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Toronto Blue Jays Series Preview: May 25 to 27

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The Yankees and Blue Jays are going in polar opposite directions. The Bombers have won six straight, whereas Toronto has lost six in a row. Perhaps both streaks can be extended to nine by the end of play on Thursday. That would be nice. It’s been a while since the Yankees last faced Toronto, who went 4-2 vs. New York in early April. Let’s catch up with where Charlie Montoyo’s club stands.

Their story so far

The Blue Jays are 23-23 with a +27 run differential, but things looked a lot better a week ago. Since last Tuesday’s win against Boston, Toronto has lost six straight games, as mentioned at the outset of this post. They took two Ls against the Red Sox and four against the streaking Tampa Bay Rays. Toronto’s bullpen has been a real sore spot during this losing skid. They blew a couple of ninth inning leads, lost a couple of games in extra innings, and coughed up early game leads as well.

Not only are the Blue Jays .500, but they’ve also played .500 baseball since they last faced the Yankees. Obviously, the recent losing streak skews that downward quite a bit: from 17-11 to 17-17 since the last time the Yankees and Blue Jays faced off. Still, even amidst this bad week for Toronto, they aren’t too far out of a playoff spot. They’re 5.5 games back on the first place Rays and 4.5 games out of a Wild Card spot. There’s plenty of time to get things back together.

Toronto’s pitching staff — again, this recent skid notwithstanding — has been better than anticipated before the season. The team’s ERA stands at 4.04, which is a tad better than the league average mark of 4.08. Credit Hyun-Jin Ryu (2.53) and Robbie Ray (3.42) for much of that, because the rest of the rotation has been shaky. Plus, the bullpen has been banged up and struggled of late. A particular callup, who I’ll discuss more shortly, could give the team’s starting pitching a shot in the arm going forward, at least. They’ll still likely need to address bullpen depth at the deadline, but the rotation is appears to have some upside from within.

Mildly surprising pitching aside, the Blue Jays bats have been the team’s calling card. That’s without George Springer for all but four games, mind you. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has become one of the best hitters in the game, Teoscar Hernández can really hit, and Marcus Semien has been one of the best offseason signings people don’t seem to be talking about. So even without Springer, it’s a pretty tough lineup to face. The Yankees pitching has been up to the task against all sorts of offenses this season, so let’s not act like Toronto isn’t up against a big challenge over the next three games. It should be fun to watch these two sides square off.

Injury Report

PlayerPositionInjuryRoster StatusEstimated Return
Alejandro KirkCStrained Hip Flexor60-day ILJuly
Cavan Biggio3BSprained neck10-day ILJune
George SpringerCFStrained quad10-day ILJune
Thomas HatchRHPElbow discomfort60-day ILJune
Patrick MurphyRHPSprained shoulder60-day ILJune
Ryan BoruckiLHPStrained forearm flexor10-day ILThis week
Julian MerryweatherRHPStrained oblique60-day ILJune
Tommy MiloneLHPShoulder inflammation10-day ILThis week
David PhelpsRHPStrained lat10-day ILJuly
Kirby YatesRHP Tommy John surgery60-day2022

Spotlight: Alek Manoah

Although Wednesday will be the big righty’s major league debut, the Yankees have already seen Alek Manoah twice this year in spring training. As you may recall, he struck out nine Yankees in five innings in two games, including seven in a row at one of them. Obviously, spring training is a different beast than regular season baseball, but Manoah is also a pretty notable prospect. Toronto took him with the 11th overall pick out of West Virginia in 2019.

Armed with a mid-to-high 90s fastball and a nasty slider, it’s no wonder that Manoah has racked up strikeouts by the bunch. He began this season in Triple-A and was absolutely dominant: three starts, 18 innings, 27 strikeouts, and a 0.50 ERA. Clearly, the level wasn’t much of a challenge for him. Moreover, it’s worth noting that he hadn’t pitched above short-season A-ball before this year. Pretty impressive for the 23 year-old righty.

Now, there’s is one big concern about Manoah, with an emphasis on the word big. He’s listed at 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, which concerns various prospect evaluators because of how his size affects his delivery. Nonetheless, Manoah has thrived in a professional setting, even with some lost development time last year and skipping a bunch of levels. He dominated Low-A hitters in 2019 after the draft, though that’s more or less expected from a college arm. Last year, Manoah spent time at Toronto’s Alternate Site, though he contracted COVID-19 and lost even more development time than other prospects without a minor league season. Yet this year, he burst out of the gate in Triple-A and now is coming to the majors.

Aside from concerns about his frame, Manoah also gets dinged for his changeup, or lack thereof. That said, if he can ever harness it, he could be a real problem. He was a pick to click over at FanGraphs, partly for that reason. Based on his Triple-A results: so far, so good. And even if that change doesn’t work out, he can be a fallback option in a high leverage relief role, at least.

