2nd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Toronto Blue Jays

The last of the five AL East team previews, part of previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2016 season, takes a look at the Toronto Blue Jays, who won the division last season.

The Blue Jays ended a playoff drought of more than 20 years last season when they won the AL East with a 93-69 record, en route to a playoff run that ended in the American League Championship Series. Looking for a repeat performance in 2016, they made a trade in January to improve their bullpen, which was their Achilles heel last year, by trading OF Ben Revere to the Nationals in exchange for RP Drew Storen, who will take over as closer for a Blue Jays team that had the second-fewest saves in the majors and the fifth-most blown saves in the American League last season. The starting rotation, which had the fifth-best ERA in the AL, should get a bump this season with the return of SP Marcus Stroman at the top of the rotation, after he started just four games last year after missing most of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery.

The Blue Jays had one of the top offenses in the American League last season. Their .269 average was tied for the second best in the league, while they led the AL in home runs and RBI with 232 and 852, respectively. Their 852 RBI were 115 more than the second-place team, the Yankees. The Blue Jays had two 40-homer guys and a third who hit 39 home runs in 2015 — 3B Josh Donaldson — who earned AL MVP honors — hit 41, OF Jose Bautista had 40 and DH Edwin Encarnacion just missed the 40 mark, with 39. Each of those three players also had at least 111 RBI. The pitching staff also did well for Toronto, finishing the season with the fifth-lowest ERA (3.80) in the American League. Part of that success came from SP David Price, who made 11 starts in the second half of the season after being acquired in a trade with the Tigers and signed with the Red Sox in the offseason. Other than Price, SP Marco Estrada led the rotation with a 3.13 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 181 innings, including 28 starts. As mentioned, Stroman missed most of the season with injury, but he pitched well in the four starts he had late in the year, putting up a 1.67 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 27 innings. Although none of the Blue Jays’ relievers had more than 20 saves last year, they had some success out of the bullpen. RPs Roberto Osuna, Liam Hendriks — who is with the A’s in 2016 — and Brett Cecil all finished the year with sub-3.00 ERAs and more than 70 strikeouts.

Trading Revere opens up a spot for OF Michael Saunders, who is coming off of knee surgery, to slot into the starting role in left field. The Blue Jays will be missing 2B Devon Travis, who had a strong rookie season with limited playing time in 2015, until at least May as he recovers from shoulder surgery. That means light-hitting 2B Ryan Goins will be the starter at the position for the first month of the season, or longer. The Blue Jays added depth in the rotation, adding veteran pitchers Gavin Floyd and Jesse Chavez to the roster, but they will likely only make spot starts when needed and won’t see much time in the rotation unless the regular starters get hurt. The team will get a big addition to the starting staff, though, with Stroman healthy and seemingly ready to take over the role of the team’s ace.

The Blue Jays not only won the AL East last season, but they were one of the best teams in the majors and came within two wins of making it to the World Series. They lost some offense by trading Revere in order to improve their bullpen by adding Storen. Other than that, their roster is similar to what it was last season, which is a good thing for them. They’re still the best team in the East, and should win a the division for the second straight season.

Be sure to check back every day at 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Source: http://www.bluejays.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com, http://www.fangraphs.com

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