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The Yankees head north of the border for the first time this season to begin their season series with the Blue Jays.

Their Story Thus Far

The Jays are the worst hitting team in the American League and have the AL’s third-worst record at 21-38. As a team they have a 75 wRC+, 29th in baseball and are tied for last with -0.3 fWAR from position players. Toronto bats .219/.285/.375 as a team.

Their batting average and on-base percentages are worst in baseball, while they sport the fifth-highest strikeout rate and eight-lowest walk rate. When you passively follow the Jays, it always feels like they’re getting no-hit through 3-4 innings.

Their pitching staff is decidedly mediocre. The Jays are middle of the pack with 4.48 ERA and 4.64 FIP. They walk a lot of batters (9.8 percent, to be exact) and have received the fifth-fewest innings from their starters. Their best starter, Marcus Stroman, is not on turn this series, some good fortune for the Bombers.

See the blue bar at the bottom? That’s the Jays’ chances of winning the division.

(Fangraphs)

Injury Report

The Jays, unfortunately, have packed their injured list with pitchers. LHP Ryan Borucki and old friend David Phelps are recovering from elbow injuries on the 60-day IL and could be back later this month. Starter Matt Shoemaker is out for the season with an ACL tear.

Meanwhile, RHP Clay Buchholz, LHP Tim Mayza and RHP Ryan Tepera are all on the 10-day IL. Tepera underwent elbow surgery last month but could return in July. INF Devon Travis and OF Dalton Pompey are both on the 60-day IL.

Player Spotlight: Vladito!!!

After Vladimir Guerrero Jr. got off to a slow start, the top prospect in all of baseball is hitting .248/.318/.453, a slightly-above-league-average line.

However, in his 18 games since smacking his first home run, he’s put up a .286/.342/.600 line with six home runs. His power is evident and the hitting for average is coming along.

Vladito has also made some strong defensive plays, but you didn’t read this far to talk about OK third base play. You’re here for some dingers.

For good measure, here’s his dad against the Red Sox. Love to watch both of these guys!

Other than Justin Smoak, Vladito is the only hitter you fear in this lineup. Don’t let either of those two beat you and you can live with the result. While I’m looking forward to watching him this series, I’m especially excited for him to make his Bronx debut in three weeks.

Potential Lineup

  1. Eric Sogard, 2B (.268/.350/.431, 111 wRC+)
  2. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B (.248/.318/.453, 105 wRC+)
  3. Justin Smoak, 1B (.240/.383/.475, 132 wRC+)
  4. Randal Grichuk, CF (.222/.282/.394, 79 wRC+)
  5. Rowdy Tellez, DH (.232/.280/.440, 91 wRC+)
  6. Cavan Biggio, RF (.217/.333/.348, 89 wRC+)
  7. Brandon Drury, LF (.225/.263/.388, 69 wRC+)
  8. Freddy Galvis, SS (.248/.285/.419, 84 wRC+)
  9. Danny Jansen, C (.167/.250/.250, 37 wRC+)

Their bench consists of backup catcher Luke Maile, INF/OF Lourdes Guerriel Jr. and OF Jonathan Davis. You’ll likely see Guerriel man a corner and Biggio play some infield. They essentially have only two real outfielders with Davis and Grichuk and are faking it in the corners.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday (7:07 PM ET) Masahiro Tanaka (vs. Blue Jays) vs. Clayton Richard (vs. Yankees)

Clayton Richard comes over to the Blue Jays from the San Diego Padres, where he saw a fair amount of DJ LeMahieu and few other Yankees. The southpaw is two starts into Jays career. and he lasted four innings in each. He’s walked one more batter than he’s struck out, but he’s held opponents to three runs over his eight innings. After working 81 pitches against the Rays last start, he should be fully stretched out.

If you’re unfamiliar with Richard, he’s essentially an innings eater. He led baseball in hits allowed (and batters faced) two years ago. He’s generally posted average home run rates with uninspiring K-BB ratios.

He works almost exclusively with a 90-mph sinker and a low-80s/high-70s slider. The left-hander won’t blow hitters away with speed.

Richard (Baseball Savant)

Wednesday (7:07 PM ET) James Paxton (vs. Blue Jays) vs. Trent Thornton (vs. Red Sox)

Thornton is a rookie right-handed pitcher, added from the Astros this offseason in a trade for infielder Aledmys Diaz, who’s having a strong year in Houston. Neither side can complain right now, as Thornton has 0.8 bWAR in his first taste of the Major Leagues.

The right-hander has below-average velocity but has shown an ability to strike batters out, fanning 65 hitters in 59 2/3 innings and 10 in his penultimate start on May 24). Walks have been an issue with three or more in five of his 12 starts and two or more in all but three.

How does he strike batters out? Thornton has a high-spin fastball and a high-speed slider/curve. He uses the fastball and slider the most with some cutters and then splitters to lefties. His fastball and cutter have elicited some hard contact while his slider is his most effective pitch.

Thornton (Baseball Savant)

Thursday (7:07 PM ET) J.A. Happ (vs. Blue Jays) vs. Edwin Jackson (vs. Yankees)

This is Edwin Jackson’s 14th team!!! Jackson set the record when he debuted for the Jays, though this is actually his second stint in the organization. Just hadn’t pitched a Major League inning for them.

It hasn’t been great for the veteran righty, who allowed 10 runs and got just seven outs in his last start. He surrendered seven runs in four innings in his previous start and six runs in five innings in the start before that. Somehow, he has a home run rate that far surpasses Happ. He comes in with a 13.22 ERA with 7.92 FIP.

At this point in his career, he doesn’t strike many out and hovers around a 2-to-1 K/BB late couple years. At 35, we may actually be seeing the end of Jackson’s remarkable MLB career. As for stuff, he works with a low-to-mid 90s fastball, low 90s cutter and mid-80s slider.

Jackson (Baseball Savant)

Bullpen Status

Gary Sanchez’s good friend Ken Giles is closing in Toronto and looks like Philadelphia 100-mile Giles while doing so. He’s good again!

Beyond Giles, it’s tough sledding for our northern friends. RHP Joe Biagini gets the next high leverage spots among healthy relievers while Daniel Hudson, Javy Guerra and Thomas Pannone work in middle relief. Pannone is the lone lefty in relief with Mayza on IL.

Derek Law and fellow righty Sam Gaviglio have gotten some lower leverage work while the lowest leverage spots go to 19-year-old Rule 5 pick Elvis Luciano, the youngest player in MLB. The Jays will likely add a reliever back to the 25-man roster today after sending down RHP Justin Shafer.

Keys to watch:

Paxton at the scene of the crime

The last time James Paxton was in Rogers Centre? Oh, he just threw a no-hitter. Not bad. Facing this team has extra meaning for him with it being in his home country and the Jays messing him up in the draft.

Defensive alignments

The Jays threw a four-man outfield at Aaron Judge in Spring Training and I’m intrigued to see if they try something similar on any Yankees hitters this series. The Rays went with a four-man outfield against Gleyber Torres a few weeks ago and Montoyo was Tampa’s bench coach a year ago.