Toronto Blue Jays 2024 Season Preview

The Blue Jays enter the 2024 season on the heels of a lackluster offseason, trying to win a postseason game for the first time since 2016.

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 17: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27, Bo Bichette #11, George Springer #4 and Davis Schneider #36 of Toronto Blue Jays sit in the dugout before playing the Boston Red Sox in their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on September 17, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)

The Toronto Blue Jays enter the 2024 campaign in a tough situation. The club is coming off a disappointing exit at the hands of the Minnesota Twins last season and hasn’t won a postseason game since 2016, a team that was built by previous general manager Alex Anthopoulos.

Since then, the current front office of president/CEO Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins has gone through a tough rebuild phase, added some of the biggest free agent signings in franchise history, and continued to compete in a stacked AL East division. However, there have been zero wins in the playoffs, which has fans on edge heading into a new season.

The front office didn’t make any huge additions free agent-wise this winter, a discourse from the most recent trend where since 2020, Atkins and Co. have brought a higher-tiered free agent north of the border. On top of the club’s additions, the roster from last season has some glaring holes, most notably the ones left behind by Matt Chapman, Brandon Belt, Whit Merrifield, and Hyun Jin Ryu.

In retrospect, the Blue Jays added Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Justin Turner, and Yariel Rodriguez while bringing back Kevin Kiermaier and Chad Green on new contracts. These moves helped on the defensive front but for a squad that sat in the middle of the pack offensively last year in numerous categories, bringing in Turner as the only upgrade in the lineup seemed lacklustre at best considering all the free agents the Jays were supposedly interested in this past winter.

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Instead, the front office appears to be leaning on the current roster to put behind an underwhelming 2023 season at the plate. They instead changed the coaching situation around, giving Don Mattingly an increased role for the hitting staff while also promoting Matt Hague from Triple-A, who did wonders with some of the younger players on the squad during their time in Buffalo.

It’s a risky move for a club that doesn’t have a single core player locked down to a long-term extension while also going to arbitration with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. this winter, losing their case to one of the more impactful bats in their lineup. Should the Jays fall short of postseason expectations once again, it could be curtains for Atkins at the helm and some tough decisions will need to be made in regards to the organization’s future.

Before putting the cart before the horse, the Jays enter the 2024 season seemingly behind some of the other AL East squads, as the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, and Tampa Bay Rays all project to finish higher in the standings than Toronto. It appears to be an uphill battle for the Jays, who seem to be going in with more of an underdog mentality this season but shouldn’t be counted out just yet.

Projected Starting Lineup

Projected Lineup vs. RHPProjected Lineup vs. LHP
1. George Springer – RF1. George Springer – RF
2. Bo Bichette – SS2. Bo Bichette – SS
3. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – 1B3. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – 3B
4. Justin Turner – DH4. Justin Turner – DH
5. Alejandro Kirk/Danny Jansen – C5. Alejandro Kirk/Danny Jansen – C
6. Daulton Varsho – LF6. Daulton Varsho – LF
7. Cavan Biggio – 2B7. Davis Schneider – 2B
8. Isiah Kiner-Falefa – 3B8. Isiah Kiner-Falefa – 3B
9. Kevin Kiermaier – CF9. Kevin Kiermaier – CF

For the Blue Jays, the top portion of the lineup is pretty set in stone.

George Springer will continue to lead off and play right field most of the time while Bo Bichette and Guerrero will take up their respective positions for most of the campaign barring the rest days here and there. Alejandro Kirk and Danny Jansen will continue to tandem behind the plate and work with specific pitchers on the mound compared to whoever the club is facing, similar to last season. Jansen struggled to stay on the field as he kept getting hit by inside pitches and needing time to recover on the IL but when healthy, he will form a strong tandem with Kirk at the catcher position.

Turner was brought in this past offseason to be the team’s designated hitter and he should occupy that role for most of the year. He may find some time on the diamond at first, second, and potentially third base depending on rest days for other players and whether manager John Schneider wants to use a lefty-hitting specialist in the DH spot instead of Turner. More on that later.

