Blue Jays Nation Roundtable: 2023 Season Predictions, Hot Takes, and More!

Members of Blue Jays Nation gave their Blue Jays predictions for the 2023 season, such as team MVP, breakout player, and hot take. They also predicted the playoff teams in the American League.

Paul Berthelot 
Record Prediction: 95-67
AL Playoff Teams: 1. HOU, 2. TOR, 3. CLE, 4. NYY, 5. TB, 6. SEA 
Team MVP: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Breakout Player: Dalton Varsho. I think he has a chance to really break out as a hitter with the Blue Jays. As a flyball hitter, the new dimensions at Rogers Centre are going to be great for him. He will be surrounded by a better lineup and won’t be the focal point for the opposing pitcher. Plus since he will only be catching in an emergency situation, he doesn’t have to worry about those additional responsibilities and wear and tear that come with that. I don’t know that he ends up with a 132 wRC+ as ZiPS projects him for, but even if he is at 120 wRC+ with elite defence in the outfield he could be a 5-6 WAR player. 
Hot Take: Vladdy sets a new single-season franchise record with 55 home runs. We know he has the power to do it. He was hitting tanks all off-season in the DR and already has a couple in Spring Training. It’s only been eight batted balls but he has a 19.1-degree launch angle this Spring, if that is to continue the rest of March and into the season, watch out. Vlad could be primed for a monster season.
Tat …

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Author: Evan Stack / Blue Jays Nation

Yusei Kikuchi finished off his excellent Spring Training by striking out six of the eight batters he faced

No matter what happens next, this year’s Grapefruit League play will always be remembered as the Spring of Yusei Kikuchi.

Kikuchi capped off an excellent performance in Spring Training on Tuesday against the Philadelphia Phillies. He came into the game in the sixth inning and tossed two-and-two-thirds of clean innings and struck out six of the eight batters he faced. The Phillies certainly didn’t put their best lineup out there for the final game before the start of the regular season, but that’s an impressive result nonetheless.
All told, Kikuchi tossed 20 2/3 innings over seven outings during Grapefruit League play and posted a 0.87 ERA. He struck out 31 batters, walked 10, and didn’t allow a home run.

Yusei’s Day: 6 Ks, 0 ER 😤
Yusei’s Spring: 0.87 ERA 😱
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) March 28, 2023

Other things worth mentioning…

Kikuchi’s performance was the only positive note when it came to pitching on Tuesday. Jose Berrios got the start and allowed four earned runs on four hits and three walks over four-and-two-thirds innings. Tim Mayza came into the game and allowed three hits but couldn’t record an out and Adrian Hernandez recorded just one out in the ninth inning before allowing the Phillies to score the game-winning run on a walk-off double from Darick Hall.
In terms of offence, Bo Bichette was the star of the day as he launched a two-run bomb off Bailey Falter in the second inning. Brandon Belt also drove in a couple of runs with a bases-loaded single.


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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Some Spring Training Stats That Matter and Also Some That Don’t

With Spring Training coming to a close it’s time to take a look at what happened in these games and if there is anything meaningful that comes from them and what they might mean for the upcoming season.

A good rule of thumb is Spring stats don’t matter. It’s a month of games and players can get hot, especially when the competition isn’t always Major League calibre. What you want to see are a player’s skills and if those skills have changed. If a player comes into camp throwing harder as we saw with Jordan Romano in 2021, or hitting the ball harder as we saw with Santiago Espinal last year it could be the precursor to a big season.
Note Spring Stats as of March 26th and courtesy of Baseball Savant, unless otherwise specified. 
With that in mind, there is nothing to be taken from Bichette’s .314/.352/.529 Spring line. Baseball-Reference has an Opponent Quality metric to determine as the name says, the quality of the opposing batter or pitcher faced by a player. Bichette is at 7.3 meaning he has faced pitchers on a talent level roughly somewhere between AA and AAA. Bichette should be crushing this type of pitcher.
What is interesting about Bichette is he is hitting the ball hard as he normally does (92.7mph exit velocity), but he is hitting it almost exclusively on the ground. Last season Bichette had a launch angle of 8.5°, while in Spring Tra …

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Author: Paul Berthelot / Blue Jays Nation

Pitching prospects Gabriel Ponce and Connor Cooke impress, Zach Pop has a hiccup, and more as the Blue Jays fell 6-2 to the Yankees

Can spring training just be over already?

