clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Blue Jays Series Preview: This series is going to be weird

But hey, at least a few guys will get four days of big league checks.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

You certainly know this by now, but there is a rule for teams traveling to Canada that says if a player has not received a vaccination for Covid, they can’t travel with their team. In those instances, the player is placed on the restricted list without pay and without accruing service time. In exchange, the team can put pretty much anyone on the roster whether they’re on the 40-man roster or not, which is what you’re going to see from a decent chunk of the Royals roster this weekend, meaning some players are going to get a full eight days off before they play again next Friday. That makes this series a tough one to preview. We know what the Blue Jays are at least and they’re kind of a mess in a different way. They’ve been looking up at the Yankees for the majority of the year, but after beating the Orioles on June 15, they were 37-25. That’s a 96-97 win pace. Since then, things have fallen apart. After losing to the Phillies last night, they’re 10-17 since then. With the Orioles surge, they’re only slightly ahead of them in the standings and with that freefall, they fired their manager, Charlie Montoyo before yesterday’s game.

The question is what is going on with them? They have, on paper, a ridiculous offense. Alejandro Kirk has been outstanding for them. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has been very good, but has fallen off quite a bit from his near-MVP 2021 season. Bo Bichette has just been average as a hitter. Still, they’ve been plenty good offensively on the whole. Their pitching staff, though, has had its issues, and many of those have come lately. They have a team ERA of just under 5.00 during their struggles and their bullpen has been one of the worst in baseball. They’re dealing with some injuries in their rotation, but even with that still have two very good starters in Kevin Gausman and Alek Manoah, which underscores how bad the rest of the rotation has been when they have those two leading things. Ultimately, I think this is still a good team, but it’ll be interesting to see what the managerial move does to them. Does it spark them or does it send them into a bigger spiral? There were reports of some clubhouse issues, so I think you’d assume that they’ll likely look more like the Phillies after their change than the Angels, but it’s one of those things you truly just don’t know until you know.

Royals vs. Blue Jays Matchup Stats

Category Royals Blue Jays
Category Royals Blue Jays
Winning % .398 .528
H2H Wins 1 2
Team wRC+ 94 112
Team xFIP 4.58 3.87
Run Differential -102 16
Highest fWAR Andrew Benintendi, 2.0 Kevin Gausman, 3.7

Blue Jays Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
George Springer CF 339 .250 .329 .483 9.1% 19.2% 125 2.1
Bo Bichette SS 393 .262 .305 .430 5.9% 24.4% 105 1.7
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 1B 378 .266 .344 .488 9.8% 18.0% 130 1.8
Alejandro Kirk DH 289 .312 .398 .480 11.4% 9.3% 149 2.7
Teoscar Hernandez RF 266 .267 .320 .474 6.4% 28.2% 121 1.4
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. LF 315 .304 .356 .436 6.0% 17.5% 123 1.1
Matt Chapman 3B 325 .218. .295 .405 8.9% 25.2% 95 1.2
Santiago Espinal 2B 342 .274 .325 .398 7.0% 16.1% 102 1.8
Danny Jansen C 65 .237 .292 .610 4.6% 15.4% 145 0.5

Blue Jays Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Zack Collins C 74 .209 .284 .448 8.1% 39.2% 103 0.1
Cavan Biggio INF/OF 153 .214 .349 .357 15.0% 29.4% 105 0.9
Raimel Tapia OF 249 .264 .290 .374 3.6% 18.5% 84 -0.4
Bradley Zimmer OF 81 .113 .213 .254 6.2% 38.3% 32 -0.2

Blue Jays Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Jordan Romano 33 32.0 2 2 27.3% 10.6% 2.53 3.71 0.6
Yimi Garcia 31 29.0 1 3 23.9% 4.4% 3.10 3.87 0.5
Tim Mayza 30 24.2 2 0 19.6% 7.8% 2.92 3.01 0.1

Royals vs. Blue Jays Projected Pitching Matchups

July 14 - LHP Angel Zerpa vs. RHP Kevin Gausman, 6:07pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Angel Zerpa 1 2.0 1 0 0.0% 0.0% 0.00 4.60 0.0
Kevin Gausman 16 88.0 6 6 27.0% 4.3% 2.86 2.81 3.7

First up for the Royals on the starting pitcher carousel this series will be Angel Zerpa, who will be making his second career big league start and will be pitching in his third career big league game. Zerpa impressed with command, only walking one batter last season in a loss to the Guardians in September. Then he was the 27th man for the doubleheader on Monday and ended up getting the win in relief, so he has that under his belt as he goes to take on an all-righty offense. Interestingly enough, the Blue Jays haven’t punished lefties the way you’d expect, so at least he has that going for him. The data is limited, but Zerpa has had success with his four-seamer in his two big league outings, which could be dangerous if he doesn’t locate well, but we’ll just have to see how it goes I guess.

