The Toronto Blue Jays were thought of as a perennial American League powerhouse after making it to the ALCS the past two seasons. Now, this underachieving 2017 squad might not even make it into the postseason. There are still 47 games remaining in the regular season and anything could happen, but the Jays definitely dug themselves a hole this time around.
C Russell Martin: C+
Russell Martin has been average this season on the offensive side of things. He is sitting at a .224 AVG for the season with an OBP of .355, 12 HR, and 27 RBI. His on-base percentage is right around his career average of .355, but his RBI total has slipped due to his slumping teammates’ inability to reach base. Defensively he has always been a standout at his position, but this year he has successfully filled in at 3B for the once-injured Josh Donaldson for 10 games. In those 10 games, he did not commit a single error. Behind the plate, he is throwing out 22% of the runners who attempt to steal, which is down from his career average of 31%.
1B Justin Smoak: A+
Justin Smoak has been one of the league’s biggest surprises in this 2017 season. His defense has been superb (as usual) as his career fielding percentage sits at a phenomenal 99.6%. This year, it has been nothing but the same. His fielding percentage is 99.9% while only committing one single error. While his defense has been extremely solid, his offense is arguably equally impressive. He is hitting .293 with 31 HR and 76 RBI. His HR and RBI totals have already established new career-highs for Smoak, and if his average stays above .239 (it would take a catastrophic meltdown for him not to do so), he will have obtained a new career-high in that statistic as well.
2B Devon Travis: C
This is another injury-plagued season for Devon Travis this season as a knee injury most likely will spell the end to his 2017 campaign. This will be the third consecutive year that Travis’ season will be cut prematurely due to injury. But, while he was healthy, he was extremely productive offensively. While he only played in 50 games, his hit 18 doubles. That is incredible, especially for a 2B of his stature. He also managed to hit 5 HR and drive in 24 runs.
SS Troy Tulowitzki: D+
“Tulo” has not preformed to his standards since his move to Toronto back in 2015. He has always been an elite player at his position, but his injuries may have caught up to him as he has aged. While playing in 66 games this season, he posted a .249 batting line with only 7 HR and 26 RBI this season. A compression fracture with significant ligament damage in his right ankle has caused an abrupt stoppage to his season. This is not the Tulowitzki that many are used to seeing. His superstar presence and offensive dominance have not been truly seen by the fans of the Blue Jays, and it will take even more time for them to witness it with his season being officially over.
3B Josh Donaldson: D+
Donaldson has arguably been the best 3B in the league the past 3 or 4 seasons dating back to his days as an Athletic, but this year has been very inconsistent for the former MVP. He has posted a futile .254 AVG with only 15 HR and 42 RBI in only 71 games. Health has definitely been the issue as he has missed a significant amount of time with a calf and knee injury, and even when he was playing, there were many times where “JD” looked as if and injury was still lingering.
LF Steve Pearce: B
Steve Pearce has arguably been the most valuable signing of this past offseason for the Blue Jays. His defense has been surprisingly consistent as he has only made 2 errors in left field in 64 games. Offensively, he has shined as one of the most powerful, clutch, and consistent hitters in the lineup. He is batting .267 with 11 HR and 33 RBI. Included in his HR and RBI totals are not one, but two walk-off grand slams that came within a week of each other, making Pearce the first player in MLB history do achieve this feat.
CF Kevin Pillar: B-
“Superman” is up to his old tricks defensively, making one highlight reel catch after another. His defense has always been the focal point of his game, as his offense has not quite caught up. He started off the season red-hot, and held the MLB lead in hits for a decent amount of time. But, he was suspended for two games and since then, he has never been the same at the plate. He is currently hitting .245 with 12 HR and 26 RBI. Many believe his bat will come around with experience, but only time will tell
RF Jose Bautista: C-
“Joey Bats” has been one of the league’s most feared sluggers for the past 7 years, but this season has been quite inconsistent for the former two-time Home Run champion. While his defense has been above average with his arm looking revived, his bat has lagged behind greatly. He is hitting only .216 with 19 HR and 51 RBI. Has age finally caught up to this legendary slugger? Many would say so.
