Blue Jays introducing new Schneiders Porch at Rogers Centre

What’s better than hot dogs and baseball? Dedicating an entire porch at a professional baseball stadium so fans can enjoy the best of both worlds. And that’s precisely what the Toronto Blue Jays intend to do this season.
Amid phase one of the Rogers Centre’s $300-million renovation, the franchise has overhauled its outfield seating section over the winter and added several new fan experience sections, including multiple gathering porches. One, in particular, is being sponsored by Schneiders and will become the ballpark’s new “hot dog headquarters.”

Elevate your hot dog game at the new @Schneiders Porch!
How many will you be eating in 2023?
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) March 3, 2023

This new attraction will be located beyond the right field wall at Section 209 and will invite fans to explore a wide variety of one-of-a-kind culinary creations. Baseball fans will be able to stop by during a game, with the Schneiders Porch’s capacity capable of holding upwards of 150 fans, including a front-row section that can be reserved for a group of up to 20 people.
“We’re excited to partner once again with the Toronto Blue Jays,” said Casey Richards, President and Chief Growth Officer, Maple Leaf Foods. “The Schneiders Porch is designed true to the brand’s authentic recipes, high craftsmanship standards, and irresistible taste.”
Loonie Dog nights at the Rogers Centre were a major hit with Toronto’s fan base last season, and that is likely to continue even further in 2023 as Schneider’s Porch will transform into Loonie Dogs Central every Tuesday home game.
The first Loonie Dog night is scheduled for Apr. 25 against the Chicago White Sox.

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Author: Thomas Hall / Blue Jays Nation

Canadians to Watch Amongst the Top 25 Programs in Division I Baseball this season

As the college baseball season is right around the corner for many teams across the United States, there are tons of Canadians represented across numerous Division I, II, and III programs and in JUCO ball from coast to coast.

Using the D1 Baseball preseason rankings, let’s look at the Canadian players present on the rosters of the Top 25 teams in Division I baseball programs heading into the 2023 season. I utilized the Canadian Baseball Network’s Canadians intent page for assistance in making this list as well as going to each program’s roster. Some players listed below may not be on the official roster at the time of writing but have committed to the program.
Micah Bucknam – Lousiana State University (#2)
Born in New Zealand, Micah Bucknam grew up in Abbotsford, British Columbia and was a Canadian Junior National team member. Those Blue Jays fans who follow the MLB Draft will likely remember Bucknam’s name, as he was drafted by the club in the 16th round of the 2021 MLB Draft but chose not to sign. At the time, he had a commitment to the University of Washington but he reclassified for the 2022 MLB Draft and also committed to LSU, with Bucknam spending the 2022 season in the MLB Draft League.

Micah Bucknam of Abbotsford, BC goes to the @BlueJays in the 16th round, 482nd overall!#MLBD …

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Author: Tyson Shushkewich / Blue Jays Nation

Batted Ball Distribution is crucial for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to take the next step

Baseball is hard.

But it’s a lot harder when you hit the ball on the ground every time, something that the Blue Jays, as a team, do more than anyone else in the American League. At this point, it’s an undeniable problem. The correlation between Vladimir Guerrero’s groundball rate and his overall hitting ability couldn’t be more blatantly obvious…

We can see, that aside from a weird little run in the middle of his season, Vlad’s wRC+ seems to be the opposite of his GB%, suggesting that it could be at fault when he’s not doing well. Now, in fairness, correlation = causation is the oldest fallacy in the book. So let’s start by proving that the groundball issues are DIRECTLY responsible for the first baseman’s struggles this season.
What’s the best kind of batted ball? Let’s see…

This chart breaks down league average wRC+ based on what type of batted ball is entered. As you can see, the best specific type of batted ball is a pulled flyball. However, in general, line drives are significantly better than flyballs, which are significantly better than groundballs.
Groundballs are very significantly the worst type of batted ball, and the Blue Jays hit them more than any other American League in 2022. This is a problem that needs to be addressed. It hurt several of their biggest stars, not just Vladdy. It definitely hurt the first baseman, who saw his groundball rate jump 7% in 2021, as his wRC+ tanked more than 30 points. But it’s not just him. George Springer had a ridiculous 2021, as his groundball rate was only 32.6%. In 2022, it jumped up to 44.5%, and his wRC+ dropped 8 points.
But, let’s not kid ourselves. Vlad Jr. is a very good hitter. I’m not here to tell you about why a bad hitter could be a good one if he stopped hitting groundballs. He finished 2022 with a 132 wRC+. Nonetheless, there is so much room for improvement. Vladimir Guerrero is among the most talented hitters that the league has seen in decades. George Springer, Bo Bichette, Matt Chapman and Teoscar Hernandez are no slouches of their own. How can Vladdy unlock the (hashtag) next level?
Well, it would take fundamental change. Nothing is simple when you’re facing major league pitching.
However, let’s take Vladimir Guerrero Jr. as our example once again. This frame is from a game in Texas, during an at-bat that is just about to end, with a pulled groundball resulting in an out.