Career vs. TOR: First Appearance

The Blue Jays signed Gausman to replace Robbie Ray, who won the Cy Young for them last season. In a lot of ways, Gausman’s 2022 has been very similar to Ray’s 2021. Their ERAs are comparable with lots of strikeouts and very few walks. Gausman has walked fewer batters and given up fewer home runs. He had to leave his last start after getting hit by a line drive in the ankle, but looks like he could return for this one. He’s been pretty steadily good all season with a bad start here and there but generally looking like he’s been well worth the money. Gausman is a three-pitch pitcher, but his four-seam fastball and splitter are his two heaviest use pitches. He throws the four-seamer just under half the time and his splitter 35.5 percent of the time. The fastball hasn’t been especially good this year, so I’m curious to see if he starts throwing the splitter more, which has been quite good. His slider is his third pitch and he gets a ton of whiffs on it, but like many sliders, it can be hit. Gausman has had reverse splits this, largely because of the splitter playing up really well to lefties.

Career vs. KC: 1 GS, 3.1 IP, 0-0, 13.50 ERA

July 15 - RHP Zack Greinke vs. RHP Alek Manoah, 6:07p

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Zack Greinke 14 73.2 3 5 12.5% 4.5% 4.52 4.69 0.7
Alek Manoah 17 107.2 9 4 22.7% 5.8% 2.34 3.89 2.1

Since Zack Greinke has been back from the IL, he’s given up one run or fewer in three of his four outings. All three of those have been at home against questionable offenses. His one road start was in Houston against the Astros and he got hit pretty hard in a game that he had an early lead, but couldn’t keep it. It was a bit reminiscent of starts he’d had in Colorado and Arizona, both hitters parks as well. So even though the Blue Jays haven’t been tearing the cover off the ball, their offense is still a good one, so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at all concerned about what this start could be for him. The Blue Jays put their bats on the ball and don’t walk a ton, which kind of plays into Greinke’s game these days, but if their power shows up, it could be trouble.

Career vs. TOR: 14 G, 12 GS, 77.2 IP, 5-4, 3.94 ERA

Manoah has been so good this year, but his season has taken a bit of a downturn over the last few weeks. He had a great start against the Royals in Kansas City and then another one against Baltimore. But since then, he’s been simply solid with a 3.94 ERA in his last five starts. For that to be considered a “slump” for him just underscores how good he’s been this season. He has a four-seamer, slider, sinker and changeup and what’s interesting about his fastball is that he throws it in the middle of the zone. A lot. He gets a good amount of swings and misses on it, but his slider is really his swing and miss pitch. It’s a very, very good one. And his sinker and changeup have been good as well, which makes sense given how good Manoah has been all year. If he has a weakness, it’s left-handed batters, but even that is questionable. He’s definitely a monster against righties, holding them to a .157/.208/.267 line this year. But against lefties, he’s allowed a .256/.320/.387 line, which isn’t great, but is at least something you feel like you can beat him with. The other weakness you can find is that he does tend to struggle some once he gets to the third time through the order and in later innings, so you assume he won’t be in the game that long.

Career vs. KC: 2 GS, 13.0 IP, 2-0, 0.00 ERA

July 16 - LHP Daniel Lynch vs. RHP Max Castillo, 2:07pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Daniel Lynch 14 67.2 3 7 22.0% 10.0% 4.92 4.55 0.6
Max Castillo 6 15.2 0 0 30.5% 5.1% 2.30 2.72 0.0

It’s hard to say for sure if Daniel Lynch will avoid another IL stint for his cut on his finger, but that they haven’t put him on could be a clue or maybe they’re just out of arms. Either way, he’s in line for this start potentially. And in his first start back from his blister issues, there was some good and some bad. The good is that he only walked one batter in his four innings of work and he threw two-thirds of his pitches for strikes. I thought his slider looked good and he both got some whiffs on his fastball and wasn’t completely done in by foul balls. The bad was that while he threw strikes, I thought his command wavered between bad and fair and that led to him giving up quite a few hits before he had to exit. I’d say I’m more encouraged than discouraged, but I wish it was a little clearer of a delineation between those two.

