Left Field: Michael Saunders
The 2016 Toronto Blue Jays are very similar to the team that went to the ALCS last season, however, one of the brand new guys in the lineup is in left field. In December of 2014, Saunders was acquired by Toronto from the Seattle Mariners. However, during last spring training the Victoria, B.C. native suffered a freak knee injury that kept him out all year.
Depth: Ezequiel Carrera
Centre Field: Kevin Pillar
What else could be said about Pillar’s 2015 season, but simply amazing. He not only emerged as the starting centre fielder but became a sensational “human highlight reel” thanks to his countless miraculous catches. Last week, Pillar was named the opening day leadoff hitter.
Right Field: Jose Bautista
You probably won’t hear more about any other player this season than the 35-year old slugger. Even as he gets older, he is still expected to give all-star production, and so far he has delivered. This season looks no different. This is especially true considering he hit 40 home runs last season, and, in game six of the ALDS against Texas, produced one of the most memorable moments in Jays’ history, with “The Bat Flip.”
1st Base: Chris Colabello
Ryan Goins’ defensive talents might make him the most underrated Jay. However, if there was one guy who could challenge him for that title, it would be Colabello. He is defensively responsible and can provide some clutch offense, as demonstrated by his sparkling .367 on-base percentage, which was lower than only Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson.
Depth: Justin Smoak
2nd Base: Ryan Goins
The Blue Jays are a scary team in the infield, and the two potential starting 2nd basemen are a huge reason why. Devon Travis is starting on the disabled list after having surgery in the off-season, leaving the job in the capable hands of Goins. Travis’ return date is unknown, but some people have speculated he could be out for the majority of the season, which is much longer than the initial May return that people expected.
Depth: Devon Travis*, Darwin Barney
Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki
One of the things that made the Jays so successful last year was the amount of position players they had performing at or near the top of the American League in their roles. Tulo at shortstop is a perfect example. He has never been an elite offensive juggernaut but has been one of the top defensive players his entire career. His play in the infield will be critical to the team’s success, but so is an improvement to his offensive numbers. Goins or Barney can fill in if injuries prove to be an issue.
3rd Base: Josh Donaldson
Mr. MVP. Donaldson was simply great last year, hitting 41 home runs, and was a massive part of the Jays’ playoff run. After signing a new two-year contract this offseason, the all-star looks to continue his sheer dominance of Major League Baseball.
Catcher: Russell Martin
While he may not be the MVP, his continued health may be more important than that of any of his teammates. Martin reminded the league last year that he is a very good starting catcher, however he also had some injuries. Last year, the team had Dioner Navarro to fall back on. This year, they do not have as much catching depth, so Martin will be forced to play an even bigger role.
Depth: Josh Thole, Tony Sanchez
Designated Hitter: Edwin Encarnacion
At 33-years old, Encarnacion’s “Ed-Wing” home run celebration still remains one of fans’ most beloved traditions. It should still be going strong in 2016, as he hit 39 homers last year. However, he’s battled some injuries this spring. Other D.H. candidates include Colabello and Martin.
Starting Pitchers: Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada*, R.A. Dickey, J.A. Happ, Aaron Sanchez
There is no question in anyone’s mind at this point, this season will be the “Stro-Show.” After making a triumphant return to the rotation at the end of last season, Stroman proved he was ready to be the ace in the Jays’ rotation. This season is his moment to shine, and, assuming he stays healthy and can match his play from last season, he will have the chance to flourish into one of the top pitchers in the American League.
Stroman’s return to the rotation was, in most people’s opinions, the feel-good story of last season. However, it was rivalled by the coming out party for Estrada. After starting the year in the bullpen, Estrada clawed, scratched and fought his way into a starting gig, and never looked back. He seemed to just freeze hitters every game and threw near-perfect games on a consistent basis. He’s expected to start the season on the D.L. with back tightness, but should start April 10 against Boston.
With Dickey, the Jays have a 41-year old knuckleballer who is one of the last of a dying breed. But, even at his age, he is expected to eat up valuable innings for a team who is poised to make another playoff run. He has been a constant for a team that has had very little in terms of consistency in recent years.
2016 will be a homecoming of sorts for Happ, who played three seasons in Toronto from 2012-2014, before being dealt to Seattle. Happ never put up great numbers with the Jays in his time here, but is coming off the best year of his career with Pittsburgh where, in 11 games, he put up 7 wins and a 1.85 ERA.
It’s been a long time coming for some fans, but Sanchez is finally in the starting rotation. After beating out Gavin Floyd in Spring Training, Sanchez will likely pitch more innings this season than he ever has before. With his youth and extra muscle, he could very well make a big impact and move up in the rotation. Or, he could wind up back in the bullpen.
Closer: Roberto Osuna
You’d be hard-pressed to find a tougher decision than who should be Toronto’s opening day closer. However, the 21-year old who emerged as the closer for the Jays last season has been given the reigns once again. He beat out Drew Storen for the job, who was acquired from Washington in the offseason
Bullpen: Drew Storen, Gavin Floyd, Brett Cecil, Jesse Chavez, Aaron Loup,* Ryan Tepera, Arnold Leon, Joe Biagini
*- Starting season on DL