Article Written by Adam Corsair (@ACorsair21)
With the regular season right around the corner, I thought it'd be fun to (do what everyone else is doing and) offer five bold and - let's face it - pretty-unlikely-to-actually-happen predictions for the Blue Jays' 2017 season.
As I have iterated in the past, I don't like to get caught up in negativity when it comes to the Jays. Call me crazy (you'll be seeing that phrase a lot throughout), but I actually enjoy the team - yep, even when they lose! - and choose not to focus on the negatives. Instead, I concentrate on the positives as they certainly outweigh the bruises. Thus, most of these are not so much predictions, but rather some of what I would like to see from the Jays this season, while not necessarily expecting to. I mean, c'mon now... if some (or all) of these do end up happening, you can look back and call it a truly fantastic season! If they don't, well then they don't and you probably still had a great ride anyway! With that said, let's begin.
1. José Bautista Will Rebound and Hit 35+ Home Runs
The last time José was able to eclipse 30 home runs was back in 2015, hitting exactly 40 during the regular season (44 including the postseason, but who's counting, right?). Last year was a bit of a hiccup due to injury woes. Yet, even with those setbacks, Bautista was able to hit 22 bombs during the course of the regular season, and two more during the postseason. Taking the missed time into consideration, it's still pretty good!
Since his breakout season in 2010, Bautista has averaged 35.6 home runs per year. Given that Bautista's injury concerns are reportedly behind him (are we really concerned about his back, guys?), there's no reason why we shouldn't expect him to fall back into form and hit the way we all know his more than capable of hitting.
If you need some proof, check out his WBC numbers: In 5 games and 18 at-bats (I know, I know... small sample!), Bautista had a line of .333/.435./.500, an OPS of .935, 3 runs, 6 hits, 1 home run, 5 RBIs, and 5 strikeouts. I find this to be pretty encouraging! Now, if you're asking why I'm even examining his WBC numbers over his Spring Training numbers, I suppose you could chalk it up to personal preference, really. I know that sounds irresponsible, but I find Spring Training to be sort of unreliable when tracking a player's progress or a means for projections. Spring Training tends to be a bit more relaxed and cautious in regards to minimizing the risk of injury. In other words, during Spring Training, players aren't really going full-balls during games. Sure, they're definitely putting in work, but it's more of a focus on mechanics and getting back into a groove. Whereas, during the World Baseball Classic, players are trying to win and they are playing full-balls, as they would during a Regular Season game. Thus, for me, the WBC is a bit more reliable than Spring Training in terms of a player's stats. But again, that's just my preference (stats via World Baseball Classic website & FanGraphs)
Regardless, the reason I point out the WBC numbers is to ease any doubts regarding his recovery from last year's injuries. Bautista seems to be in great shape and will probably be playing with quite the chip on his shoulder in order to prove his worth for the Jays from the fiasco that was his time on the open market. When José plays with that kind of intensity, good things tend to happen (lookin' at you, O'Day and ALL OF THE TEXAS RANGERS! Lookin' at you...). Call me crazy, but put me down for 35+ home runs for Bats!
2. Stroman & Sanchez Will BOTH Finish Within the Top 3 In Cy Young Voting
Goddamn right, they will!
When you really think about it, this isn't that crazy. Last season, Aaron Sanchez finished 7th in the Cy Young race, and should be able to make a strong case to finish higher. With the innings limit nonsense reportedly being done away with, Sanchez will not be dealing with the pressure of constantly looking over his shoulder in search for the bullpen monster. Instead, he'll be able to focus all of his energy on each start and build off a ridiculously impressive 2016 season. Granted, maybe Sanchez is the epitome of a professional athlete - specifically a starting pitcher - and is able to ignore all the noise (both internal and external) and execute like a boss! Chances are, he probably is. But, even if you want to buy into the notion that these things may have bothered him and may have gotten into his head, you still have to understand that the kid finished with the lowest ERA in the American League, edging out Justin Verlander by an average of .04 earned runs. Hell, I wouldn't even be that shocked if Sanchez was able to win the Cy Young, period. But I didn't want this to be too crazy.
While we're at it, you can throw in his old-best-friend-but-not-so-much-his-best-friend-anymore-but-they're-still-sort-of-friends-I-guess-but-who-really-cares?, Marcus Stroman onto that list as well. Again, taking into consideration the World Baseball Classic performance, Stroman was nothing short of magnificent. During the tournament, Stroman held an ERA of 2.35 in 3 games - all of which he started - over 15.1 innings pitched, giving up 12 hits, 4 runs, ZERO home runs, TWO walks, NINE strikeouts, and a WHIP of 0.91. Oh, yeah... he's also the new MVP of the World Baseball Classic. Ya know, no big deal...
If Stroman's performance is any evidence of what we can expect from him during this upcoming season, then you better believe that we're in for one hell of a ride! Couple that with the growing optimism surrounding Sanchez, both 2017 and beyond look crazy bright. Call me crazy, but it wouldn't shock me at all if we see both Stroman and Sanchez finish Top 3 in Cy Young voting this season.
3. Kendrys Morales Will More Than Fill The Edwin-Void
Look, I totally get that a lot of your hearts are weeping due to the loss of Toronto's favorite invisible parrot-carrying power hitter. It's hard to not ask yourself "What if they just waited a month or two!" I feel ya. But the thing is, the Rogers Centre is a pretty popular place for power hitters when it comes to home runs, and Kauffman Stadium is anything but. Check it out - in 2016, of all 30 MLB Stadiums, Kauffman is ranked 27th in home runs according to ESPN's Park Factors. In comparison, the Rogers Centre is ranked 17th. When it comes to hits, they're a bit equal, as Kauffman is ranked 6th and Rogers Centre is ranked 8th. Having said this, if Morales was able to hit 30 bombs as a Royal last year (albeit 12 of which were at Kauffman), he should be able to do well up north with the Jays. It's not out of the realm of possibility that Morales is able to match his 2016 home run total and hit around 30 bombs in a much more hitter friendly atmosphere. Thus, in terms of ability, Morales ought to be able to slide in nicely.
