Blue Jays Nation Roundtable: 2023 Season Predictions, Hot Takes, and More!

Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Evan Stack
1 year ago
Members of Blue Jays Nation gave their Blue Jays predictions for the 2023 season, such as team MVP, breakout player, and hot take. They also predicted the playoff teams in the American League.

Paul Berthelot 

Record Prediction: 95-67
AL Playoff Teams: 1. HOU, 2. TOR, 3. CLE, 4. NYY, 5. TB, 6. SEA 
Team MVP: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Breakout Player: Dalton Varsho. I think he has a chance to really break out as a hitter with the Blue Jays. As a flyball hitter, the new dimensions at Rogers Centre are going to be great for him. He will be surrounded by a better lineup and won’t be the focal point for the opposing pitcher. Plus since he will only be catching in an emergency situation, he doesn’t have to worry about those additional responsibilities and wear and tear that come with that. I don’t know that he ends up with a 132 wRC+ as ZiPS projects him for, but even if he is at 120 wRC+ with elite defence in the outfield he could be a 5-6 WAR player. 
Hot Take: Vladdy sets a new single-season franchise record with 55 home runs. We know he has the power to do it. He was hitting tanks all off-season in the DR and already has a couple in Spring Training. It’s only been eight batted balls but he has a 19.1-degree launch angle this Spring, if that is to continue the rest of March and into the season, watch out. Vlad could be primed for a monster season.

Tate Kispitch

Record Prediction: 101-61
AL Playoff Teams: 1. HOU, 2. TOR, 3. CWS, 4. TEX, 5. TBR, 6. NYY
Team MVP: Daulton Varsho.
Breakout Player: Cavan Biggio. Though I agree with Paul’s sentiment of Varsho having the best season (at the plate especially) of his young career thus far, I won’t double up and thus I’ll go with Cavan Biggio as the Jays’ breakout player in 2023. Heading into the season, Whit Merrifield is expected to get the majority of the reps at second base, after a strong end to the season last year. However, I think with time, the Jays will move another left-handed bat into the starting lineup in the form of Cavan Biggio. During his time in the majors, Biggio’s shown a power tool, a plate discipline tool, and a defence tool, but hasn’t been able to string it all together in a season yet. This year, with no insane shifts waiting for him, I think you’ll see his BABIP jump up from where it sat last year, which will help his overall hitting. Steamer projects him for 107 wRC+, and if you combine that with the same level of defence and baserunning he provided last year, you could be looking at a nice 3 WAR player.
Hot Take: The Blue Jays will acquire a big-name starting pitcher at the deadline, as their last piece needed for a playoff run, à la David Price. You could see some big names on the market at the deadline, as some teams that have put themselves on the borderline may fall out of contention. I’m personally in love with Logan Webb, who’s posted back to back 4 WAR seasons in the Bay Area, but with the Giants failing to make a splash in the offseason and really just getting another year older, I don’t see them playing for much by the deadline this year. Webb will be pricey, with another 2 years of team control after this, but the Blue Jays certainly have the prospect capital to get it done. (Other names include Lucas Giolito, Zac Gallen and Shane Bieber, among others.)

Thomas Hall 

Record Prediction: 97-65
AL Playoff Teams: 1. HOU, 2. TOR, 3. CLE, 4. NYY, 5. SEA, 6. TBR
Team MVP: George Springer. 
Breakout Player: Danny Jansen. Blue Jays fans know all too well of Danny Jansen’s offensive potential, but every year we’ve seen his campaign derailed by injuries. When healthy, the 27-year-old has been a juggernaut in the batter’s box over the past two seasons, hitting .275/.347/.577 with 23 home runs, 64 RBIs, a .302 ISO, .388 wOBA and a 154 wRC+ across his last 100 games. 
If Jansen finds a way to remain on the field in 2023, don’t be surprised if the rest of the sport starts noticing not only his offensive tools but also his defensive value. 
Hot Take: Ricky Tiedemann will finish among the top three in Rookie of the Year voting
This may be a little bit of a stretch for someone who logged just 11.0 innings at double-A New Hampshire last season, but Ricky Tiedemann looks ready to follow a similar path that Blue Jays ace Alek Manoah did during his rookie campaign in 2021. And sure, Yusei Kikuchi figures to open the year as the club’s No. 5 starter, however, that situation could change around the All-Star break. 
Tiedemann will likely return to the Fisher Cats to open 2023, looking to build off his stellar 2022 performance, where he posted a 2.17 ERA, a 2.51 FIP and a 29.2 percent strikeout-to-walk rate difference over 78.2 innings across three levels. If the 20-year-old’s dominance continues, though, we could see the left-hander make his major-league debut this summer. 
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Evan Stack