You can see that Vladdy is making contact with the baseball at the lowest point of his swing, t …

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Author: Tate Kispech / Blue Jays Nation

News and Notes: Yankees in the mix for Bryan Reynolds, other MLB owners are mad about Steve Cohen’s spending, and more!

Christmas is right around the corner and things in the baseball world are unsurprisingly slowing down but we’ve still got a few worthwhile notes to go through today…

According to Jon Morosi, the New York Yankees are among the teams who are in the mix for Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds…

Sources: #Yankees among teams in contact with #Pirates on Bryan Reynolds over recent weeks; one obstacle to a trade is that Pittsburgh prefers starting pitchers to headline the return and top end of Yankees’ system is deeper in position players. @MLB @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 22, 2022

The switch-hitting Reynolds has been widely discussed as a fit to fill the Blue Jays’ biggest need right now, which is a big bat that isn’t right-handed. He reportedly requested a trade earlier this off-season and there’s an obvious connection between Toronto and Pittsburgh because Pirates general manager Ben Cherington used to work in the Blue Jays front office.
The interesting part of this note is that it gives us a little bit of a look into what the Pirates might be looking for in return for one of their best players. Morosi said that the Pirates are looking for pitching prospects to headline the return for Reynolds, which isn’t all that surprising considering they only have one pitcher among their top five prospects.
With that in mind, you’d figure that the Pirates would be asking for Rickey Tiedemann, Toronto’s top pitching prospect, in a potential Reynolds deal. Pittsburgh’s top prospect is catcher Henry Davis, so they likely wouldn’t be interested in making a deal that centers around Gabriel Moreno. That said, the Blue Jays could always get a third team involved and move one of their catchers for a pitching prospect that the Pirates like. Who knows.
Elsewhere, the New York Mets are close to finalizing a 12-year, $315 million deal with Carlos Correa, days afte …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Mike Clevinger’s contract with the White Sox further indicates an expensive free-agent market this winter

After a lull in the baseball world over the past week, we got a pair of signings on Sunday and Monday, as Jose Abreu inked a multi-year contract with the Houston Astros and Mike Clevinger inked a show-me deal with the Chicago White Sox.

This flurry of moves sees the White Sox move on from Abreu, who slashed a .292/.354/.506 line with the team over the course of nine seasons, and add a reclamation project to their starting rotation. Clevinger was moved in a big trade from Cleveland to the San Diego Padres during the 2020 season. He made just four starts with the team and underwent Tommy John surgery and then missed the entirety of the 2021 season.
In his first year back from Tommy John, Clevinger posted a 4.33 ERA over the course of 114 1/3 innings. His fastball velocity hovered around 93.5 miles per hour, a noticeable drop from where it was during his successful seasons in Cleveland. As a result, his strikeout rate dipped to 18.8% in 2022 compared to 27.5% in 2020 and 22.6% in 2019.
Now, why does any of this matter? Because Clevinger’s contract, which has $12 million guaranteed, further indicates just how expensive this winter’s free-agent market is going to be…

$12M is more than I e …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Checking in on Blue Jays players playing in the Dominican Winter League

The great thing about baseball is that it’s a year round sport, even if Major League Baseball ends in a week.

The Dominican Winter League (LIDOM) and Mexican Pacific Winter League are in full swing now, so how are Jays players doing for their respective teams? Let’s look at a former top 100 prospect to begin.
Nate Pearson:
After pitching in the big leagues in 2020 and 2021, Nate Pearson missed all of the 2022 season. First by contracting mononucleosis, then suffering a lat strain in a rehab game. The story of his career thus far has been injuries, but unlucky injuries. No better example of this than getting hit with a comebacker at the start of the 2018 minor league season, which broke his ulna (forearm).
To get innings, Pearson headed to the Dominican Republic to play for the Tigres de Licey. In his five innings, he hasn’t allowed an earned run, while owning a 25 K% and a 6.25 BB%. Pearson has been used mainly as a high-leverage reliever which is a good sign.
I think as the years go by, his ceiling leans more toward a high-leverage reliever, rather than a starter or a bulk reliever. Although some may argue that Pearson becoming a reliever may “lessen” his value, having a guy throwing 100 mph out of the bullpen is super important.
It will be interesting to see the organization’s plan for the 26-year-old righty heading into his eighth season with the team.
Rainer Nunez:
Rainer Nunez is the only other Blue …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Should Blue Jays expect power resurgence from Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in 2023?