The Blue Jays took on the New York Yankees on Sunday afternoon, falling 6-2 to the Bronx Bombers. However, there were still some positives to take away from the game, mainly with regards to the minor league pitchers.
Let’s dig in.
Blue Jays Nation’s player of the game: Gabriel Ponce
You may have never heard of the 23-year-old right-handed reliever, but he showed up on Sunday afternoon.
Pitching in the bottom of the eighth inning, he struck out the side, generating six whiffs on just 17 pitches. The only base runner reached on a sharply hit ball which would have been an out if the shift were not banned.
Ponce pitched at three levels last season, High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A, where he posted a 3.54 ERA in 61 innings pitched. He topped out at 95.5 mph with his fastball, and looks to be a reliever to keep an eye on in 2023.

Here’s Gabriel Ponce (@gabriel2ponce)’s strikeout and whiff edit.
He struck out the side and touched 95.5 mph with the fastball.#BlueJays
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) March 26, 2023

Things worth mentioning:
The bats were cold on Sunday afternoon. While they managed to score two runs, Toronto only had four hits with a lineup comprised of mainly big leaguers or fringe big leaguers… and fan favourite Peyton Williams. Kevin Kiermaier hit a triple, while Matt Chapman, Danny Jansen, and Santiago Espinal all had a single apiece.
Connor Cooke was absolutely filthy on Sunday. While he allowed an earned run and walked two in his inning of work, he struck out Giancarlo Stanton on what is best described as a whiffle ball pitch (his slider literally hit 3106 RPM this afternoon), as well as Gleyber Torres. Drafted in the 10th round of the 2021 draft, Cooke spent time between Low-A and High-A last season, pos …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Roster moves galore, as Jay Jackson gets his release, Nate Pearson optioned to Triple-A, and more!

Well, the Blue Jays’ bullpen depth just got a bit weaker.

On Saturday afternoon, it was announced by Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith that reliever Jay Jackson was granted his release, as he would not be added to the roster.

Jay Jackson, who impressed in #BlueJays camp with a 95-96 m.p.h. fastball & hard slider, is now a free agent per source.
The Jays had until noon ET today to add him to the roster. They declined to do so, which meant granting Jackson his release instead.
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) March 25, 2023

The 35-year-old righty pitched 9.1 innings with the Blue Jays and didn’t allow a single run. Moreover, he had 14 strikeouts facing just 37 batters for a 37.8 K%.

Here’s his second strikeout of the game on an 85.7 mph slider.
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) March 20, 2023

It’s easy to say that a team will add Jackson to their 26-man roster, as he has major league experience and pitched well this sring.
Blue Jays roster cuts:
If Mitch White is to hit the injured list to start the season, it had appeared that spot would either go to Zach Pop or Nate Pearson. Well today, we got our answer as Pearson was optioned to the minor leagues.
That doesn’t mean Pearson won’t play a role with the 2023 Blue Jays. The 26-year-old flame-throwing right-handed pitcher struck out 13 batters in 8.1 innings pitched, and has a 3.24 ERA. This came after pure dominance in the Dominican Winter League over the winter. Pearson’s talent has never been in question, but if he can stay healthy, that’d be a huge boost for the Jays.

In this outing, Nate Pearson showed why he’s more than just a flame throwing pitcher.
Yes, he hit 101 mph to get his only strikeout, but look at the knuckle curve (second clip), or even his two sliders for whiffs.
If he can stay healthy, he’ll be fantastic.#BlueJays
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) March 2, 2023

Nate Pearson wasn’t the only pitcher optioned, as Zach Thompson, Trent Thornton, and Thomas Hatch were …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Alek Manoah pitched a gem, Peyton Williams smashed the ball, and more as the Blue Jays beat the Phillies 6-3

Another day, another Blue Jays victory.