Record Prediction: 95-67
AL Playoff Teams: 1. HOU, 2. TOR, 3. CLE, 4. TBR, 5. NYY, 6. SEA
Team MVP: Bo Bichette
Breakout Player: Danny Jansen. I echo a lot of Thomas’ sentiments above in that the offensive potential for Jansen is getting more and more intriguing. Jansen serves an underrated role for the team, as from the fan’s eye like myself, his rapport with the pitchers is very amicable. As valuable as he is behind the plate and in the meeting room, Jansen’s bat is what will separate him from playing only when one of his preferred pitchers is pitching to John Schneider trying to play this guy every day. I think it’s entirely possible for Jansen, but to beat a dead horse, it starts with availability.
This reiterates how elite the Blue Jays catching tandem is – or can be.
Hot Take: The Blue Jays acquire SP Lucas Giolito, RP Aaron Loup, and OF Tyler O’Neill at the trade deadline.
Giolito is set to become a free agent after the 2023 season, and I personally believe that the White Sox could be in sell mode for some of their pieces if they aren’t in the playoff hunt once the trade deadline approaches. Giolito put together three consecutive solid seasons from 2019-2021, in which he received Cy Young votes during all of those years. Last year, however, he fell off quite a bit, owning a 4.90 ERA over 30 starts. I think the ChiSox are open to getting something back for him instead of watching him walk after the season, and the Blue Jays add a valuable starter to their rotation. To be clear, I’m all aboard the Kikuchi revenge season, but I like some rotational depth as well.
I don’t think the Angels will be in the playoff hunt either, and Loup’s contract is up after 2023 with a club option for ‘24. He is also a former Jay, so I think it’s an Anthony Bass-esque reunion. 
O’Neill is kind of a stretch, but the Cardinals have a ton of outfield depth, including their top prospect in OF Jordan Walker. Some Jays fans were hoping for another right-handed power bat for the lineup to complete the offseason transactions, so I think Atkins and Shapiro address that need here. O’Neill, who is originally from Canada, is arbitration eligible at the end of this year, and won’t be a free agent until 2025. 

Tyson Shushkewich

Record Prediction: 93-69
AL Playoff Teams: 1. HOU, 2. NYY, 3. CWS, 4. TOR, 5. SEA, 6. TBR
Team MVP: Alek Manoah.
Breakout Player: Yusei Kikuchi. After struggling last season and with a new beard in tow, I think Yusei Kikuchi is going to have a great campaign, sitting around the 4.00 to 4.20 ERA mark while pitching a career-high 170+ innings when all is said and done. The southpaw appears to have entered the 2023 Spring Training with a new mindset that I think will carry over into the regular season. He doesn’t need to be light out at the back end of the rotation and I think he will still struggle with the walks at times but if he can keep pounding the strike zone and give the Jays some length, it will go a long way for himself and the squad (especially since José Berríos is still a bit of a Wild Card at this time)
Hot Take: Bo Bichette will finish in the top three in AL MVP voting. Continuing the trend of getting on base and hitting for power, with guaranteed money in the bank, Bichette will take strides on the defensive side of the ball and sit in the top three of MVP voting when the dust settles at the end of the season. 

Tammy Rainey

Record Prediction: 96-66
AL Playoff Teams: Jays/Astros/Twins, Yankees/Rays/Guardians
Team MVP: Bo Bichette. Statistically, I’m thinking that Vlad might be closer to ‘21 than ‘22 by a notable degree, but I think Bo is both hyper-confident he’s found the offensive groove and determined to prove people wrong about defence and we’ll see both contribute to a next-level outcome.
Breakout Player: Dalton Varsho – a lot of the observers seem to be saying some variation of “temper your expectations” – I dissent from that position.
Hot Take: Jansen will stay healthy and be the most productive catcher in the AL this season.


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