Eight Blue Jays to Watch This Spring Training

By: Jefferson Marshall 

With the Toronto Blue Jays set to take on the Philadelphia Phillies in their first Spring Training game of the year this afternoon, Jays fans are beginning to feel the excitement of the most anticipated season in two decades.

The expectations are high, the players have reported, and the Spring Training battles among teammates are set to begin. With some players set to prove doubters wrong, others are prepared to become the next Roberto Osuna by coming out of no where and dominating, and of course the battle for the fifth starter looming; it should be an interesting camp to oversee for the next few weeks.

Here is a list of some players in the organization who will be fun to watch or have something to prove in these upcoming exhibition games.

#8 Gavin Floyd

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Photo Cred: Daniel Shirey-USA Today Sports

The weird thing about Floyd is that for the past two seasons he has had an ERA under three, that’s because he hasn’t played more than ten games in a season since 2012.

When the Jays signed the 33-year-old veteran in early February it seemed like he was just going to be another arm competing for a role in the bullpen. However, Toronto’s GM, Ross Atkins has said recently that they will try to stretch Floyd out to see if he can make a bid for that final rotation spot.

Injuries have plagued the righty for the past three years; with a career 4.38 ERA he’s never been great, but when healthy he has the ability to log in a great amount of innings with average pitching. Even though most of his innings this year will likely come from being a reliever, he is a nice addition to the pitching depth which is something this organization has really focused on this off-season.

Baseball Reference’s 2016 Projections:

Year   W L  ERA   IP ER HR BB SO  WHIP  H9 HR9 BB9 SO9
                                                      
2016   2 3 3.76 55.0 23  6 17 46 1.309 9.0 1.0 2.8 7.5

 

#7 Anthony Alford

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Phtot Cred: Frank Gunn-Canadian Press

Now before you flip-the-fuck-out: I know full-well that he does not have a chance to make the team this year. Despite that, last season the young outfielder did well in his first full season in the minors by hitting an average of .298 with four homeruns, 35 RBIs, and 27 stolen bases through 107 games with his time with both Lansing and Dunedin respectively.

“He can do pretty much whatever he wants to on the field. The only thing he’s lacking is reps,” said Montreal Expos legend Tim Raines.

“Gold glove. Stolen-base title. MVP. The sky really is the limit.”

In conclusion, the man who gave up football for baseball will be a treat to watch this spring and after being the only Blue Jay ranked in the Prospectus (#44) and MLB (#42) prospect rankings, expect to see a little more than five at-bats from him this spring, unlike last year.

Baseball Reference’s 2016 Projections:

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#6 Pat Venditte

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Photo Cred: ESPN/AP

I’m sorry, but who doesn’t want to see a guy throw a baseball with both arms while sporting a glove that looks like something out of Alien vs Predator. But, being ambidextrous isn’t the only thing Venditte has going for him headed into camp.

With Roberto Osuna, Drew Storen, Brett Cecil, and Aaron Sanchez/Jesse Chavez being the only true locks for the bullpen; there are a few spots for the taking. Surprisingly, Venditte’s 4.40 ERA of last year puts him on-par with other reliever gunning for same position. Players like: Steve Delabar, Arnold Leon, Ryan Tepera, and Bo Schultz all had minimal appearances (around 30 games) last season like Venditte, or had an ERA similar to Venditte’s, or both.

Ignoring the fact of being a switch pitcher, Venditte is just another player that could find himself featuring in the ‘pen this April if he can out-do the competition and have a good spring.

Baseball Reference’s 2016 Projections:

Year   W L  ERA SV  IP ER HR BB SO  WHIP  H9 HR9 BB9 SO9
                                                         
2016   2 2 4.15  1 39.0 18  5 14 33 1.308 8.5 1.2 3.2 7.6

 

#5 Tony Sanchez

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One of the newer players in the organization might have a chance to nab that undecided backup catcher role…….unless the Jays want to have Josh Thole in that spot for the entire season…. (please don’t do that……please)…

Yet, Sanchez has the qualities of an average defender, and has also shown he’s not too shabby with the bat posting a career .259 batting average. The only problem is, the inexperienced 27-year-old has only seen 143 big league at-bats in his life time.

Nonetheless, Sanchez’s competition Humberto Quintero has only been able to muster two major league at-bats in the last two years. So, if Sanchez is able to have a good camp he’ll put himself in a good position to see a couple reps behind the plate at the major league level.

Plus, the kid has some hustle & hart hustle…

and the Jays would probably have the most gorgeous looking catcher tandem in the league

Roomie 🙌🏽

A post shared by tonytwobags (@tonytwobags) on

 

Baseball Reference’s 2016 Projections:


Year    AB  R  H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS TB
                                                             
2016   193 22 50  8  1  6  24  2 14 50 .259 .313 .404 .717 78

 

#4 Dalton Pompey

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Photo Cred: Jon Blacker-Major League Baseball/Getty Imagaes

The Blue Jays are recognized for their pitching depth, but the pool of outfielders on their roster is pretty deep as well. With the starting left field spot not even being a sure thing for Michael Saunders; and also a handful of guys like Junior Lake, Ezekiel Carrera, Darrell Ceciliani, and the newly signed Dominic Brown fighting for the fourth outfield role, it will be tough for the young Pompey to get a spot on this team. Being that the Mississauga native is still progressing as a ball player, the Jays would probably not want to stunt his growth by putting him in a back-up role.