Career vs. TOR: 2 GS, 11.2 IP, 0-2, 6.94 ERA

The Blue Jays have a couple of very big boys in their current rotation with Max Castilo in there. He’s listed at 6’2” and 280 lbs. Manoah is 6’6” and 285 lbs. Castillo has mostly worked as a starter in the minors but came to the big leagues to help out the bullpen and got his first start this past Sunday. It went okay enough and with injuries in the rotation, he’ll get another opportunity in this one. Castillo is mainly a fastball and changeup guy, but he also has a slider he’ll use occasionally and a curve he’ll use very occasionally. In his time in the big leagues, he’s shown an ability to both get the strikeout and limit walks, but he hasn’t gotten very deep into games yet. His highest pitch count was 69 in a relief outing about three weeks ago and then he threw 59 pitches in his start against Seattle. He’s shown an ability to get righties and lefties both out, but lefties have had an easier time against him, which is all relative. That’s a bit surprising because his changeup has been pretty good and you’d expect that to neutralize lefties.

Career vs. KC: First Appearance

July 17 - LHP Kris Bubic vs. RHP Jose Berrios, 11:05am (on Peacock)

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Kris Bubic 14 54.1 1 6 18.3% 13.2% 6.63 4.88 -0.2
Jose Berrios 18 95.1 7 4 20.7% 5.5% 5.38 4.08 0.3

I was ready to tear my hair out on Tuesday night watching Kris Bubic pitch in the first inning when he threw 25 pitches and walked two batters. But a funny thing happened after that. He threw 74 more pitches in 4.2 innings before being pulled and 55 of them were strikes. Sure he gave up some hits, but he suddenly found the zone. I anticipate he’ll struggle with the zone against this righty-heavy Blue Jays lineup because I would guess he’ll be trying to pitch to the edges and his command isn’t good enough for that, but if he’s going to have success against that lineup, his changeup is going to be the answer. It’s not that this team can’t hit a changeup, but we all know that it’s the pitch that can help a lefty who doesn’t have overwhelming stuff get it done against right-handed power. Good luck, Kris. We’re all counting on you.

Career vs. TOR: First Appearance

I think what Jose Berrios has done this year qualifies as a bit of a disaster. After the Twins sent him to the Blue Jays at the deadline last year, Berrios was basically himself. He wasn’t an ace, but he pitched like one at times. So the Jays signed him to a seven-year, $131 million deal in the offseason and he’s come in and pitched generally pretty poorly. The walks are still under control, but his strikeouts are down and he’s getting hit more than in any season since his rookie year when he was truly terrible. And the answer of why is very easy. His fastball has been an awful pitch. By run value, it’s been the sixth-worst four-seam fastball in baseball (Bubic’s is fourth-worst, FYI). The numbers support it too. He’s allowed a .368 average and .648 slugging percentage on it. Lefties are slugging .775 on it! But what’s interesting is he’s been pretty much fine at home. He has a 3.40 ERA with a 26.6 percent strikeout rate and 5.9 percent walk rate compared with a 7.15 ERA on the road with a 15.9 percent strikeout rate and 5.3 percent walk rate. I don’t know what accounts for that unless the man in white is not only helping Blue Jays hitters but distracting opposing hitters. Regardless, Berrios has a chance to get right facing a pretty depleted lineup.

Career vs. KC: 18 GS, 105.0 IP, 6-4, 4.54 ERA

Royals vs. Blue Jays Prediction

I actually like the way the Royals are playing right now. They’re 18-16 in their last 34 games, have won three of their last four series and in the one they lost, they put up a heck of a fight against a much better team in the Astros. But I don’t know how much that matters without either catcher, their best hitter for average, a middle-of-the-order bat and either of their options in center field. Not to mention, they’re without probably the best chance at seven innings from any of their starters who would have gone in this series. So it’s hard to predict. I always say a four-game sweep is tough and I’ll stick with it for this one and guess the Royals snag one win out of the four.

SB Nation has partnered with DraftKings to sponsor select series previews this season. Here are the betting odds for this series. The Royals are 1.5 run underdogs tonight with a +300 moneyline, and an over/under of 9 runs scored in the game.


The Kansas Citaharkansas Roystorchaturals have four in Toronto. How many does this ragtag group of misfits win?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    I believe in the yutes. They’ll sweep the Jays.
    (13 votes)
  • 3%
    They’ll let the Blue Jays win one game just to keep their morale high. Great character!
    (9 votes)
  • 19%
    It’ll be a split between these two evenly matched teams (they’ll both have 26 players at least).
    (48 votes)
  • 39%
    I am not voting under the influence, but I do believe the delegation from Kansas City can steal a win.
    (97 votes)
  • 32%
    Like Butch Cassidy, I wonder who are those guys and believe they will get nothing and they will like it.
    (79 votes)
246 votes total Vote Now