Baseball can often produce an unexplainable outcome, leaving many to wonder why it occurred in the first place. The Toronto Blue Jays, who endured a season of extremes in 2022, are likely to ponder that question involving Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s bizarre offensive performance this winter.
Gurriel had been known for his power through his first four big-league campaigns, slugging .492 with 63 home runs across 347 career games. But then, unexpectedly, the 29-year-old experienced a sudden power outage this past season and couldn’t replicate any of his previous career marks. 
As a result, the 6-foot-4 right-hander posted career lows in home runs (five), slugging percentage (.400) and isolated power (.108) over 493 plate appearances in 121 contests. He still enjoyed a productive showing, however, hitting for more contact (.291 AVG, .346 BABIP) and producing a 114 wRC+ score – seven points higher than last season’s mark (107). His strikeout rate (16.8 per cent) was also much improved, producing a career-best clip.
Those were all positive developments for Gurriel and the Blue Jays, though the reason behind his slugging metrics declining remained unclear. But perhaps it was caused by an injury. After the season, the team revealed that the veteran outfielder underwent surgery on his left hand to repair his hamate bone, which had previously gone undiagnosed until earlier this month.
While speaking to reporters during his end-of-season …

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Author: Thomas Hall / Blue Jays Nation

Blue Jays blow 8-1 lead, drop heartbreaker to the Mariners to end the season

Baseball (and all sports, honestly) are filled with highs and lows.
Just a week ago, the Blue Jays were celebrating a playoff berth in their clubhouse with nothing but good vibes. Now, their season is over, after suffering a 10-9 loss at the hands of the Seattle Mariners this afternoon. This was a game that the Blue Jays once led 8-1, but Seattle chipped away with one hit after another, tying the game in the 8th inning, and taking the lead in the 9th against Jordan Romano.
This game was very symbolic of the Blue Jays’ season; a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows. There were way too many storylines from this game alone, so here it goes, piece by piece…
The Blue Jays Jump Ahead
Robbie Ray was simply owned by Toronto’s offense, mainly Teoscar Hernandez. After an impressive 1st inning, Ray began to allow a spree of hard contact, starting with Alejandro Kirk. If anyone knew how to attack Ray coming into today, it would’ve surely been Kirk, who was Ray’s personal catcher last season. Kirk laced a double down the left field line, setting up Hernandez, who launched a two-run blast into the left field seats.
Ironically enough, the ESPN broadcast was discussing how Ray can really unravel if he leaves his f …

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Author: Evan Stack / Blue Jays Nation

Blue Jays clinch home-field advantage in the wild-card series as Seattle loses to Detroit

Playoff baseball is returning to Toronto.

The Blue Jays came into play on Monday with their magic number for clinching the top wild-card spot in the American League down to two. A 5-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles pushed that number to one and then the Blue Jays clinched as the Seattle Mariners lost by a score of 4-3 to the Detroit Tigers.
With home-field advantage locked up, the Blue Jays can now take it easy during their final two games of the season in Baltimore and give their regular players some time to rest. Mitch White is lined up to start against the O’s on Tuesday and Wednesday’s game is listed as TBA, though Yusei Kikuchi seems to be the likely candidate to start.
The only thing left to determine is who the Blue Jays will be hosting this weekend. The Tampa Bay Rays also lost on Monday so they remain a game-and-a-half back of the Mariners in the standings. Seattle has three more games left against the Tigers, including a doubleheader on Tuesday, while the Rays have two games left against the Boston Red Sox. Tampa also owns the tiebreaker between the two teams based on head-to-head record.
This weekend’s wild-card series will be Toronto’s first taste of playoff baseball at home since 2 …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Weekend Rambling: The 2023 Offence

Am I the only one who thinks it’s weird that baseball doesn’t have an ideal term for the non-pitcher part of the roster? You can say “the fielders” but there’s also a DH, you can say “the lineup” but there are bench players, you can say “the offence” but almost every player has to be considered on the defensive spectrum as well. Anyway, you get the idea.

As the third and final installment of this mini-series, this one has a lot of just stating the obvious, the same way I did with the top three starting pitchers, but also a maybe surprising amount of caveats and qualifications to anything that you might want to firmly declare. But we need a starting place, so let me go with this: while this offense could certainly use some tweaks and no team, particularly a contender, simply rolls over the same basic roster from one season to the next, let’s not misunderstand a core truth here – this team is GOOD.
As a group, you can look at both team results and also go position by position. While it’s true that offence is down some from the year before in many cases, it is like that across the league (T …

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Author: Tammy Rainey / Blue Jays Nation