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Daulton Varsho and Kiermaier will play left and centre field, respectively, with the former Arizona Diamondback covering Kiermaier in centre whenever he needs a rest day or when a left-hander is on the mound. Again, this is nothing different than what the Blue Jays employed last year.

At second base, Cavan Biggio and Davis Schneider will form a tandem that will likely depend on who is pitching that day for the opposing team. The Jays will likely utilize Biggio’s left-handed bat against right-handers while Schneider likely gets the nod against southpaws. Although, both players have a utility aspect that could see them see some increased time throughout the year, as Biggio can play the corner outfield spots and first base while Schneider has been taking reps in left field this offseason and spring, a ‘Whit Merrifield 2.0’ if you will.

At third base, the club will use newcomer Kiner-Falefa to try and replace Chapman’s defence while hoping he can put forward a solid campaign at the plate. It is some tough shoes to fill but Kiner-Falefa has the defensive ability to not be a liability at the hot corner while being buried towards the bottom of the lineup regularly with his career 81 OPS+ a bit of a sore spot.

Projected Bench

Alejandro Kirk/Danny Jansen, Cavan Biggio/Davis Schneider, Daniel Vogelbach, Ernie Clement

The Blue Jays bench will feature some inconsistency in regards to regulars, as the tandem of Kirk/Jansen and Biggio/Schneider will likely flip-flop for most of the season. When one is on the field, the other is likely on the bench in either a pinch hit or defensive replacement scenario, depending on the game situation.

The remaining two spots have a bit more intrigue to them, as it appears the competition in spring training for roster spots is slowly starting to take shape.

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In Vogelbach, the Blue Jays are looking to bring a left-handed power specialist who can pinch-hit late in games while also spending time in the DH spot when a right-handed pitcher is on the mound. The former Mets slugger sports a career .452 SLG and a .814 OPS against right-handers and fills a void that the Jays were seriously lacking in late-game situations last year. The Florida product has been given numerous game opportunities this spring and boasts a .897 OPS through 19 at-bats with two home runs, one of which was a towering no-doubter down the right field line off 2023 AL Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole.

Lastly, the Blue Jays will need to decide who occupies the last bench spot with the verdict falling between two players: Ernie Clement or Santiago Espinal.

Based on recent play and outlook going into the 2024 season, it appears that Clement likely has the upper hand over the Dominican product and should get the nod over his infield counterpart.

Clement has been outstanding so far this spring, posting a .423/.444/.731 slash line with 11 hits through 26 at-bats. The right-handed batter owns a 1.175 OPS along with three extra-base hits, seven RBIs, and one walk while still not having a single strikeout on his resume. With the ability to play multiple infield positions and no MiLB options to his name (especially compared to Espinal), the New York product will likely break camp with the Blue Jays, as there is zero chance he passes through waivers unclaimed should he be DFA’d.

Honourable Mentions: Nathan Lukes, Joey Votto, Spencer Horwitz

Projected Rotation

Kevin Gausman, Chris Bassitt, José Berríos, Yusei Kikuchi, and Bowden Francis/Alek Manoah

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For the Blue Jays, the starting rotation is pretty easy to project for at least four of the five spots.

Gausman, Bassitt, BerrĂ­os, and Kikuchi were outstanding for the club last year, with each pitcher making 30+ starts while Bassitt eclipsed the 200+ innings pitched mark as well. Gausman was the bonafide ace on the squad while both BerrĂ­os and Kikuchi had impressive bounce-back campaigns after struggling in 2022. These four easily kept the Blue Jays in the hunt for the playoffs last year when the bats were struggling.

The fifth spot is where things get a bit interesting. Over the past two seasons, it was former first-round pick Alek Manoah who got the nod for a spot in the rotation, an easy decision for the 2022 AL Cy Young finalist to be pencilled in. However, after a dismal 2023 campaign that saw him be optioned on two separate occasions and a shoulder injury that has his spring training ramp-up behind schedule, there is a very distinct possibility that the right-hander will not be ready to go for Opening Day.

With Manoah unable to go, the Blue Jays will likely turn to right-hander Bowden Francis, who was used mostly in relief at the big league level last season but has been used as a starter for the majority of his minor league career. Francis has also been impressive this spring, adding a splitter to his arsenal of off-speed pitches while allowing just three earned runs through eight innings of work. With his ability to keep the walks in check and his 11.3 K/9 rate early this year, he will likely work out of the rotation until Manoah is ready to go.