But if the unlikely situation of the Jays considering Pompey as a back-up comes to life, he would have the advantage over players like Carrera, Ceciliani, and Brown because the Jays would probably prefer a righty to help Saunders against tough left handed pitching match-ups. However, Pompey is a switch hitter, but has found a little more success against lefties (.235) than righties (.222) in his minimal amount of big league at-bats. Now, the youthful center fielder has not really found his bat yet in the MLB, batting .226 in his 51 MLB games he’s played in the course of these past two years.

However, would the scenario of Michael Saunder grossly under performing after missing almost the entire season due to a incident involving a sprinkler, and then having Pompey come up mid-season in a platoon role and doing well enough to convince the organization that he belongs, be that unrealistic? Some people believe he is a year or two away from becoming a MLB mainstay if he isn’t already, and it seems that the left field position isn’t as secure as some might have thought.

Baseball Reference’s 2016 Projections:


Year    AB  R  H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS TB
                                                             
2016   231 34 58 14  2  7  25  6 20 54 .251 .318 .420 .738 97

#3 Chris Colabello

chris-colabello

Steve Russell-Getty Images

What a great story this guy is.

From independent ball to the majors, which would be a great feat to accomplish even if he never found success in the pros. But Colabello did find success.

After spending the beginning of his MLB career with the Twins organization, Colabello was picked-up off waivers in the winter of 2014 by the Blue Jays.  After being called-up in early May, Colabello had a hot start by going 2-4 with a double in his season debut against the Yankees and didn’t look back since. The former Worcester Tornado hit .368 with four homeruns and 14 RBIs by the end of that month, but many believed he could not keep that pace up and he ended up not starting a fair-share of games due to Justin Smoak being a better defensive first baseman, despite Colabello’s much higher batting average. However by playoff time, manager John Gibbons figured that Colabello gave the team a better chance to win and gave Colabello majority of the starts in the post-season.

He finished the regular season with an oWAR of 2.7 and a .321 batting average, his WAR was 0.7 and that’s because of his……..uhhhhh….interesting… stint as an outfielder. Headed to Spring Training to prove doubters wrong once again, Colabello wants to solidify his spot as an everyday player at first base and prove last year was not a fluke.

Baseball Reference’s 2016 Projections:

Year    AB  R  H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS  TB
                                                               
2016   368 47 98 19  1 14  55  2 28 108 .266 .322 .438 .759 161

 

#2 Drew Hutchison

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Everyone is talking about the Jesse Chavez’s, the Gavin Floyd’s, the Aaron Sanchez’s, and even the Roberto Hernandez’s of the world being debated for the fifth starter spot, but no one seems to be mentioning Drew Hutchison that much. After a poor showing last season it makes sense, but with three years of MLB experience at the age of only 25, it wouldn’t be too outlandish to see potential of a break-out season.

“[Hutchison] is a competitor. He’s got off-the-charts make-up,” said former Blue Jay, now Sportsnet Baseball Analyst Greg Zaun on Prime Time Sports.

“He’s got stuff. He’ll be a heck of pitcher some day if he can get it clicking.”

The two campaigns prior to his 2015 season, Hutchison pitched decently averaging an ERA of 4.54 and a WHIP of 1.304. Maybe he’ll break-out, maybe he’ll continue on this trend of mediocrity, but it seems he’s the true sleeper in this rotation conversation and who knows…he may surprise some people this spring.

Baseball Reference’s 2016 Projections:

Year    W L  ERA    IP ER HR BB  SO  WHIP  H9 HR9 BB9 SO9
                                                         
2016   11 8 4.74 152.0 80 20 47 141 1.342 9.3 1.2 2.8 8.3

 

#1 Aaron Sanchez

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Photo Credit: Frank Gunn-Canadian Press

After spending the winter working out with his husband (Marcus Stroman), Sanchez gained 25 pounds. It seems that the 23-year-old is primed to take on the biggest Spring Training of his young career.

He too is going for that final rotation spot after spending the majority of his season in the bullpen. The reason why this year is so important for him is not because of the matter of him making the team or not. The concern that some people are talking about is: will another year in the ‘pen mess up his development as a starter, and will he have to stay a reliever for the course of his career because of that?

“He would have a limited impact on the outcome of games [compared to starting] and may be bypassing his future as a starter which could be much brighter.” wrote Mat Germain of Fansided in an article analyzing the pros and cons of having Sanchez as a reliever.

With a pretty-much guaranteed spot on the team, it will be Sanchez’s choice whether or not he’s a starter, which he has been quoted saying he would rather do. So, if he wants that spot he will need to perform well in the spring, or it’s back to the ‘pen for Aaron.

 

But regardless of the outcome, he has come a long way since this:

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Photo Cred: Tom DiPace-Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

Baseball Reference’s 2016 Projections:

Year   W L  ERA SV   IP ER HR BB SO  WHIP  H9 HR9 BB9 SO9
                                                         
2016   5 5 3.22  2 81.0 29  8 31 65 1.198 7.3 0.9 3.4 7.2
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