On Friday evening, the Philadelphia Phillies visited Dunedin, Florida to take on the Toronto Blue Jays. Sadly for the visiting team (Phillies), they lost the game.
Let’s look at the player of the game, as well as some things worth mentioning.
Blue Jays Nation’s player of the game: Daulton Varsho:
Admittedly, it could have also been the starting pitcher, who we’ll get to soon, but Friday’s player of the game goes to Daulton Varsho.
Varsho had three plate appearances, reaching all three times. His first plate appearance was an RBI triple down the right field line. The second was a scorching single up the middle, before taking a walk in his final plate appearance.

It’s a Daulton Varsho (@DaultonVarsho25) triple!
86.4 mph exit velocity, and drives in Brandon Belt!#BlueJays
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) March 24, 2023

It’s also worth mentioning that he started a play in the outfield where they tagged out a runner trying to score.

Fundamental 👏 Baseball 👏
Varsho 👉 Chapman 👉 Kirk
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) March 24, 2023

Varsho has three hits in his past two games (five at bats). He’s heating up at the right time.
Things worth mentioning:
Alek Manoah also deserves the player of the game, as he continues to impress in spring training. On Friday in his last spring training start, he pitched six innings, allowing three hits and an earned run, while striking out six.  He finished spring training with 20.1 innings pitched,  21 strikeouts, eight walks, and an ERA of 3.10.

Here’s Alek Manoah (@Alek_Manoah6)’s strikeout thread from this evening!
82.3 mph slider ties the batter up.#BlueJays
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) March 24, 2023

Peyton Williams’ makeup is my favourite from the 2022 Blue Jays draft class. The first baseman stands at 6’5, 255 pounds, but slashed .317/.455/.593 with 21 homers, a 16.9 K%, and a 15.7 BB% in 492 plate appearances with the University of Iowa. He also has a ton of raw power, evident in his 110.9 mph double on Friday.

Surprised no one posted the Peyton Williams (@peyton_w2) double, which clocked in at 110.9 mph.
He’s so fun to watch.#BlueJays
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) March 25, 2023

Trent Thornton looked solid in his limited …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Former Toronto Blue Jays broadcaster Pat Tabler lands new role in the booth with Cleveland Guardians

From the booths of the Rogers Centre to the booths of Progressive Field, Pat Tabler has a new broadcasting role.

Tabler, 65, joined TSN as a studio analyst covering the Jays back in 1993, and got his start in the booth working alongside Dan Shulman all the way back in 2001. This past year, Tabler and Sportsnet parted ways.
But now, according to The Athletic’s Zack Meisel, Tabler will be pinch-hitting for some broadcasts for the Cleveland Guardians…

The Guardians are adding former players Pat Tabler, Ellis Burks and Chris Gimenez to their broadcast lineup this season. Tabler will join the booth for certain games and Burks and Gimenez will join the pre- and postgame shows. The broadcast regulars will also return.
— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) March 23, 2023

Tabler’s longevity has been a calling card for the Blue Jays nearly becoming synonymous with the team. He’s been a huge part of the media landscape in Toronto surrounding the team.
Tabler, a native of Hamilton, Ohio, played 1,202 Major League games over 12 seasons and 707 of them came while playing in Cleveland. He joined the Blue Jays in the 1991 season and helped them win their first-ever World Series the following year.
Here’s some of what Blue Jays Nation writer Evan Stack wrote about Tabler last December:
Tabler, who has as many home runs as a Blue Jay as Munenori Kawasaki, spent two seasons with Toronto as a player. He was a part of the 1992 World Series club, serving as a utility man. One of the more unique assets of Tabler’s game was his ability to come up in the clutch; Tabby was a career 43-for-88 with the base …

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Author: Zach Laing / Blue Jays Nation

Jose Berrios tosses five innings in return from WBC, Daulton Varsho hits his first homer of spring, and more as the Blue Jays beat the O’s 2-1

I’m not going to lie, it’s incredibly difficult to go from last night’s World Baseball Classic finale back to following along with Grapefruit League games. Just one more week to go!

