Blue Jays Nation Roundtable – Record predictions, internal award winners, and hot takes for the 2024 season

Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Shushkewich
15 days ago
Later today, the Toronto Blue Jays will face the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field to kick off the 2024 season. It has been a wild off-season. It saw the Jays linked to one of the top players in baseball, the return of a fan-favourite outfielder, and numerous storylines related to the front offices betting on internal production to turn things around this season.
Despite making the postseason three times in the past four seasons, Toronto is still without a postseason win since 2016 and the Blue Jays fans are hoping an October victory is in the forecast for a crucial year for the Jays core.
With all this in mind and 162 games (and maybe more) on the horizon, we here at the Blue Jays Nation did a roundtable to answer three questions:

1. What do you predict will be the Blue Jays’ record for the year and why?

Chris Georges: 92-70 – Despite a disappointing offseason, I think the Jays improve a bit based on returning their quality rotation (with the help of Tiedemann coming up midseason) as well as bounce-back years from some offensive guys.
Bob Ritchie: 90-72. The offence will rebound and pitching will excel.
Veronica Chung: 89-73. I understand that that’s the same record as last year, but I also agree with Mitch’s assessment below. The Blue Jays’ offensive core will rebound from their down years and there’s no doubt about that. But Toronto’s pitching health luck has run out and we are already starting the season with some pitchers in the minor leagues or on injured list. If the pitching is unable to remain healthy long-term, it will be incredibly difficult for the Blue Jays to win close to 90 games in a ruthless AL East division.
Tyson Shushkewich: 89-73. The Blue Jays bats will win them some games and if they can find a good rhythm to start the year, they will set themselves up for success. Even if the pitching staff isn’t as healthy as last year, there will be some unsung heroes down in the bullpen who I think save the day.
Nick Prasad: 88-74. The Blue Jays will manage well with the pitching however the offense will take too long to activate, and lack of situational offense will result in a sub-90 win year.
Ryan Snodgrass: 87-75. Vladdy and Bo lead the offence, the pitching depth is tested way more than last year, and starters can’t go as deep as last year (5th most IP from starters in 2023 and 6th highest WAR; 2nd most IP with SP+RP). Seems unrealistic to expect the same level of health.
Mitch Bannon: 87-75. Remarkably similar to last year with a slightly better offense but a few more pitching bumps and bruises.
Paul Berthelot: 86-76. If the offense rebounds and the pitching stays healthy, this is a 90+ win team easily. If the pitching gets hurt (and it’s already started to) and we don’t get that positive regression from some key offensive players, then this could be a long season for the Blue Jays.
Jim Scott: 86-76.  They will be good but will miss out on very good due to mental mistakes and poor high-leverage hitting.
Damon: 87-75. Marginal offensive improvements offset by larger pitching regression.
Cam Lewis: Let’s go with 90-72. Right in the middle of the past few seasons.

2. Predict the following internal award winners and why:

Jim: Varsho, with Bo a close second. 
Bob: Bo Bichette. Bo has been Toronto’s most consistent hitter in recent years and should add value on the basepaths. His defence, while below average for a shortstop, has improved since his debut, and I expect it will continue to improve. He is one of the team’s leaders, and I expect a very productive season from him.
Ryan: Bo Bichette.
Mitch: Bo Bichette.
Veronica: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. He’s already hit bombs this spring training and while these records may not matter as much, it could be an indication that Vladdy has put in the work to improve himself. I believe that Vladdy will hit between 35 to 40 home runs this season and return to his impeccable first base defence again.
Nick: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Vladdy will find his bat and have an explosive year with RBIs and on-base percentage.
Paul: Bo Bichette. He’s been much more consistent with the bat than Vladdy and if he takes a step offensively say a .900 OPS with passable defence at short, that’s an extremely valuable player.
Chris: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. I think Vlady is poised to recapture his 2021 form and likely price his way out of Toronto’s long-term plans.
Damon: Bo Bichette. He’ll get into 160+ games this season and produce a new career-best 150 wRC+ and finish top 5 in MVP voting overall.
Tyson: Bo Bichette. While the offensive weapon seems like Guerrero Jr., Bichette has been the one constant on the base paths since his big league debut. Pair that with an improved defense, and Bichette will be a key factor in the Blue Jays success in 2024.
Cam: Kevin Gausman. The rotation will again be the primary driver of the team’s success and Gausman will again be the best of that group.

