Toronto Blue Jays: Spring Training Surprises, Busts and Injuries
With Opening Day less than two weeks away, the final roster of the Toronto Blue Jays is quickly starting to take shape based on how things have played out during spring training.
As expected, there were quite a few surprises in training camp this year with several players emerging as popular candidates to make the team.
There were also a few roster hopefuls that took a step back and didn’t help their cause with sub-par performances in Grapefruit League games.
Injuries have been a huge problem across the league right now. Several noteworthy players such as Kris Medlen of the Atlanta Braves, Patrick Corbin of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Jarrod Parker of the Oakland Athletics have all gone down during spring training with season-ending injuries.
Luckily, the Blue Jays have only experienced minor injuries this spring and the team should go into the regular season with a healthy roster.
With that being said, let’s take a closer look at the surprises, busts and injuries of spring training.
Drew Hutchison, RHP
Spring training stats: 9.2 IP, 2.79 ERA, 16 SO, 1 BB.
Hutchison has emerged as a favorite contender for a spot on the Opening Day starting rotation, after looking dominant in spring training.
Now almost two years removed from Tommy John surgery, the right-hander has shown that his stuff is still there. He’s hit 95 mph with his fastball on several occasions and his off-speed pitches have been sharp.
The 23-year-old biggest strength, though, is his command. He throws strikes consistently and doesn’t give up a lot of walks.
Despite a lack of experience pitching in the major leagues and having minor league options left, Hutchison’s performance has likely tied Blue Jays general manger Alex Anthopoulos’ hands.
His spot in the rotation should be all but secure at this point.
Ricky Romero, LHP
Spring training stats: 9.2 IP, 3.72 ERA, 6 SO, 10 BB.
Romero’s turnaround has been one of the most pleasant surprises this spring training.
The left-hander’s fall from grace these past two seasons has been well documented and no one expected Romero to come into spring training this year and show that he can still get batters out.
But that is exactly what the former ace has done so far in Grapefruit League games. While his command has looked shaky at times, as evidenced by his 10 walks, his stuff has been good and his fastball has topped out at 94 mph.
While Romero has shown flashes of his former self, the chances of him making the team out of spring training are remote. He will likely be asked to go down to Triple-A Buffalo and prove that he can consistently find the strike zone.
The fact that the 29-year-old was removed from the 40-man roster last October and outrighted to Triple-A Buffalo also complicates matters. In order to have Romero back on the major league club, Anthopoulos would have to remove another player from the roster.
Romero would have to show that he’s worth that move.
Erik Kratz, C.
Spring training stats: 19 AB, .368 BA, .368 OBP, .474 SLG.
Kratz came into spring training competing for the back up catcher’s role.
But after a strong performance both offensively and defensively, Kratz looks like the probable winner for the job.
As the backup catcher will catch knuckleballer R.A. Dickey in spring training, Kratz has spent a lot of time in spring training learning how to catch the knuckleball. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons has been pleased with the catcher’s progress.
If the 33-year-old does break camp with the team, it’ll mean that Josh Thole, who was also competing for the backup catcher’s role, should begin the season in Triple-A Buffalo.
Brandon Morrow, RHP
Spring training stats: 5 IP, 10.80 ERA, 2 SO, 2 BB.
After spending most of the season on the DL last year with an entrapped radial nerve in his forearm, Morrow was expected to come into spring training healthy and perform well.
So far, that hasn’t been the case. While Morrow has been healthy, his performance on the mound hasn’t been sharp.
The Blue Jays have defended Morrow’s slow start by saying that the right-hander is simply behind other pitchers at this point due to rehab from last season’s injury. The team has also slotted him as the No. 5 starter in the rotation because of this reason.
This means that that the 29-year-old will likely pitch the Blue Jays home opener against the New York Yankees.
Considering that it failed to add to its rotation in the offseason, Toronto will need a big season from Morrow if it hopes to compete in the AL East this year.
J.A. Happ, LHP
Spring training stats: 1.1 IP, 40.50 ERA, 3 SO, 5 BB.
Considered a lock for the rotation at the start of spring training, Happ hasn’t solidified his position after failing to pitch more than 1.1 innings in two starts.
His command has looked off, as evidenced by his five walks, and hitters haven’t had much difficulty squaring him up.
The Blue Jays have said that Happ had been slowed by a back injury in the early days of spring training and the team pushed back his future starts.
Happ has since been declared healthy and while he’s pitched in a minor league game recently, he still hasn’t made a Grapefruit League appearance since the injury.
Provided that he stays healthy, the 31-year-old should still likely make the team regardless of his spring training performance, considering the team’s lack of depth at the position.
Ryan Goins, 2B
Spring training stats: 39 AB, .159 BA, .214 OBP, .159 SLG.
After spending the offseason working on his hitting, Goins was expected to show the results of that training this Spring.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case as the left-handed hitter has looked lost at the plate at times.
Blue Jays hitting coach Kevin Seitzer is convinced that Goins still has the skill-set to be a good hitter. But it remains to be seen whether the 26-year-old will be able to successfully utilize that skill set to be at least an average hitter at the major league level.
Fortunately for Goins, his defense is the real reason that he’s projected to be the team’s Opening Day second baseman.
As long as he can make defensive plays similar to those he made last season, the team should be willing to give him the extra time he needs in order for his bat to come around.
Casey Janssen, RHP
After pitching through most of last season with a sore shoulder, Janssen was expected to come into spring training fully healthy.
Unfortunately, the 32-year-old closer began experiencing soreness in the same area once again just a few days into training camp.
This caused the Blue Jays to shut him down immediately. Janssen still hasn’t made an appearance in a spring training game yet, but is expected to throw soon—provided that he doesn’t have any further setbacks.
While this would normally be a cause for concern, it’s reassuring to know that he went through the same thing last year. He only made two spring training appearances but went on to have a good year in the regular season, as he had 34 saves.
In case Janssen isn’t ready to pitch at the start of the season, the bullpen is the one area the Blue Jays have plenty of depth in. Sergio Santos, Steve Delabar and Brett Cecil all have the ability to fill in for Janssen in the closer’s role.