The Blue Jays sent what might be their Opening Day lineup to the field in Dunedin on Wednesday and beat the Orioles by a score of 2-1. Let’s go through the noteworthy things from the game…
Things worth mentioning…

Jose Berrios returned to the mound for his first start since the disastrous inning he tossed for Peurto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. Berrios getting lit up by Venezuela generated some panic among those who follow the Blue Jays but Pete Walker wasn’t overly concerned about it, saying on Blair and Barker “I didn’t get to watch it live, so at first I was a bit concerned, but after I replayed the entire game I wasn’t concerned. The pitch selection and sequencing was nothing like what we’ve been working on all winter.”
Berrios went five innings against the Orioles and allowed one earned run on six hits and one walk while striking out five. It’s also worth pointing out that this was much like how a lot of his “good” starts went last season, as Berrios would look dominant at times but also had a lot of loud contact resulting in outs because of the play of the defence behind him.

José Berríos got up to 77 pi …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Addison Barger’s MLB debut will have to wait, but for how long becomes the question

Toronto Blue Jays fans haven’t seen the last of prospect Addison Barger.
Barger, who was optioned to triple-A Buffalo following Monday’s 5-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers, entered this spring with plenty of optimism after being added to Toronto’s 40-man roster last November but was seen as a long shot to break camp with the big-league club as their 26th position player. And understandably so, considering the 23-year-old played just eight games with the Bisons last season.
With Barger and veteran outfielder Wynton Bernard headed to the minors, the battle for the Blue Jays’ final roster spot appears to be down to two players: right-hander Otto Lopez, who is likely the favourite and is coming off a tremendous performance at the World Baseball Classic, and left-hander Nathan Lukes.

#BlueJays assign the following players to minor league spring training camp. 42 players remain in big league camp (8 non-roster invitees), which includes 25 pitchers, 3 catchers, 9 infielders, and 4 outfielders.
— Hazel Mae (@thehazelmae) March 20, 2023

This isn’t the end for Barger, though. It is just the beginning. While he is likely disappointed about not making the big-league roster, the organization’s No. 6 top prospect successfully put himself on the coaching staff’s radar this spring, beginning that process when he first arrived at the player development complex as his six-foot, 210-pound frame could barely fit inside his tight workout shirt.
It wasn’t that long ago that the sixth-round selection from 2018 weighed in the 150-160 pound range. But he made the best of the COVID-19 pandemic, which wiped out the 2020 minor-league season, allowin …

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Author: Thomas Hall / Blue Jays Nation

Joey Votto on the Blue Jays would be perfect

It’s all about perspective.

On Monday morning, The Athletic’s Jim Bowden tweeted out that the plan is for Canadian first baseman Joey Votto to retire as a Cincinnati Red, unless…

Nick Krall #Reds GM told us their plan is for Joey Votto to finish his career as a Red. However, if the Reds are out of it at the trade deadline and Votto came to them and asked if they would trade him home to Toronto #BlueJays..he said he would consider under those circumstances
— Jim Bowden⚾️🏈 (@JimBowdenGM) March 20, 2023

The most interesting part of this tweet is that Votto would consider being traded to his hometown Blue Jays if the Reds are out of the playoff race. We’ll go over this more in the contract section, but keep this in mind.
In terms of fit, you may be saying “well Brennan, the Jays don’t need another first baseman, they have Vladimir Guerrero Jr, and Brandon Belt to back him up.” While that is true it’s all a matter of perspective.
Let’s dive into the numbers, his contract, and how I think he fits.
How good is future Hall of Famer Joey Votto in 2023:
I don’t think it’s unfair to say that out of any current players in the league, Votto may be one of the only locks to make the Hall of Fame. For his career, he has slashed .297/.412/.513 in 8504 plate appearances and has accumulated 57.9 fWAR in his 16-year career. For first basemen since 1900 with 5000+ plate appearances, Votto’s 57.9 fWAR ranks 26th overall, beating out 2023 Hall of Fame inductee Fred McGriff.
However, what about recent times? At the end of the day, Votto is in the twilight of his career, so it’s unlikely that he puts up a considerable amount more.
Last season, he slashed .205/.319/.370 with 11 homers in 376 plate appearances. It’s worth noting that his season was derailed by i …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation