The Yankees play no opponent more than the Blue Jays down the stretch, beginning with this four-game set north of the border.
Their Story Thus Far
The 47-70 Blue Jays are 29 games back of the Yankees, but they have an exciting young core than helped them take two of three from the Rays this week. Vlad Jr. has begun to rake at the plate while Bo Bichette has run roughshod over opponents in 10 games.
Still, the Jays have flaws, namely on the pitching side. Since they last played the Yankees, their front office dealt away starters Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez as well as relievers Daniel Hudson and Joe Biagini. Their staff is paper thin at the moment.
Right after I wrote my bargain hunting article this morning, the Jays claimed RHP Zack Godley. Toronto is in the market for young pitchers and veteran bounceback candidates.
Left-handed starters Ryan Borucki and Clayton Richard are each on the 10-day IL, as is backup catcher Luke Maile and reliever Nick Kingham. Their 60-day IL is packed with Clay Buchholz, Matt Shoemaker, Elvis Luciano, Ryan Tepera and Devon Travis.
Player Spotlight: Bo Bichette
Bo Bichette has been a Major League player for 10 games. The 21-year-old has a 10-game hitting streak.
A top-10 prospect in all of baseball, he has gone 18-for-44 with four walks and has now doubled in each of his last eight games. He’s also added a trio of home runs. Bichette is hitting .409/.458/.795, which is good for a 226 wRC+. That puts even Mike Tauchman to shame.
A son of MLB slugger Dante Bichette, Bo won’t stay hot forever. He’s played against the Orioles, Royals and injury-plagued Rays staffs thus far, though the Yankees’ pitching staff has been shaky recently as well.
Watching Bichette is a treat. He has an uppercut swing and reminds me of what Fernando Tatis Jr. is doing in San Diego. His only flaw thus far has been defense, where he’s made four errors in eight games in the field.
Don’t Lose Track of Vlad Jr.
In his last 100 plate appearances, Vladito is hitting .337/.390/.565 with five home runs and a 152 wRC+. He struggled in his first few months, but his bat is more than coming around.
- Bo Bichette, SS (.409/.458/.795, 226 wRC+)
- Cavan Biggio, 2B (.215/.344/.395, 100 wRC+)
- Lourdes Gurriel Jr., DH (.277/.350/.550, 127 wRC+)
- Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B (.274/.346/.457, 113 wRC+)
- Randal Grichuk, RF (.240/.296/.432, 90 wRC+)
- Justin Smoak, 1B (.208/.351/.404, 104 wRC+)
- Derek Fisher, LF (.215/.292/.369, 78 wRC+)
- Teoscar Hernandez, CF (.220/.290/.419, 84 wRC+)
- Danny Jansen, C (.205/.275/.353, 65 wRC+)
Toronto has a three-man bench: Backup catcher Reese McGuire (3-for-21 this year), utility man Brandon Drury (75 wRC+) and SS Freddy Galvis (95 wRC+).
Pannone comes into play Thursday with a 5.98 ERA in 55.2 IP and has worked as a swingman for the Jays in his second year. The soft-tossing lefty has been squared up more often this season, though he’s getting about 33 percent more strikeouts to make up for it.
Though he sports a fastball that tops out in the low-90s, Pannone utilizes his heater 62.3 percent of the time and lays off of it with his curve and changeup. He typically puts batters away with the four-seamer or curve, the latter which sits in the mid-70s.
Reid-Foley is also in his second season and has a 2.49 ERA in six outings, four of which have been starts. However, he’s pitched just 21.2 IP and has walked 14 batters, sporting a similar WHIP and FIP from his mediocre 2018 debut. Still, at just 23 and a former top 100 prospect, he has the chance to be in the Jays rotation for a while as they rebuild.
The right-hander relies on his fastball-slider combination with the slider proving especially effective in his brief MLB career. His fastball averages 92.7 mph. He also features a curve, changeup and sinker.
Saturday (3:07 PM ET) Masahiro Tanaka (vs. Jays) vs. Jacob Waguespack (Never faced NYY)
The Jays acquired Waguespack at the 2018 deadline in exchange for left-handed reliever Aaron Loup and the right-hander has given the team good returns through his first 36 MLB innings. Debuting in late May, Waguespack has a four ERA, 4.19 FIP and fine peripherals.
Still, in his small sample thus far, he’s been hit hard (89.8 mph avg exit velo vs. 87.5 mph league average) with a 41.1 percent hard-hit rate. He held the Rays scoreless for six innings in his last start and has back-to-back quality starts.
Waguespack throws four pitches at least 10 percent of the time: A 92.8 mph fastball, 89.5 mph cutter, 78.3 mph curve and 90.6 mph sinker. He also features a slider and a changeup that primarily uses against lefties.
Sunday (1:07 PM ET) Opener SZN vs. Trent Thornton (vs. Yankees)
Since allowing five runs in 3.1 IP to the Yankees on June 26, Thornton has pitched poorly, working to a 9.13 ERA in his last six starts. He’s averaging less than four innings per outing and hasn’t gotten out of the fourth in all but two of the starts. Batters are hitting .337/.378/.567 against him in that time, basically turning opponents into DJ LeMahieu.
Despite not possessing top-of-the-line velocity, Thornton has some of the tools to be a consistent starter for the Jays, namely a high-spin fastball and curve, though he rarely uses the latter. He mostly works off his fastball with a slider and splitter.
The rookie has a 5.55 ERA overall and the Yankees wore him out last time. LeMahieu, Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius each have homers off him. Still, even with ugly numbers (19 HR this year), he’s shown flashes of talent.
Ken Giles allowed two runs while trying to closing out Wednesday’s game. He’s the main veteran left at the back-end of the Jays’ bullpen.
Here’s who they have:
RHPs: Wilmer Font, Jason Adam, Sam Gaviglio, Derek Law, Justin Shafer
LHPs: Buddy Boshers, Tim Mayza
Font tossed 2.1 IP as an opener yesterday and is on his fifth team in two years. Mayza is the primary matchup lefty while Shafer has been in middle relief recently. Gaviglio has gotten long relief work at times all season.