Toronto Blue Jays Series Preview: 9/13 to 9/15

Vladito! (MLB Gifs)

After sweeping a doubleheader but losing two players to injury, the Yankees head to Toronto to close their 10-game road trip.

Their Story Thus Far

At 57-90, the Blue Jays have embraced September, giving plenty of time to fringe roster players and a cavalcade of young pitchers. The team is set up with a handful of core position players, led by Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., but they’re still searching for the pitching that can go with them.

The Yankees will see a few of the arms Toronto is trying out, namely Anthony Kay and T.J. Zeuch. Kay was acquired in the Marcus Stroman deal from the Mets and exceled in Triple-A after the trade. Meanwhile, Zeuch was the Jays’ first-round pick in 2016.

Toronto will loom large with the Yankees aiming to clinch homefield advantage. The Bombers play the Jays six times over the next 10 days. Outside of that, the Jays play Baltimore six times and close at home with the Rays.

Injury Report

Backup catcher Luke Maile (oblique strain) and outfielder Lourdes Gurriel (quad strain) are each on the 10-day IL, while LHP Ryan Borucki, RHP Matt Shoemaker and INF Devon Travis are each likely done for the season.

Gurriel is reportedly still dealing with soreness but is nearing a return.

Spotlight: Jays in 2020

Toronto likely has its sights on 2021 as the start of its contention window, but the Jays will need to make plenty of progress over the next 12 months to set that up.

As mentioned above, the team still needs to fill out a pitching staff. Currently, they have a bunch of potential back-end starters, a closer in Ken Giles and little else. Though they won’t be players for the top pitchers, they should be a factor in free agency on the pitching side.

Meanwhile, they’ll need to supplement their core with veteran help, mainly in the outfield. Randal Grichuk hasn’t hit well (except against Masahiro Tanaka) after getting a surprising contract extension and Teoscar Hernandez hasn’t proven he can field well enough to support his bat.

Last offseason, they added Freddy Galvis as a stopgap for Bichette on the infield. That’s no longer needed. But they’ll need veteran pitchers who can soak up innings before top pitching prospect Nate Pearson is ready, or to keep their pitching from imploding under the weight of innings. A reliever or two wouldn’t hurt either.

Potential Lineup

  1. Bo Bichette, SS (.305/.342/.569, 137 wRC+)
  2. Cavan Biggio, 2B (.220/.356/.403, 106 wRC+)
  3. Randal Grichuk, RF (.233/.283/.440, 87 wRC+)
  4. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B (.273/.346/.449, 111 wRC+)
  5. Rowdy Tellez, DH (.221/.279/.438, 83 wRC+)
  6. Justin Smoak, 1B (.210/.348/.402, 103 wRC+)
  7. Derek Fisher, LF (.188/.293/.375, 79 wRC+)
  8. Jonathan Davis, CF (.162/.186/.221, 2 wRC+)
  9. Danny Jansen, C (.208/.280/.361, 69 wRC+)

On the bench, Toronto has backup catcher Reese McGuire (143 wRC+), utility man Brandon Drury (66 wRC+), INF Richard Urena (39 wRC+) and outfielders Anthony Alford (33 wRC+), Teoscar Hernandez (91 wRC+) and Billy McKinney (72 wRC+).

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7:07 PM ET) Masahiro Tanaka (vs. Jays) vs. Anthony Kay

Kay will be making just his second career appearance after getting a call-up earlier this month. The left-hander was a supplemental first-round pick in 2016 by the Mets, the compensation for Daniel Murphy signing in D.C. Kay is from Stony Brook, N.Y. and went to UConn for school.

The left-hander had an impressive debut, striking out eight while holding the Rays to two runs over 5 2/3 innings. He did allow eight baserunners and predictably struggled his second time through the lineup, but nonetheless solid.

Kay works with a 93-mph fastball, a mid-80s changeup and high-70s curve. He struggled with walks in the Minors, but he was able to get strikeouts at higher levels and has avoided home runs outside of a disastrous stint with the Syracuse Mets earlier this season.

Saturday (3:07 PM ET) James Paxton (vs. Jays) vs. Jacob Waguespack (vs. Yankees)

Another rookie, Waguespack is coming off the worst start of his brief 13-game MLB career. The right-hander allowed six runs over 4 1/3 innings to the Rays on Sunday and allowed a first-inning homer to Austin Meadows.

Though he’s primarily been a starter, he pitched behind an opener (Wilmer Font) in his one appearance against the Yankees. Over 3 2/3 innings, he gave up homers to Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela and gave up six baserunners in the Jays’ win.

Waguespack utilizes variations of his fastball (low-90s four-seamers, cutter and sinker) over 70 percent of the time with a high-70s curveball and occasional changeup and slider. He doesn’t get many swings and misses and therefore doesn’t strike out many batters.

Waguespack (Baseball Savant)

Sunday (1:07 PM ET) TBD vs. T.J. Zeuch

Zeuch will be making his third MLB appearance and second start, just over a month after his 24th birthday. Taken out of Pittsburgh in the 2016 draft, the 6-foot-7 right-hander pitched four innings against the Braves behind an opener on Sept. 3 before pitching into the fifth inning against the Red Sox on Tuesday, recovering from a leadoff homer to Mookie Betts.

Despite his tall stature, he’s not a flamethrower, nor is he a top prospect Instead, Zeuch relies upon his 92-mph sinker before turning to a slider, changeup and curveball. He came in at No. 24 on Baseball America’s Top 30 Jays prospects at midseason.

Like Waguespack, he doesn’t get a ton of swing and misses and works as a groundball artist with his sinker. Sounds like a future back-end starter to me, but we’ll have to see how he develops.

Bullpen Status

Here’s who they have:

RHPs: Ken Giles, Jason Adam, Wilmer Font, Sam Gaviglio, Derek Law, Elvis Luciano, Jordan Romano, Justin Shafer, Ryan Tepera, Brock Stewart

LHPs: Buddy Boshers, Tim Mayza, Thomas Pannone

Ken Giles is still Toronto’s closer despite arm issues. However, he hasn’t pitched in back-to-back games since the trade deadline, making just 11 appearances. He was nearly traded to the Yankees at the deadline before the Bombers backed out.

With Daniel Hudson and David Phelps shipped off at the deadline, the team’s middle relief options ahead of Giles are limited. Tepera is finally healthy and is back in middle relief, while Law and Shafer get some medium leverage work. Mayza remains the team’s LOOGY and Wilmer Font has been a highly effective opener.

Pannone has started against the Yankees this season and is capable of long relief if needed. But it’s September, so expect a lot of arms.


Mailbag: Executive of the year, injuries, Kluber trade, Encarnación’s contract, Boone


Coming next week to Views from 314ft: CC Sabathia Week

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