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Thursday FTB: Leafs Links & Blue Jays Season Preview

It’s almost that time of year when we can watch baseball, playoff hockey, and playoff basketball

Tampa Bay Rays v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

The Blue Jays will kick off the 2018 season at home against the New York Yankees today, and as a result, today’s links post will first provide a short season preview. Feel free to scroll down to the bottom of the page to see today’s links.

A Look Back at 2017

Last season was a little bit of a disaster. The team enjoyed strong performances from Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, and the majority of the bullpen, but their depth let them down. Marco Estrada’s ERA skyrocketed, Aaron Sanchez could not stay on the field, and both Francisco Liriano and Joe Biagini gave up more than their fair share of runs.

Offensively, Toronto’s middle infielders were horrendous, and Jose Bautista’s rapid decline left the team with minimal production from the corner outfield positions. Compounding this, Kendrys Morales was a negative WAR player, and even top performers such as Josh Donaldson and Kevin Pillar had a down season by their standards.

New Additions to the Offence

Toronto’s front office spent the offseason stocking up on much needed depth. Both Devon Travis and Troy Tulowitzki struggle to stay on the field, and adding Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz should provide a significant offensive upgrade over Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney.

Curtis Granderson provides the Jays with a much-needed bat against right-handed pitching, and he should make a solid platoon with Steve Pearce in left field. The other starting corner outfielder will be 26-year old Randall Grichuk, who projects to be league average or slightly above average offensively thanks to his home run power, and he will provide a major defensive upgrade over Jose Bautista.

New Additions to the Pitching Staff

Stroman, Happ, and Estrada will return, and the greatest addition to the pitching staff would certainly be a healthy Aaron Sanchez. Free agent signing Jaime Garcia posted an ERA in the mid 4’s over the last two years, and the Jays will hope that he can continue to be a solid fifth starter. With Joe Biagini ready to step in if an injury occurs, the Blue Jays boast a slightly above average rotation on paper.

23 year old Roberto Osuna remains one of the best closers in baseball, so Toronto’s front office did not spend much to upgrade the bullpen this offseason. 35 year old Seung Hwan Oh was outstanding in his 2016 rookie season before struggling greatly last year, and the team will hope that their other new bullpen addition, Tyler Clippard, can bounce-back as well. Toronto will carry a bit of a make-shift bullpen, as relievers are often too volatile to commit significant money to. As long as Osuna continues to dominate, the Jays should be fine in this area.

Projected Lineup

*Each player’s 2017 Weighted Runs Created (wRC+) is listed. 100 is considered league average, while a 120 wRC+ means that a player generated 20% more runs than the league average hitter. Statistics are retrieved from Fangraphs.*

  1. LF Curtis Granderson (105)
  2. 2B Devon Travis (89)
  3. 3B Josh Donaldson (149)
  4. 1B Justin Smoak (132)
  5. C Russell Martin (100)
  6. DH Kendrys Morales (97)
  7. RF Randall Grichuk (94)
  8. CF Kevin Pillar (85)
  9. SS Aledmys Diaz (78)

Bench: 1B/OF Steve Pearce (99), 2B/3B Yangervis Solarte (93), C Luke Maile (0), INF Gift Ngoepe (71)

Injured: SS Troy Tulowitzki (78)

The outfield looks terrific defensively, but the middle infield could be shaky in this regard. This roster is full of potential bounce-back players, and they need more offence from Morales, as a full time DH should never be a below average hitter. Ngoepe might play less than Josh Leivo, but the team will hope for one of their other middle infielders to step up with a big year. All in all, this team looks to be a serious wild card contender, but a slow start could lead to a huge fire sale.

Now for today’s hockey links:

Today’s Links

In Case You Missed It

How will our Atlantic enemies do in the draft lottery?- Katya Knappe

Every lottery team is hoping that the Devils make the playoffs, as Taylor Hall is elite at this event.

Women’s Hockey Wednesday: The offseason has come, find a new question- nafio, Baseball Annie

Real hockey news: Riveters and Thunder win! Results for Div IIB Worlds and prep for Div IIA.

Marlies weekend recap: Engvall gets a goal, Sparks gets a shutout, Pickard gets a timeout- Species 1967, HardevLad

The Marlies played a 3-in-3 last weekend, and this post will get you caught up on all the action.

From the Branches

Leafs Geeks Podcast – What Do The Leafs Look Like Next Year?- Ian Tulloch, Maple Leafs Nation

This was a good episode, as it was similar to a podcast all-star team.

The Leafs’ Ice Time and how it pertains to usage, not record- Jeff Veillette, Faceoff Circle

I’m very interested to see how Mike Babcock uses each line in the playoffs.

Enjoy your Thursday!