Regardless of long-term outcome, it’s pretty clear that Manoah is one of Toronto’s five best rotation options right now. Ryu and Ray have been the only stable forces, whereas the likes of Steven Matz, Ross Stripling, and Tanner Roark (who was released) have been hit or miss, to be generous. Meanwhile, top prospect Nate Pearson hasn’t been able to stay healthy. So if not now, when else try Manoah? He’s on an absolute roll and should be fun to watch tomorrow.

Projected Lineup

Here’s how Montoyo writes the lineup, per Roster Resource:

  1. Marcus Semien, 2B (.283/.348/.535, 141 OPS+) – Might go 30/30 this year…has 12 homers and 8 steals
  2. Bo Bichette, SS (.267/.316/.471, 116 OPS+) – In a mini-slump…went 2-for-19 against Tampa Bay
  3. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B (.333/.443/.661, 202 OPS+) – AL home run leader with 15
  4. Teoscar Hernández, RF (.322/.374/.529, 148 OPS+) – 8-for-19 against the Rays, including a double and two homers
  5. Randal Grichuk, CF (.273/.306/.466, 111 OPS+) – Has 15 homers in 211 plate appearances against the Yankees in his career
  6. Rowdy Tellez, DH (.196/.245/.305, 52 OPS+) – Big decline from last year’s 140 OPS+
  7. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., LF (.247/.261/.348, 68 OPS+) – Really rough year. Was one of Toronto’s unheralded bats with a lifetime 124 OPS+ entering this season
  8. Joe Panik, 3B (.226/.241/.302, 50 OPS+) – Filling in for the injured Cavan Biggio
  9. Danny Jansen, C (.135/.210/.250, 28 OPS+) – Without Alejandro Kirk, offense from the team’s catchers has been a black hole

Bench:

  • Reese McGuire, C (.273/.360/.273, 81 OPS+) – DFA’d back in April only to return this month
  • Santiago Espinal, INF (.218/.246/.309, 54 OPS+) –
  • Jonathan Davis, OF (.154/.290/.231, 49 OPS+) – Keeping George Springer’s roster spot warm

Pitching Matchups

Tonight, 7:05pm ET:

LHP Steven Matz

The former Met had a little bit of hype during spring training and got off to a strong start. He gave up just three runs in his first 18.1 innings (three starts), but has struggled ever since. He has a 6.67 ERA in 29.2 frames thereafter. (Stats vs. Yankees)

RHP Corey Kluber

Typically, there’s some concern about how a pitcher bounces back from a no-hitter. Often times, they threw a lot of pitches to complete the accomplishment. But in Kluber’s case, he needed just 101 pitches against Texas. (Stats vs. Blue Jays)

Matz.

Tomorrow, 7:05pm ET:

RHP Alek Manoah

Manoah will be called up before after tonight’s game. Toronto’s bullpen will need the extra arm this evening considering how hard they worked in the Rays series. Everything else you need to know about Manoah is in the Spotlight section.

RHP Domingo Germán

The 28 year-old righty has thrown six or more innings in five of his last six starts. He also has a 1.93 ERA and 2.80 FIP during that 37.1 inning stretch. He did face the Jays earlier this year: on April 4, he surrendered three runs in three innings. (Stats vs. Blue Jays)

Thursday, 7:05pm ET:

LHP Robbie Ray

Toronto has turned Ray into a strike thrower. He’s walked only 5.7 percent of opponents this season after entering the year with a career 11.0 percent mark. Meanwhile, he’s maintained his usual high strikeout rate (28.5 percent). He’s turned out to be a really good get for a rotation in need. Ray faced the Yankees in his first start of the season and gave up two runs in five innings. (Stats vs. Yankees)

LHP Jordan Montgomery

Monty is coming off perhaps the best start of his career. He threw 7 shutout innings against the White Sox this weekend and also struck out 11. There have been some bumps in the road for the tall southpaw this year, but his overall numbers are pretty good (4.07 ERA and 3.41 FIP). Montgomery has yet to face Toronto this season. They match up well vs. lefties, so this will be a good test. (Stats vs. Blue Jays)

Ray.

Bullpen Status

PitcherMondaySundaySaturdayFriday
Jordan Romano1212
Tyler Chatwood2216
Rafael Dolis19
Anthony Castro2617
A.J. Cole14
Tim Mayza (L)2339
Travis Bergen (L)2226
Ty Tice
Trent Thornton3225
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3 Comments

  1. MG309

    Kluber left game with shoulder tightness due the axieddardsa rant about the Yankees medical staff in 3 2 1

  2. Gerreddardit Cole

    Must win series, Derek. As great as the sweep over Chicago was these games against the Jays, Rays and Sox are must wins. This division is the best in baseball and nobody is going away except the Os. We need to get revenge against the Jays for beating us up early in the season. Stanton needs to return tonight, no excuses. We need his bat in the lineup. You just can’t win every game 2-0 and expect the starter to throw a no hitter. We’ve already seen the pen start to regress. Against the lefties Matz and Ray they can put Miggy in LF, Clint in CF, Judge in RF, Stanton DH and we can stack all righties in the lineup.

    • J MAN

      I wouldn’t call it a must-win, but it sure would be nice. I think you’re overreacting a bit about the offense, but lets hope for a W.

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