With MLB's regular season ending, Bally Sports is reviewing the performance of each club with an eye looking at what happened in 2021 and another at what could happen next season. Our next Exit Interview is with the Toronto Blue Jays.
What went right
• The Jays won 91 games, leading the league in home runs, finishing third in runs scored, 10th in ERA and in strikeouts for pitchers. Vladimir Guerrero is likely going to finish second in AL MVP voting and Marcus Semien will get down-ballot votes after slashing .265/.334/.538 with 45 homers while earning seven outs among average on defense. Either would be a top MVP candidate if not for the double-timing performance of the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani. Teoscar Hernández, Bo Bichette and Lourdes Gurriel had tremendous complementary performances at the plate.
• Left-hander Robbie Ray posted his best season, putting up a 2.84 ERA with 248 strikeouts in 32 starts. He surely will be competitive with Yankees’ ace Gerrit Cole for the AL Cy Young Award.
• Left-hander Steven Matz had his best results in five years, posting a 3.82 ERA with 144 strikeouts and just 44 walks in 150 ⅔ innings.
• The Jays got several effective individual performances from their bullpen — notably closer Jordan Romano (2.14 ERA with 85 strikeouts in 63 innings and just one blown save in 24 opportunities), setup man Adam Cimber (1.69 ERA with a 30-to-5 K/BB ratio in 37 ⅓ innings) and Tim Mayza.
What went wrong
• The Jays got stuck behind the Rays, who had their best regular season ever, and the Yankees and Blue Jays, who avoided major dysfunctions to qualify as AL Wild Card teams. Toronto missed the playoffs by one game.
• Free agent George Springer hit a ton, slugging .555 with 22 home runs, but he missed half of the season with injuries. If he plays in even half the games he missed, the Jays probably make the playoffs and their team obit has yet to be finished.
• Cavan Biggio slumped (.224/.322/.356) and battled injuries, missing about half of the time in his third season. Getting him right will be a top priority.
• Left-hander Hyun-jin Ryu slumped in the second half and was periodically bothered by injuries in August/September. He pitched great in April, May and July, but had a 5.50 ERA in his final 14 starts.
• Vladito turns 23 in March after finishing tied for first in the AL with 48 home runs. He also led the AL in runs scored with 123, and slashed .311/.401/.601 — leading MLB in on-base and slugging.
Right-hander Alek Manoah pitched about as well as any rookie in the majors, though his 111 ⅔ innings might limit his votes for AL Rookie of the Year.
Reasons for optimism
• Just 23, Bichette seems poised to make a leap after batting .298/.343/.484 with 29 homers and 25 stolen bases in his first full season. He batted .350/.374/.602 in September/October.
• The Jays dealt a pair of top prospects to the Twins for right-hander José Berríos, but they still rank in the middle of the pack overall and have several top-100 prospects remaining. Notable among them: Shortstop/third baseman Orelvis Martinez, who turns 20 soon, batted .261/.345/.549 with 28 home runs with 43 walks and 113 strikeouts in 451 plate appearances at two stops in Class A. He did seem to experience a bit of a learning curve at High-A.
• Springer figures to be healthy when Spring Training starts. If he can stay that way, the offense probably will lead the league in runs scored.
• Berríos will be around for a full season and figures to give them great results as he prepares for free agency in 2023.
• Former top prospect Nate Pearson was throwing 101 mph late in the season, and if he can add a little command, he would be a big help in the bullpen or the rotation.
What needs work
• They get a lot of innings from their starters, which is great, but they need to add relief depth. A lot of opportunities were lost before the ball got into Romano’s hands.
• Semien is a free agent this offseason, as is Matz. The Jays were 11th in payroll in 2021 and have the capabilities to spend more — it’s just, will they?