew of high-upside position players in international free agency; and they’ve done well acquiring prospects in trades, enough so that they’ve been able to flip the script and trade away some lower-tier guys in deals like the Taijuan Walker trade. The Jays placed six guys on my top 100, one on the just-missed list and have three or four more who would comfortably fit among the next 40 names.
Elsewhere, Baseball America also released their farm rankings, in which the Blue Jays also rank third. These two rankings are an interesting change of pace given the fact that FanGraphs said recently that the Blue Jays would place in the “bottom third” of their organizational rankings.
This system will probably end up near the very bottom of the farm rankings, but remember that it just recently lost two top five prospects, Cavan Biggio (who should have been a top 100 prospect), and a couple of good role players, including Thomas Hatch and Anthony Kay, who graduated due to the weird 2020 rookie eligibility rule changes rather than traditional innings totals. The system looks thin but at least there are young big leaguers entrenched at key positions.
It’s important to note that projections and rankings and prospect talk in general is going to be all over the grid given the fact there wasn’t minor-league ball last season, but it’s difficult to wrap around the idea that the Blue Jays have a bottom-of-the-pack farm system.
Simply having names like Pearson and Martin in the mix should prop the system up, even if the rest of the names in there are junk. And that isn’t even really the case, considering high-upside names like Simeon Woods Richardson and Jordan Groshans along with younger guys like Orelvis Martinez and Gabe Moreno.
I would lean with Law and Baseball America here, and, of course, I’m not biased at all! I guess we’ll have to pivot from “Keith Law hates us!” to “FanGraphs hates us!”