“Toronto” Blue Jays Series Preview: April 12 to April 14

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Hopefully the weather is better tomorrow. (@BlueJays)

Well it only took 11 days for the Yankees to see the same opponent twice. After starting the year against the Blue Jays in New York, the Yankees will face off against them again in their home of Toronto Dunedin. This tweet from Jayson Stark sums it up nicely:

Their story so far

Just like the Yankees, the Blue Jays are off to a 4-5 start and are yet to sweep a series or be swept. After taking two of three from the Bombers, the Blue Jays promptly lost two out of three to both the Rangers and Angels.

Two main storylines have emerged for the Blue Jays thus far. First, as we’ll get to more in a moment, are the injuries. In addition to the typical injuries Derek discussed in the last series preview, the Blue Jays are currently dealing with players on the COVID-19 IL. Both Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernández have been placed on that IL – vaccine side effects for Gurriel Jr. meaning he could return as soon as he feels better and exposure for Hernández who will miss this series.

Second is the Blue Jays current home at their Spring Training site in Dunedin. It was surmised that this bandbox will lead to lots of runs, and through three games so far, 36 runs have been scored. Look for offense and lots of it over the next few days. And of course, cue the complaints about the games taking too damn long. Now that I’ve said that, you can expect three straight pitching duels.

Injury Report

PlayerInjuryRoster StatusEstimated Return
Lourdes Gurriel Jr.COVID-19 IL (protocol)COVID-19 ILcould be this series
Teoscar HernándezCOVID-19 IL (protocol)COVID-19 ILafter this series
George SpringerStrained oblique/quad10-day ILLate April
Thomas HatchElbow discomfortTBDTBD
Patrick MurphyStrained shoulderTBDTBD
Nate PearsonStrained groin10-day ILLate April
Robbie RayElbow contusionActivatedTonight
Tyler ChatwoodTriceps discomfortTBDTBD
Kirby YatesTommy John Surgery60-day ILOut for Season

Spotlight: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Vladito is off to quite the start this young season. In 9 games he is slashing .379/.538/.621 with an xwOBA of .477 and a wRC+ of 223. In these 9 games alone, he has been worth 0.7 fWAR which is more than the value he produced in 2019 and 2020 combined. The reason? Plate discipline and elevating the ball:

Look at the change from 2020 to 2021, specifically in the heart and shadow regions. After accruing -12 runs of value last year by chasing pitches that are difficult to hit, Guerrero is avoiding swinging at those and hitting into easy outs. As a result, pitchers are scared to challenge him in the zone which has led to a walk rate of 20.5% in the early going which is more than double his walk rate the past two seasons.  Vladito ranks second behind only J.D. Martinez in Statcast’s Swing & Take leaderboard. In that tweet, Tom Tango compared Guerrero Jr. to Juan Soto, and if he follows in Soto’s footsteps, the league better watch out.

Likely due to being more selective in the early going, Guerrero is making much better contact. Take a look at the changes in his contact type from last year to this year:

YearLD%GB%FB%Soft%Med%Hard%
202017.5%54.6%27.9%14.2%47.0%38.8%
202130.4%34.8%34.8%21.7%34.8%43.5%

Fewer groundballs, more line drives, more fly balls, and more hard contact. That’s a great recipe for success. Let’s hope he cools off this series.

Projected Lineup

Below is Roster Resource’s projected starting lineup along with PECOTA’s 2021 projections in parentheses.

  1. Marcus Semien, 2B (.245/.322/.428, 105 DRC+)
  2. Cavan Biggio, 3B (.231/.354/.399, 109 DRC+)
  3. Bo Bichette, SS (.264/.317/.443, 105 DRC+)
  4. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B (.277/.347/.461, 121 DRC+)
  5. Randal Grichuk, RF (.238/.293/.451, 99 DRC+)
  6. Rowdy Tellez, DH (.247/.323/.448, 108 DRC+)
  7. Jonathan Davis, CF (.220/.313/.364, 89 DRC+)
  8. Josh Palacios, LF (.228/.301/.337, 76 DRC+)
  9. Danny Jansen, C (.237/.335/.408, 107 DRC+)

Bench:

  • Alejandro Kirk, C (.256/.330/.396, 100 DRC+)
  • Santiago Espinal, INF (.243/.302/.365, 82 DRC+)
  • Joe Panik, INF (.245/.328/.368, 93 DRC+)

Pitching Matchups

Today, 7:07 pm EDT

LHP Robbie Ray

Ray will be making his 2021 debut after injuring his elbow caring for his child. The storyline for Ray during Spring Training was his velocity increase and he got all the way up to 98 mph during spring action. We’ll see how he fares against the New York lineup. PECOTA projects Ray to record a 4.69 ERA in 118 innings for 0.8 WARP this season. (Stats vs. Yankees not available)

RHP Gerrit Cole

Cole had arguably his best start as a Yankee last time out shutting out the lowly Orioles over 7 innings and racking up 13 strikeouts. Most notably, he generated 27 whiffs on just 96 pitches which is bananas. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the Cole train. (Stats vs. Blue Jays)

Ray.

Tuesday, 7:07 pm EDT

LHP Hyun Jin Ryu

Ryu is the ace of this Blue Jays staff, and in two starts this year he has pitched to a 2.92 ERA in 12.1 innings with a great 12/1 K/BB ratio. Let’s see how the Yankees fare against him after seeing him less than two weeks ago. (Stats vs. Yankees)

RHP Jameson Taillon

Taillon made his Yankee debut and pitched well! He gave up 2 runs over 4.2 innings, but struck out 7 which is encouraging with his new pitch mix. I’m looking forward to more from him. (Stats vs. Blue Jays)

Ryu.

Wednesday, 1:07 pm EDT

RHP Ross Stripling

Stripling is off to a rough start this year with a 7.56 ERA in 8.1 innings across his two starts. He lost against the Yankees after laboring through 3.1 innings giving up 3 runs on 7 hits. He was better against the Angels last week managing to make it through 5 innings giving up 4 runs. (Stats vs. Yankees)

RHP Corey Kluber

It’s been a bit of a rough go for the Klubot thus far, but nothing to worry. The movement on his pitches looks great and the command will come with time after such a long layoff. (Stats vs. Blue Jays)

Stripling.

Bullpen Status

PitcherSundaySaturdayFriday
Julian Merryweather
Jordan Romano
Rafael Dolis
David Phelps20
Ryan Borucki (L)
Tim Mayza (L)
Trent Thornton
Joel Payamps34
Tommy Milone (L)42

Merryweather was absolutely filthy against the Yankees last series as detailed by Randy:

Let’s hope the Yankees beat up on the starters this series and don’t even end up seeing the backend of the Toronto bullpen.

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Game 10: Down in Dunedin

5 Comments

  1. Fat Sancho can rake

    Yeah another Bruce-less game!
    Odor at 2nd again. Gary sits for Higgy.

  2. The Original Drew

    Gary has caught the last 3 games but with a day off in between, so it will be interesting if Higgy catches Cole tonight. Trying to gauge how annoyed I am going to be in a few minutes.

    • MikeD

      Gary’s cranking, he’s looked solid behind the plate. I’d have him catch Cole, and let Higgy catch Kluber.

  3. MikeD

    The key to the Yankees winning is simple: Walk Grichuk everytime he’s up, even if they bases are full.

  4. fat sancho can rake

    Bluejays are a nice constructed young team. If they get any pitching at all they will replace the Rays as the Yankee biggest threat this year. The playing in different stadiums could be their downfall. Should just stick to one stadium.

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