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Toronto Blue Jays Series Preview: A four-game set, eh?

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The Royals are going to celebrate Canada Day in style!

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees
Jun 24, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (27) reacts after hitting an RBI double against the New York Yankees during the first inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin
Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Blue Jays have a very bright future. Young players like Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., Lourdes Gurriel, Jr., Cavan Biggio and Danny Jansen are already in the big leagues with multiple other top 100 prospects still remaining in the system. And that’s before they trade Marcus Stroman, a move likely to happen in the next few weeks that should add even more talent to a deep group. They have a bright future but the present doesn’t exactly require shades. The offense does have some pop but struggles to score most of the time. The pitching staff has some bright spots, including some nice pieces in the bullpen, but struggles to limit runs most of the time. The Royals might actually be the better team here, which is a pretty damning thing to say. The untraditional wrap-around series that ends Monday on Canada Day, which makes it tough for me to think the Royals can win another road series, but at least it’s possible.

Meet the Blue Jays

Meet the Blue Jays

Category Royals Blue Jays
Category Royals Blue Jays
Winning % .346 .358
Team wRC+ 86 82
Team xFIP 4.83 4.75
Run Differential -60 -89
Highest fWAR Hunter Dozier, 2.3 Marcus Stroman, 2.0

Blue Jays Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Eric Sogard DH 225 .301 .369 .495 9.8% 13.8% 129 1.7
Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. 3B 217 .250 .318 .408 8.8% 19.4% 94 0.2
Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. LF 174 .304 .351 .615 5.7% 25.9% 151 1.3
Cavan Biggo 2B 111 .244 .373 .456 17.1% 27.9% 123 0.5
Teoscar Hernandez CF 209 .201 .273 .360 9.1% 30.6% 66 -0.2
Justin Smoak 1B 261 .225 .364 .423 16.5% 18.0% 114 0.7
Randal Grichuk RF 333 .228 .285 .414 6.9% 28.5% 83 0.0
Freddy Galvis SS 308 .264 .302 .438 5.2% 22.4% 94 0.9
Danny Jansen C 202 .184 .269 .274 9.9% 22.8% 48 0.3

Blue Jays Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Luke Maile C 103 .168 .225 .253 6.8% 26.2% 26 -0.2
Brandon Drury INF/OF 238 .211 .252 .354 5.0% 29.4% 57 -0.3
Rowdy Tellez 1B 255 .226 .282 .453 6.3% 28.6% 88 -0.3

Blue Jays Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Ken Giles 27 27.0 1 1 43.9% 7.5% 1.33 2.11 1.4
Joe Biagini 36 34.2 2 1 23.1% 6.3% 3.63 3.72 0.2
Tim Mayza 37 29.1 0 0 28.2% 13.0% 4.60 3.63 0.2

Probable Pitching Matchups

Friday June 28th - 6:07pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Danny Duffy 11 62.1 3 3 18.9% 8.7% 4.48 5.20 0.6
Sean Reid-Foley (AAA) 14 69.0 3 3 24.5% 16.2% 5.87 5.29 ---

With the injury to Edwin Jackson, the Blue Jays will turn to Sean Reid-Foley, a 23-year old righty who debuted last season in a loss at Kauffman Stadium. In that game, he held his own decently, going five innings and giving up three runs on six hits with a home run allowed. He had varying levels of success after that and has spent most of the year in AAA struggling. He’s just walked way too many batters, so while he’s striking out plenty, his WHIP of 1.52 just doesn’t cut it. He has loud stuff, but it doesn’t always translate. The fastball can reach the upper-90s with a solid slider and a curve and change that he can use as off-speed pitches. Really the issue is command and control. If he has it, he’s a handful. If he doesn’t, he’s not really a threat. In that start last year, Whit Merrifield went three for three against him, so maybe he can maintain the perfect dream in this one.

Danny Duffy was outstanding against the Twins on Saturday afternoon, but was probably left in an inning too long and gave up two home runs in an eighth he shouldn’t have ever seen. He ended up giving up three runs on six hits in eight innings and was bailed out by an eighth inning rally that the Royals eventually gave back when Wily Peralta came in. But it was a nice bounceback from an even at best start against the Mariners the time out previously. He’s really been pretty much just okay for awhile now, but has gone 20 innings over his last three starts with seven walks and a 4.05 ERA. You’d really like to see more swings and misses because that’ll help with the consistency, but I’m not sure we’re going to. The Blue Jays have been better against lefties than righties, so this might be a tough go for Duffy.

Saturday June 29th - 3:07pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Homer Bailey 16 80.0 7 6 20.9% 9.3% 4.61 4.53 1.3
Marcus Stroman 17 100.2 5 9 18.5% 7.2% 3.04 4.11 2.0

There are probably only a handful of home starts for Marcus Stroman left in Toronto before he’s moved to another team, and he’s having a very good season on the surface. The ERA is great. The peripherals are good. And he’s just not winning, which is directly related to his poor team. He’s basically doing what he’s always done, but he’s back to limiting hits like he did in his rookie season way back in 2014. He’s never going to be a guy to get a ton of strikeouts, but he keeps the ball on the ground with the best of them and can make for some very frustrating games. While his velocity isn’t anything special, he has some elite fastball spin rate and that gets some funky contact for opponents. The average launch angle on his sinker is -6°, which is, well, pretty impressive and his slider, like Biagini, is the moneymaker. He has struck out 45 of the 77 batters he’s punched out on that pitch and I have a feeling it’ll give the Royals a lot of trouble. He’s 3-1 with a 2.42 ERA in his career against KC in four starts, and I kind of expect more of the same in this one.

