2016 Record 89-73 (3rd AL East)
Next up, we're headed North of the Border to check in on the Toronto Blue Jays! We'll be joined shortly by Ian Hunter from Blue Jay Hunter!
The Jays won't look a lot different in 2017 than they did in 2016. They now have a massive hole left by Edwin Encarnacion in the middle of the lineup. They plan to fill that hole with Kendrys Morales; bold move Jays.
The rest of the offense should still be pretty good. Led by Josh Donaldson, I've got the Jays as my 6th rated overall offense in the American League. I've got their projected lineup as my 6th best unit and their bench as my 8th best in the AL.
Although the offense should score plenty of runs in 2017, the pitching staff may be even better than their offensive counterparts. I've got the Jays as my 3rd overall staff in the AL.
Believe it or not, I have Toronto's starting rotation as my top rated rotation heading into 2017! I love the stabilitly they have, and I project some of their younger guys to be even better in 2017.
I have their bullpen as my 11th rated unit in the AL which is why they're ultimately my 3rd rated overall staff and not my top rated. Bullpens definitely matter.
Their defense is my 4th best in the American League (thanks Kevin Pillar) so that will help their final score out as well. I think John Gibbons is about as average as it comes when it comes to a manager so he won't really hurt or help their score.
Let's chat with Ian Hunter to see how he feels about the Jays headed into 2017!
Marcus Stroman made waves earlier this offseason when he said the Blue Jays had the best rotation in baseball. My projections actually agrees with him. What are your thoughts?
"Statistically, the Blue Jays had the best rotation in the American League last year, so I'd expect a little bit of regression from Toronto's starters. Stroman seemed to turn things around in the second half, Sanchez finally broke through as a starter and Happ's adjustments continued to pay off last year. If anything, I believe the Jays rotation as a whole may take a slight step backwards - but guys like Stroman and Liriano could take steps forward, while Happ and Estrada may be regression candidates. Even still, expect the Jays to have a Top 5 rotation in the AL in 2017."
How will the loss of Edwin Encarnacion effect the Jays this year?
"The Blue Jays will sorely miss Encarnacion's 40-plus home run power in the middle of their lineup, but by signing Kendrys Morales (a switch-hitting power bat), the Blue Jays have a little more versatility in the middle of their order. With Morales moving to a hitter-friendly ballpark, he's projected to see a spike in his power numbers."
"If Morales puts forth some decent numbers early on with the Blue Jays, that will help a lot of people forget how the Blue Jays missed out on re-signing Encarnacion."
Are you expecting a bounce back season from Jose Bautista this year or was 2016 an indicator of what we can expect to come now that he's getting older?
"2016 was a bizarre year for Jose Bautista. Despite a few bizarre injuries, he still managed to put up some pretty decent numbers when he was healthy. But those two stints on the disabled list absolutely killed any momentum he had entering free agency. But from what I've seen out of Bautista thus far in Spring Training, he looks to be back to his 2014-2015 self. The man may be 36 years old, but there's still definitely some 40-plus home run potential in his bat."
Who are some prospects the Blue Jays expect to play a big role for them in 2017?
"Rookies are going to be hard-pressed to crack the Opening Day roster for the Blue Jays, but there are still some players to keep an eye on. Rowdy Tellez is the one name which has been bandied about throughout Spring Training - many within the organization have tabbed Tellez as the Jays' most-advanced prospect. I could definitely see Tellez being called up in May or June if Justin Smoak fails to perform as the Blue Jays first baseman."
"This year may also be a make-or-break year for Dalton Pompey, who isn't really a prospect at this point in his career, but has failed to break through at the big league level. Much like with Tellez, there's a path for Pompey to steal a job on the roster; it just may not be right away."
When it's all said and done, how do you see the Jays finishing in 2017?
"It may be overly optimistic, but I believe the Jays should finish second in the division (behind the Boston Red Sox). Similar to last season, the Blue Jays will probably be fighting down the stretch for one of those Wild Card spots."
Ian and I are in agreeance on one thing; we think the Jays will be chasing the Red Sox for most of the season.
Overall, I have the Blue Jays projected as my 3rd best team in the American League in 2017. The Boston Red Sox finished with the third best record in the AL at 93-69 in 2016.
Vegas has the Blue Jays win total set at 84.5. I'm projecting them to finish with the 3rd best record in the AL. That same position finished with 8.5 more wins last year, so it's safe to say I've got the Blue Jays over 84.5 wins.
When it's all said and done, I think this is a 90 win club. I'm projecting the Blue Jays to finish with an overall record of 90-72