With Spring Training right around the corner, the Toronto Blue Jays are rocking almost the exact same team as last year. But there are some key changes. New players such as Kendrys Morales, Steve Pearce, Joe Smith and Mat Latos give the team depth. The main issue here is that the Jays will be without long time clutch contributor Edwin Encarnacion, who left to Cleveland in free agency.
In what is considered by most as the toughest division in the MLB, the Jays will once again have a tough journey if they are going to make the postseason. The Boston Red Sox acquired Chris Sale this Winter and boast one of the scariest two-way teams in the entire league. The Baltimore Orioles re-signed Mark Trumbo, and will once again have a power-heavy lineup that can torch almost any pitcher, on any given day. As for the Yankees and Rays, those teams have the ability to surprise many. Especially if Gary Sanchez continues to dominate and Chris Archer has a comeback year.
But let’s put the focus back on the Blue Birds. Here is a list of three under-the-radar guys that aren’t particularly noticed by most, but could surprise many come April:
1. Kendrys Morales – It is no surprise that Kauffman Stadium is one of the worst ballparks for power hitters. Morales, who played for the Kansas City Royals last season, hit 30 homers and had 93 RBI’s. With Edwin Encarnacion gone, Morales has the power to replace Edwin. Playing at Rogers Centre instead of Kauffman Stadium should do wonders for Morales. Insert Kendrys Morales into the middle of Toronto’s lineup, and he will prove all doubters wrong.
2. Joe Biagini – After the Rule 5 pick from San Francisco shocked the MLB after putting up a stellar 3.06 ERA over 67 and two-third innings last season, many were wondering if the Blue Jays should test him as a starter. Nobody expected a guy who was battling Arnold Leon for the final bullpen role to end up as one of Toronto’s best relievers. While many can argue that Biagini has the talent and stamina to be a starter, it makes most sense for the right-hander to stay put. After not giving a single run over seven and a third post-season innings, expect Biagini to pick up where he left off this Spring.
3. Jarrod Saltalamacchia – After a season where Russell Martin was forced to play most nights, the Toronto Blue Jays finally addressed their lack of depth at the catcher position. Veteran catcher Saltalamacchia, who’s been playing in the Majors for 10 years, should be prepared to learn a whole new pitching staff for the third consecutive year. After signing with Arizona in 2015, and then Detroit in 2016, Saltalamacchia has brought his talents north of the border. Although he only hit .171 with a .284 OBP last season, Saltalamacchia won a World Series with the Red Sox in 2013, and knows how to deliver in clutch situations. Especially come October.