But that's not what matters to some of you. We as Jays fans tend to get attached to our former players and envision them being in a Jays uniform forever (hint hint - Brett Lawrie.- which is still a no, btw. I don't care how much air-guitar the guy plays. It's still a no!). The thing about Edwin though is that he stayed relatively quiet and out of the spotlight in terms of being interviewed and appearances. He was a very low-key, under the radar type of cat and I don't think we really ever got to know him like we know other players like Stroman, Bautista, Pillar, Martin, Donaldson.... pretty much everyone else in the starting lineup. When you compare that kind of persona to Morales', I think he'll fill that role nicely. Combining that with what I believe his performance will be at the plate, he may even be able to make you think "Edwin who?" (OK, that's overambitious). So, call me crazy, but I think Morales will more than fill that parrot void in your hearts.
4. Shapiro & Atkins Will Make A Strong Push At the Deadline
Do I have everybody's attention now?
We've all been reminded about this window of opportunity that Jays have to make this postseason push. The Red Sox are a threat and coming off an AL East Division title run. The Yankees are getting younger and the future for them is scary for Jays fans. The Rays can never be counted out, as they tend to sneak up on you and bring you back to reality just when you think the Jays are unbeatable. The Orio...
With Boston being the only real threat to the Jays for attaining another Division Championship, you can be sure it's going to be a dog-fight up until the very end of the season, once again. This time however, with the window closing each passing year, the Jays will be faced with the decision of whether or not they should make that "push" at the trade deadline to catapult themselves to take that prize and dominate the AL East in 2017 and into the postseason. I think that, should this happen, they will make a whole mess of Blue Jays fans just as excited as they were in 2015, eradicating the whole "Yeah, but they aren't Alex Anthopolous" narrative.
Despite what you want to believe, Shapiro and Atkins aren't stupid. They aren't out there to tear down the Jays and turn this team into a cheaply run organization, even though the powerhouse that is Rogers has the ability to make the Yankees organization look like peons in terms of their spending ability. They surely recognize that this window is only open for so long and they got a nice taste of what it's like for the city of Toronto to be in the playoffs. Moreover, they got a real nice view what a team they helped build looks like in the World Series. Chances are, they're more than just a little envious and, thus, will do everything that they possibly can to have a taste of that for a team that they currently run, instead of a team they used to run. Call me crazy, but I think that this new regime will make that splash at the trade deadline that will bring the energy and excitement back to Toronto for a 3rd straight year. Book it. Which leads me to....
5. The Jays Will Advance To The World Series
No shame. Absolutely zero shame.
I get that a lot of people are superstitious, so I didn't want to push this too much. Notice, I'm not calling the Jays to win the World Series. Instead, I'll be a bit more reserved and say that after two straight ALCS appearances, the Jays will get that monkey off of their backs and finally advance to the World Series for the first time since 1993. Go ahead! @ me! I dare you! I'm right here!
"But Adam! What about the Red Sox?! They're so good! They got Mookie Betts!"
FOH WITH THAT!
Look, I live in New England and I have to deal with these Pink Hats everyday (Side note, if you aren't familiar with the term "Pink Hat," don't worry. It's a New England-based insult to fake-ass Red Sox fans. Here, read this. Oh, and YouTube "Ask A Pink Hat." Go ahead. Know what? I'll just do it for you - here. See what I deal with ON A DAILY BASIS! But I digress...). Constantly I'm hearing, "GUY! We got Mookie Betts and Chris Sale! Caahhmmaaannn guy! Betts shoulda won da MVP, dude! Chris Sale is a freakin' gawd, guy! You watch, kid! PAPI'S GONNA COME BACK AND HIT MAD HOMAS, KID!"
I'm so tired of it. The truth is, yes the Red Sox should be good this season. Very good. But do I expect a sharp decline in their offense? Absolutely. Do I think the loss of David Ortiz is huge? No doubt. Do I think it's hilarious that Sox fans actually think Hanley Ramirez will just slide right into that DH spot and replicate what Ortiz did? Hell yeah I do! Do I think it's delusional of Sox fans to really think Ortiz is going to come back? 100%. But, they'll still be the biggest competition for the Jays in the East. Yet, don't let this Red Sux team scare you! There's no doubt in my mind that losing David Price for an unknown amount of time is going to hurt this team. Elbow injuries are tricky animals and I think the Sox are playing with fire here. If we were to remove Price from the Red Sox rotation, I'd take the Jays' rotation every single day of the week, without hesitation. Know what? I'll go there! Even with David Price, I'll take the Jays because we've seen how much of a head-case Price can be when he has to deal with these Massholes in Boston on a daily basis!
All kidding aside, enough is enough. Jays fans have more than earned the right to see our favorite team in the World Series. We have earned the right to be able to see the Jays in postseason game on primetime television! We have earned the right to see arguably the greatest Blue Jays team ever assembled play to their absolute potential and bring the World Series trophy back to Toronto for the first time in 24 years. Call me crazy all you want, but I think this is the year that we may get the opportunity to do so.
All of that being said, what do you think of these predictions? Too crazy? I need medication? Or, yeah, you dig them! Let me know in the comments below. Feel free to share your bold predictions for the Jays and the 2017 season as well!
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