I, like most, was about to throw in the towel on the Homer Bailey experiment after he got lit up by the Rangers at the start of the month. Since then, he’s made four starts with a 1.44 ERA over 25 innings and he’s gone from a DFA candidate to a legitimate trade candidate. He’s not doing anything particularly special, but he’s getting the job done and it’s nice to see as he’s really keeping guys off base and limiting home runs. That’s the name of the game in 2019 baseball. The home run part hasn’t been a problem for him all year, in spite of his name, but the walks haven’t always been under control for him. You can usually tell early if he’s got it going, so we’ll know quickly what kind of Bailey start this is. In his long career, he’s never faced the Blue Jays. It’s hard to find a first for a pitcher who has been around for a decade plus, but this is one.

Sunday June 30th - 12:07pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brad Keller 17 100.0 3 9 16.6% 11.1% 4.32 4.93 1.4
Aaron Sanchez 17 84.0 3 10 17.6% 12.2% 5.89 5.26 0.1

There was a time, not long ago, when it seemed the Blue Jays had a rotation mainstay and star in Aaron Sanchez. Injuries started the downfall, but he’s ni the midst of his worst season yet. The strikeotus haven’t really ever come and the walks have remained a problem, but he’s become much easier to hit in the process. That’s a brutal combination. He still throws pretty hard, averaging around 94 with both his four-seam and his sinker, but that’s way down from the 95+ in 2015 and 2016 when he was rocking. He’s also getting hit really hard on the four-seamer this year with a .301 average against and .602 slugging percentage with not nearly enough swings and misses. Even last year, which was a slog for him, he allowed a .250 average and .317 slugging percentage on the fastball, so this is pretty bad for him. Like Stroman, he’s had success against the Royals, but this is a different Sanchez than the last time they saw him in 2016.

Brad Keller got the short end of the stick in his last start because he was pitching well before a rain delay cut his start short. He had three shutout innings with four strikeouts and no walks and then that was it. It was a very nice bounceback from his disaster start against the Mariners and what I wanted to see from him but didn’t get the full chance. Still, a pitcher is going to get hit hard sometimes. It’s what he does the next time that tells a lot of the story, and he pitched much better. And now, even with that horrible start and the rain shortened one, he’s averaging six innings per over his last seven and has a 3.86 ERA with just 11 walks in 42 innings. The walks are the great news, so hopefully he can maintain that.

Monday July 1st - 12:07pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Glenn Sparkman 15 55.1 2 3 12.6% 5.9% 4.07 5.49 -0.1
Clayton Richard 7 31.1 0 4 10.6% 11.3% 6.89 5.73 -0.4

Of the two lefties named Clayton, the Blue Jays have the wrong one. Clayton Richard has been thrust into their rotation with all their injuries and it hasn’t gone well. He’s walked more than he’s struck out and he’s given up a ton of hits and a ton of home runs. He’s honestly probably lucky to have a 6.89 ERA and not higher, so there’ sthat for him. He’s also hit three batters and balked three times. In those limited innings, that’s actually pretty impressive. He’s done some things relatively well. He’s limited lefties to a .192/.323/.308 average, but has basically undone all that good by allowing a .333/.414/.656 line to righties. He’s made seven starts and he’s made to the fifth inning in just four of them. The second and third time through the order, he’s allowed a .357/.431/.629 line, which probably explains the sentence before this one.

The Blue Jays selected Glenn Sparkman in the Rule 5 draft a couple years ago and didn’t keep him on the roster after an absolute disaster of two outings, which allowed the Royals to get him back and he’s shown some nice things for them this season. The mid-90s fastball looks good, but he just doesn’t get the swings and misses on it and has really relied on hsi changeup to get hitters out with opponents hitting .172 on that pitch. Ultimately, if he doesn’t get more swings and misses, it’s going to catch up with him like it did in the fifth and sixth innings against Cleveland on Tuesday. Hunter Dozier bailed him out, but that start was a great example why I have high-ish hopes for Sparkman as a middle reliever or maybe a seventh inning type guy but don’t see it working as a starter long-term. But for now, it’s working well enough and why not find out if he can add some whiffs to make it work better?

Prediction

Would anyone blink if they just canceled the series and awarded each team two wins? Doubt it. With that as my guide, I give the Royals a split here. What do you think?

Poll

What result below would you beat 10 loonies on?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    Royals Sweep
    (8 votes)
  • 6%
    Blue Jays Sweep
    (4 votes)
  • 15%
    Royals Win Three of Four
    (9 votes)
  • 15%
    Blue Jays Win Three of Four
    (9 votes)
  • 41%
    SPLIT
    (25 votes)
  • 8%
    MLB Cancels Series, Declares Tie
    (5 votes)
60 votes total Vote Now