Let’s be honest. Len’s article on why you should cheer for the Colorado Rockies was well done, but come on. You’re an Edmontonian (probably), an Albertan, and a patriotic Canadian. You’re not going to cheer for the Rockies. As a proud canuck, you want to cheer for Canada’s Team: The Toronto Blue Jays.
For returning members of the fan club, welcome back. Good to see you. If you’re new, you picked the best time to hop on the bandwagon. I won’t bore you with a detailed retelling of the club’s history or the relief pitcher depth chart. I’m here to tell you exactly what to look forward to this season and beyond.
I present to you the Fan’s Guide to the 2021 Toronto Blue Jays:
The Kids are Alright
If I’m brutally honest, the best time to become a Jays fan would have been around 2017 and 2018. Then, you would have witnessed the debuts of Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Cavan Biggio, and Danny Jansen. But that’s alright because this team’s core is very young and won’t reach their full potential for a few seasons. If you’re the sentimental type like me, this is good. We have the opportunity to watch the Baby Jays grow into superstars. When five Jays represent the American League in the 2025 All-Star Game, you can brag to your friends that you were rooting for them since Day One.
Of course, the club’s youth brings fire and swagger that other teams just don’t possess. The Jays play an exciting brand built around athleticism in the field and swinging as hard as possible. If you’re an old-school baseball fan, Bichette and Biggio have taken full advantage of their big league pedigrees and developed elite baseball IQ. I haven’t even brought up the procession of exciting young arms manager Charlie Montoyo can send to the mound. Nate Pearson is a Top 100 Prospect in baseball, thanks to his electric fastball and wicked slider. He’s joined by Ryan Borucki, Trent Thornton, Anthony Kay, and Canadian Jordan Romano as options to work out of the bullpen or in a starter’s role.
Suppose that’s not enough to whet your appetite. In that case, Toronto has a top three Minor League system loaded with future Major Leaguers. Vladdy, BoFlows & Co. will soon be joined by Top 100 Prospects Austin Martin, Jordan Groshans, and Simeon Woods Richardson. The farm system has prospects coming out of their ears looking to crack an already stacked team.
Of course, no team can win on youth alone. You need grizzled vets, clubhouse leaders, guys who have been there and seen everything the game has thrown at them. Let’s start with Hyun-Jin Ryu, a top-three starting pitcher in the American League last season. He’s a proven ace that will give you a chance to win every fifth day, no questions asked.
He’s joined by the newly acquired Marcus Semien, a 2019 AL MVP Finalist who can play third base, second base, or shortstop. If he can find some of that success this season, he will add lots of value to what is already one of baseball’s best lineups.
Of course, that’s not the Free Agent signing that has Blue Jays fans buzzing. The team got George Springer to fill the hole in centre field. After not playing in the Free Agent market in the last five years, that’s two years in a row getting a big fish (Ryu in 2020). For $150 million over six years, Toronto acquired a former World Series MVP, three-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger, 5.0 WAR Player. With this move, the Front Office has indicated that their championship window is officially open.
Let’s Play Ball
Most projections for the 2021 season have the Jays finishing second or third in the AL East. The competition is the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays. It is very possible and even somewhat likely that the Jays surpass both of these teams to win the division, but many things have to go right.
For starters, the Blue Jays have to improve their starting pitching. After Ryu and Pearson, it starts to get somewhat thin. Based on what I’ve seen from GM Ross Atkins, the odds of Toronto acquiring a useful starter at the trade deadline are high. To win the pennant race, the Jays will also have to count on the development of their core progressing as scheduled, which often doesn’t happen. Vlad Jr. needs to have a breakout season. His career has been underwhelming for a former number one prospect. They don’t have to worry about the bullpen – it was the team’s primary strength in 2020 despite losing Ken Giles. If everything clicks, the Jays could shock the world.
Another reason to be optimistic is the question marks surrounding both the Yankees and Rays. Tampa Bay just won the AL Pennant last year, but it was on the back of career seasons up and down the lineup, and they just lost elite starters, Blake Snell and Charlie Morton. I find it hard to imagine a scenario where the Rays are as dominant as last season, and I give the edge to the Blue Jays on paper.
The Yankees are the consensus pick to win the American League, but there should be some cause for concern for the Bronx Bombers. Aaron Judge is an MVP candidate if he’s healthy. Giancarlo Stanton has played 41 games since the start of 2019. Gary Sanchez forgot to swing a bat last season, and he is one of the worst defensive catchers in the game. Nobody seems to know what Corey Kluber or Jameson Taillon will bring to the club. On paper, the Yankees are one of the best three teams in Major League Baseball – nobody is disputing that. But the door is open, and the Jays are looking to slide their foot in it.
Speaking of the Yankees, the Blue Jays will kick off their season in New York on April 1st at 11:07 MDT.