Once the 6-foot-6 right-hander is healthy, it will likely be a game-time decision depending on how Francis is pitching at the big league level, with the other heading down to the minors to continue being stretched out.

Projected Bullpen

Projected Relief Options
1. Jordan Romano – RHP
2. Erik Swanson – RHP
3. Tim Mayza – LHP
4. Chad Green – RHP
5. GĂ©nesis Cabrera – LHP
6. Trevor Richards – RHP
7. Yimi GarcĂ­a – RHP
8. Mitch White – RHP
9. Nate Pearson – RHP
10. Yariel RodrĂ­guez – RHP
11. Connor Cooke – RHP
12. Mason Fluarty – LHP
13. Hagen Danner – RHP
14. Zach Pop – RHP
15. Hayden Juenger – RHP
16. Brendon Little – RHP
17. Yosver Zulueta – RHP
18. T.J. Brock – RHP

There are a lot of familiar faces down in the bullpen this season. The only subtraction from the squad compared to the end of last season is fireballer Jordan Hicks, who signed with the San Francisco Giants during this past offseason.

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Jordan Romano will continue to be the anchor for the Jays in the closer spot while Tim Mayza, Erik Swanson, and Yimi GarcĂ­a will see some action in the setup roles. The Jays will have a full season of GĂ©nesis Cabrera and Chad Green as well, which should bring some versatility to the relief corps while Trevor Richards continues to work in the middle relief role.

Lastly, the Blue Jays will likely be bringing a dedicated long-man into the group, with Mitch White likely taking the spot given his ability to pitch multiple innings and increased velocity this spring. White’s tenure with the club has been tumultuous since he joined the organization back at the 2022 trade deadline but he is out of options and the club could use an arm like his early in the campaign as the starters continued to get settled, with the right-hander able to give some innings for the bullpen out of the gate.

The Blue Jays used over 25 different pitchers last year, excluding Clement and Jordan Luplow’s “as-needed” mop-up innings. With this in mind and a long season ahead, the Blue Jays have quite a few arms that will likely be seeing action with the Blue Jays this season, especially Nate Pearson, RodrĂ­guez, and Zach Pop who all boast MLB experience. There have been a ton of arms who have impressed this spring such as Connor Cooke and Mason Fluharty who could see some time in the big leagues before the season is over but likely further down the line once the Minor League season gets underway.

Prospects to keep an eye on

LHP – Ricky Tiedemann

The Blue Jays consensus #1 prospect, southpaw Ricky Tiedemann won’t start the year in the big leagues but a new test in Triple-A should see where his development is and a better understanding of his timetable for a big league debut. He missed a good chunk of the 2023 season with a biceps injury so staying healthy will be key this year. However, if he goes to Buffalo and continues to rack up strikeouts and generate swing-and-miss, the California product should see some time at the big league level later this summer.

OF – Alan Roden

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It has been a while since the Blue Jays developed a full-fledged outfield prospect and Wisconsin product Alan Roden seems like the next prospect to take a crack at making the next step.

Swinging from the left side, Roden has put on quite a show this spring, going 5-for-20 at the plate with a .918 OPS while making some real solid contact. He likely starts the year in Double-A to get a few at-bats under his belt before a move to Buffalo but with his ability to put the ball in play and no other outfield prospect standing in his way, Roden could find himself in the big leagues come September.

INF – Orelvis Martinez

At just 22-years old, Blue Jays fans have kept a close eye on Martinez over the years and the Dominican product continues to get closer to making the jump to the active roster.

With his bat and plus-power his calling card, the Jays have tried to find a spot for Martinez on the field over the past couple of seasons in the farm system, using the top prospect at third base, shortstop, and most recently second base to expand his range. Should he go back to Buffalo and continue to put the ball over the fence while also working on his strikeout numbers, it will be tough for the Blue Jays front office to ignore his bat much longer if the club wants to contend in a stacked AL East division.

Honourable Mentions: Damiano Palmegiani, Addison Barger, and Leo Jimenez

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