The 2023 Blue Jays Everyday Lineup

You all seemed to enjoy the entry we did a few days ago about the projected Blue Jays pitching staff three years from now, so it seemed natural to do the same for the position players.

Keep in mind that there’s a heavy dose of conjecture with this list.  Contract considerations would also weigh heavily in deciding the makeup of the Blue Jays 2023 roster, and while we’ve kept that in mind, it wasn’t an overwhelming factor in compiling the following lineup.

 

Behind the plate, Danny Jansen has come into his own as he reaches the peak years of his career.  Fresh off a Gold Glove the previous season, Jansen is lauded throughout the league for his receiving and blocking skills, as well as his ability to work with his pitching staff.  Jansen’s bat has not developed as well as his minor league stats would have predicted, but he provides solid offence from the bottom half of the order.  Jansen was challenged last year by rookie Gaby Moreno, but the Blue Jays felt confident enough in Jansen to ship Moreno off to the Tigers for pitching prospects.  Fan favourite Alejandro Kirk backs Jansen up, and sees duty as a DH a few times per week.  Victor Mesia, a 2019 IFA, might be the next prospect to challenge Jansen.

If there was a 2nd half MVP award, Vladimir Guerrero Jr would have captured it with ease for 2022.  The Blue Jays finally moved Guerrero across the diamond to 1st Base in a long-anticipated move at mid-season, and his bat took off as a result.  Guerrero’s athleticism was responsible for him picking up the position in a hurry after getting some reps in spring training.

Similarly,  moving Bo Bichette across the bag from Short Stop to 2nd Base this season helped to bring about an end to some of the offensive issues he experienced in 2022.  Bichette tended to chase a lot last season, expanding his strike zone.   Bichette has been an extra base hit machine so far this year, and has shown great range and an ability to hang in on the double play at 2nd.

When he signed with the Blue Jays, VP Andrew Tinnish predicted that Leo Jimenez could play Short Stop in the Major Leagues.  While his bat has not developed enough to become the top-or-the-order sparkplug the team had hoped for, Jimenez is an elite defender for a pitching staff that tends to pitch to contact. Rikelvin de Castro was the Blue Jays’ top 2019 IFA signing, but classmate Estiven Machado has surpassed him, and may be pushing Jimenez out of a job over the next calendar year.

The development of Jordan Groshans allowed the Blue Jays to go ahead and move Guerrero over to 1st.  A Short Stop until last year, Groshans basically outgrew the position, and was passed by Jimenez on the defensive side.  Groshans’ bat is of big league quality.  He manages the strike zone well and uses the whole field, reminiscent of when he was hammering Low A pitching in 2019, less than a year out of high school.

The versatile Santiago Espinal can play a half dozen positions, but mostly backs up Bichette/Jimenez/Groshans.  His play off the bench has been a major factor in the Blue Jays early season success.  Otto Lopez performs a similar role for AAA Buffalo.

The development of Griffin Conine has highlighted a pair of areas of concern for Bluie Jays fans – the scarcity of left handed bats in the system, and until the drafting of Zac Veen in the 1st round in 2020 (yes – I know we had the Jays choosing Hancock yesterday; we’re just having some fun with this), an inability to sign and develop outfielders.  A true three outcomes player, Conine splits time in LF with Cavan Biggio, and also spends some time at DH.  The friendly confines of the Rogers Centre are well suited to Conine’s power, and the team is willing to live with the whiffs in return for his long ball abilities.

There was a lot of grumbling when Randal Grichuk signed a contract extension in 2019, but relative to his production and what other players have received since then, he’s been something of a bargain for the Blue Jays.  He has been productive at the plate, while playing a solid CF for Toronto.  With Veen blazing through the minors, there’s a very good chance that he’ll replace Grichuk when his deal expires at the end of the season.

Orelvis Martinez has moved around the diamond since signing with Toronto as a SS in 2017, but he now appears to have found a home in RF, which he shares on occasion with Biggio.  A bat first player, Martinez quickly leaped into most Top 100 prospect lists with a blistering 2021 season.  He was moved to 3rd in his first year of pro ball in 2019, but was deemed to have the arm strength for a move to Right last season, and hasn’t missed a beat in his development, breaking camp with the team after an impressive spring training.

Teoscar Hernandez has long tantalized with his tools, but has not become a first division player that his talents might have suggested.  Nonetheless, he’s filled a valuable role with Toronto, spending time at DH, and spelling Grichuk and Guerrero on occasion.

When Mark Shapiro was lured to Toronto in 2015, he was told he would have the funds and support to build a world class player development system.  Things were a little bit slower to get underway than he would have liked, but Shapiro was one of the first MLB adopters of sport science, developing a department that took a systematic approach to the training, nutrition, and nurturing of prospects.  The completion of negotiations to bring about a complete remodelling of the team’s spring training home in Dunedin received much attention in the news of 2019, but it was the revamping of the team’s minor league complex that was the apple of Shapiro’s eye.  Having also reshaped the club’s analytics and scouting operations, he’s finally beginning to see the results of his labours bear fruit, as the Blue Jays have one of the largest homegrown rosters in the majors.

Ok, it probably won’t work out that way, but the Blue Jays have impressive prospect depth in their minor league system at the moment, and it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out in a few seasons.

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