Well, if you’ve been following along here, you’ll have noticed that I haven’t been writing much about the Blue Jays since we heard that Ryan Borucki had been shut down with an elbow injury. Well, that’s for two reasons. The first is that it’s been pretty quiet around camp and the second is that I’ve been hard at work getting The 2020 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook ready for publication. It’s coming soon, and will be out a full month earlier than it has been in the past!
So what have people down in Florida been talking about, aside from the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal?
Well, to start with, Keegan Matheson’s been doing some great work for MLB.com with his notes columns and he’s been letting us know about some of the things that manager Charlie Montoyo is telling the media.
The Blue Jays are setting up their starting rotation for the early Grapefruit League games to get some of the candidates for the fifth starter spot some work. Trent Thornton has been tabbed to start the opener on Saturday with Anthony Kay starting on Sunday and Shun Yamaguchi on Monday.
Montoyo told reporters that Ken Giles might be the only guaranteed reliever in camp but I think that’s just lip service to guys with big league contracts. Montoyo also mentioned Sam Gaviglio. Speaking of relievers, apparently Rafael Dolis got his visa and is in camp now while Julian Merryweather‘s role still isn’t clear. Tanner Roark has the flu and has been told to stay away from camp and Thomas Pannone is going to be a pure reliever and I saw Scott Mitchell tweet that Pannone is sitting 92-93 mph now that he’s in the bullpen, which would be a step in the right direction to help his stuff play up. Pannone is the only lefty reliever on the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster with Brian Moran, Kirby Snead and Travis Bergen also in camp as lefties.
Also from Scott Mitchell, Montoyo has also said that he wants the top of the order to be Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. most days. Apparently, Guerrero thinks that pitchers pitch to Gurriel the same way and that seeing their approach to the Cuban will help him when he follows.
Additionally, Anthony Alford will get a lot of at bats early, which isn’t a surprise, seeing as he’s out of options and the club is going to want to see him a lot in order to make a decision about his future.
Let’s talk about first base. Apparently, Montoyo is saying that Lourdes Gurriel could play some first base. I mean, hey, why not. Cavan Biggio can play there too, and so can Brandon Drury, Billy McKinney and probably several other guys. There’s usually a lot of “this guy can play here” talked about in spring training but it isn’t always put into action once the season starts.
Keegan Matheson had another interesting post in which he answered fan questions. I really liked his answer about the possibility of Joe Panik making the team out of spring training. The Blue Jays have already lost two of the backup infielders that they had on the 40-man roster in Breyvic Valera and Richard Urena (who was recently designated for assignment by the Orioles). Panik is mostly a second baseman but has played a tiny bit of first base and played a lot more shortstop in his earlier days in the minor leagues. His experience as an everyday major leaguer for several years, including winning a World Series with the Giants, is also an asset. Everything I’ve seen about him talks about his leadership and generally being a good dude in the clubhouse. That will have to be put up against his relatively limited defensive positioning (although Cavan Biggio can play elsewhere if the Jays want to get Panik in the lineup) and his relatively weak bat. Panik has a grand total of three MLB seasons in which he has an OPS over .700 and two of those were his first two years in the big leagues (including 2015 when he was an All-Star). He had an overall OPS+ of 75 in 2019 with the Giants and the Mets (although he was significantly better with the Mets in 39 games there) and a 79 OPS+ in 2018 with the Giants. Still that’s actually better than Brandon Drury’s .642 OPS and 70 OPS+ in 120 games with the Blue Jays last year.
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