– Most Important Pitcher

Jim: Kevin Gausman.
Bob: Jose Berrios. Although I consider Kevin Gausman to be Toronto’s best starter, Berrios’s ability to make every start will be valuable to a team that will likely need more starters this season compared to last.
Ryan: Kevin Gausman.
Mitch: Kevin Gausman.
Veronica: Chris Bassitt. While Kevin Gausman is one of the most crucial starting pitchers on the Blue Jays’ roster, veteran starting pitcher Chris Bassitt will make a difference by carrying the team quietly behind the scenes. Bassitt threw a career-high 200 innings last season and was able to produce solid results even without elite velocity. His presence in the rotation will remain key to the team’s overall pitching success and it’d be a mistake to overlook his contribution to Toronto.
Nick: Jose Berrios. After an above-average performance in 2023, Berrios has effectively executed his pitching profile with effectiveness. He will bring that over to 2024 and be a key in the rotation.
Paul: Yimi García. With Jordan Romano and Eric Swanson starting the season on the IL the team will need someone to step up at the back end of the bullpen and García can be that guy. He’s been throwing harder this Spring Training and he’s one of the few pitchers in the pen with closing experience.
Chris: Jose Berrios. We know what we can expect from Kevin Gausman and Chris Bassitt at this point, but Berrios being the best version of himself will allow this rotation to continue to be among the best in the league. He’ll have a bit more responsibility early as well with Gausman on the shelf.
Damon: José Berríos. His durability and ability to take the ball every 5th day will have even more credence this year. Look for 30+ starts with 3.60 ERA/ 3.90 FIP/ 4.5 fWAR.
Tyson: Kevin Gausman. Last season, Gausman pitched so well but the Blue Jays bats just couldn’t pick him up. If Don Mattingly can create a spark in the bats and Gausman continues to pitch well similar to last season, the Blue Jays easily win 5+ more games.
Cam: See above. But also Bowden Francis. If he can be for the 2024 team what Ross Stripling was a couple of years ago, that would be huge.

– Rookie of the Year

Jim: Davis Schneider
Bob: Ricky Tiedemann. Tiedemann will make his MLB debut at some point during the season and will likely excel in many roles (reliever, Opener, Bulk Guy, etc.).
Ryan: Yariel Rodriguez.
Mitch: Yariel Rodriguez
Veronica: Ricky Tiedemann. We are going for a little bit predictable here but Tiedemann will most likely get a chance to shine towards the latter half of the season and earn the recognition he deserves. He’s been lights out for the Blue Jays in the minor leagues and there’s no doubt that he can show off his talents in the majors. There will be hiccups and learning curves but Tiedemann will get his chance to strike out some big names later on.
Nick: Yariel Rodriguez. He may be rookie status but his professional pitching career will shine in the Major Leagues, exceeding expectations.
Paul: Davis Schneider. He may not start as the everyday second basemen but by season’s end, he will have that spot. He won’t be the guy we saw at the end of last season but he’s earned the opportunity to show he can hit at the big level and I think he will.
Chris: Ricky Tiedemann. Jays fans will start clamouring for him to be brought up by the end of April, but they have to wait until June to see the prized prospect. Despite some wildness, he wows with some high strikeout totals and becomes a rotation fixture.
Damon: Orelvis Martinez. He’ll be up by late May once IKF and Biggio struggle mightily at the plate and go on a power surge to stabilize the ship a little bit.
Tyson: Davis Schneider. He had a great cup of coffee towards the end of the 2023 season but ended on a bit of a cold streak. With some regular playing time and taking over Whit Merrifield’s role between 2B/LF, I think Schneider flirts with the 20-home run mark and edges out Biggio for more playing time as the season goes on.
Cam: Ricky Tidemann. He isn’t going to come up and be a workhorse starter like Alek Manoah was a few years ago but he has the ability to be this team’s version of Andrew Miller in the bullpen.

3. What is your biggest hot take for the Blue Jays this season?

Jim: With a 120 wRC+ and league-leading defence, Varsho becomes the new face of the Jays
Bob: After the World Series parade, multiple schools submit applications to rename their school after Ross Atkins or Mark Shapiro.
Ryan: Joey Votto hits the go-ahead grand slam to win the World Series in 7 games. Everyone buys a Votto Jersey.
Mitch:  Kirk bounces back to All-Star form, and is the 2nd or 3rd best hitter on the team by the end of the year.
Veronica: The Blue Jays will finally have a winning record against the Tampa Bay Rays. I’m not going that big here but am going for a more practical and ideal goal that Toronto can aim for. And please, for once, would love to see the Blue Jays scoring a winning record against Tampa and this season would be the right time to do it. There’s no doubt that the Rays will find ways to win more games than they should but Toronto has the chance to exercise its upper hand against Tampa, as long as the Blue Jays’ pitching can hold up health-wise.
Nick: The Blue Jays will be in a head-to-head tiebreaker situation for a wild card spot; Joey Votto will hit a walk-off home run and the commentators will yell “Touch ‘em all Joe, you’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life”
Paul: Dalton Varsho flirts with 40 home runs and is a 6 WAR player. Maybe call this a bold prediction rather than a hot take, but I am buying the changes Varsho has made with his swing and think he can tap into some more power. If he is an above-average hitter combined with his elite defence he could be in for a monster season.
Chris: Alan Roden gets called up mid-late season and FINALLY gives the team a homegrown outfielder to hang their hat on. He doesn’t play enough to factor into Rookie of the Year, but he winds up at the top of the Jays lineup in critical games down the stretch, setting him up for a full-time role in 2025.
Damon: Génesis Cabrera surpasses Tim Mayza on the bullpen depth chart and produces the second-highest fWAR among Blue Jays relievers after Chad Green.
Tyson: Alek Manoah comes back and finds his rhythm again. I believe last season the Blue Jays right-hander ran out of gas after being relied upon for the past 2-3 campaigns while also having to deal with the lost COVID-19 campaign for development purposes. Once healthy and big league-ready, he makes 20+ starts for the Blue Jays and posts a sub-3.70 ERA with a +8.0 K/9.
Cam: I said this last year and it didn’t happen, so I’ll lean into it again — the Blue Jays will have a no-hitter in 2024. It might be a combined no-hitter but this pitching staff is good enough to blank another team.

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