DH/ 1B Kendrys Morales: B
Kendrys Morales is in the MLB and on the Blue Jays to do one thing: hit. He has done that for the Jays this season, clubbing clutch homer after clutch homer. He currently has 21 HR, 59 RBI, and is hitting .251. These numbers are what Toronto expected the aging slugger to produce, and he is doing a solid job of replacing Edwin Encarnacion.
IF Ryan Goins: B+
Goins has always had one of the best gloves in baseball, and while Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis have had multiple stints on the DL, this year has been a good time for Goins to showcase his abilities. Being only a part-time utility infielder, he has posted a .219 AVG with 5 HR and an astounding RBI total of 42. He is currently hitting .323 with RISP and .368 with RISP and two outs. Many want Goins to pretend that there are runners on base when they are actually empty when he is up at the plate, because he has been THAT good and extremely clutch for the Jays this season.
OF Ezequiel Carrera: A-
“Zeke” has been the most consistent hitter that the Blue Jays have had by the numbers this season. He is hitting .304 with an OBP of .371. As his defense has been frightening for fans at times, his bat has made up for it, posting the best batting average and third best OBP on the team.
Starting Pitching: D+
Last year, the Blue Jays posted the lowest team ERA in the American League. Aaron Sanchez was dominant and J.A. Happ was a 22 game-winner, both making bids for the AL Cy Young award. This season has been the exact opposite. Aaron Sanchez has only pitched in 8 games all season long with only 1 win to this point. Happ has only won 5 games out of the 16 he has pitched in. Marcus Stroman has been the lone bright spot in the rotation, winning 10 games with a 3.17 ERA. Marco Estrada has good of late, but before the trade deadline, he was, to put it frankly, horrible. He has an ERA of 4.85 and has only won 5 games this season in 24 games pitched.
As the starting rotation has taken its lumps over the course of the season, the bullpen has been able to pick up its slack most of the time. Roberto Osuna has emerged as one of the American League’s best closers, making his first stint as an All-Star in his young career. He has made 51 appearances with 29 saves, and has a 3.33 ERA alongside his 67 SO. Ryan Tepera has been a workhorse all season long, making 51 appearances, pitching in 58.1 IP, and posting a 3.39 ERA with 61 SO. The two biggest surprises out of the pen have been Dominic Leone and Danny Barnes. Barnes has an ERA of 3.13 while Leone has a 2.63 ERA.
Overall Team Grade: D
This team has underachieved, plain and simple. From winning the rugged AL East in 2015 to winning a dramatic Wild Card game this past season, the Blue Jays are behind the 8-ball this year as they are 11 games back in the division and are 4 games back of a Wild Card spot. For this team to make it to the postseason and make some noise, they need a spark. Whether that be from a new manager or a blockbuster trade for one of the team’s seasoned veterans, only the management has the answers. The starting pitching has been extremely inconsistent at best and the hitting has been just the same. Statistically, the Blue Jays potent offense topped the MLB in runs, doubles, home runs, RBI, BB, OBP, slugging %, OPS, total bases, and sacrifice flies, making them one of the most productive offenses of all time. That was only two short seasons ago. Even with Edwin Encarnacion departing to Cleveland, the Jays have gotten more production from Justin Smoak than they could have ever thought of getting from him, or maybe even EE himself. That void has been filled to the highest degree possible. The time is now to kick it into gear for the Jays. There are only 47 games left. Ground needs to be made quickly or soon they will be out of the picture. The offense needs a new approach. The pitching staff needs retooling. The bullpen can’t keep bailing out the team for its starters inability to not go deep into ballgames. For the first time in 3 years, the Blue Jays seem to be missing their swagger and attitude that made them who they were and that revived baseball in the city of Toronto. This team without a doubt has the talent to bring a World Series North of the border, but the real question remains: can they regain their swagger and fire in time to make a late playoff push?