Projecting Blue Jays' Opening Day roster
In the battle for the Blue Jays’ final roster spot, infielder/outfielder Otto Lopez is using the World Baseball Classic as his grand stage.
The Blue Jays’ No. 14 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, Lopez launched a three-run home run to seal Canada’s 5-0 victory over Colombia in Pool C play. This came after he tripled and scored earlier in the game.
With how the Blue Jays’ roster is constructed, his mix of contact, speed and versatility makes a lot of sense. With infielder Addison Barger, the club's No. 6 prospect, and outfielder Nathan Lukes involved, it’s the one true competition to watch down the stretch.
Here’s how the 26-player roster could look on Opening Day:
Catcher (2): Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk
It was a game of musical chairs this offseason, and when the music stopped, former No. 1 prospect Gabriel Moreno was the odd man out, dealt to the D-backs for Daulton Varsho. Jansen and Kirk make a fantastic duo, though, and they could still see the odd DH reps on their off-days. Expect to see these two operate as a 1A and 1B to stay fresh down the stretch.
First baseman (1): Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
A healthy Guerrero should be at first base for nearly 140 games, mixing in some DH days along the way while Brandon Belt or Cavan Biggio man first. Guerrero is coming off his first career AL Gold Glove Award, showing remarkable footwork and hand-eye coordination, not to mention the flexibility that allows the big man to drop into the splits.
Second baseman (2): Whit Merrifield, Santiago Espinal
This position will be a revolving door that also includes Biggio, and who plays second each day could depend on where the other two are needed. When the Blue Jays face a left-hander, you could see Espinal at second with Merrifield in the outfield for a day. Getting Espinal more looks against lefties -- whom he mashes -- will be a priority for the Blue Jays in 2023.
Shortstop (1): Bo Bichette
Bichette wants to be out there for all 162 games, and he might be. Coming off a massive stretch run in 2022, Bichette has been locked in from Day One of camp and is playing with a new level of confidence. Belt said recently that Bichette is “going to be special,” and he’s not the only Blue Jays teammate or coach who is predicting a big season from the young star.
Third baseman (1): Matt Chapman
Chapman is another name that will be out there every day, giving the Blue Jays one of the best defensive third basemen in the game. The 29-year-old hit 27 home runs with a .757 OPS last season and is entering his free-agent year, so there’s no shortage of motivation.
Outfielders (3): George Springer, Kevin Kiermaier, Daulton Varsho
Most days, you’ll see Varsho in left, Kiermaier in center and Springer in right -- a dramatic shift from recent seasons. The trades of Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernández have shaken up this roster, though, and the outfield defense is significantly better for it. Depending on who’s on the mound, you’ll often see Biggio in right field or Merrifield in left field.
DH (1): Brandon Belt
Belt should slide in as the everyday DH, but this spot can still be used if someone like Springer or Guerrero needs a day off their feet. Belt brings years of championship experience from San Francisco and feels his surgically repaired right knee is back to 100%.
Utility (2): Cavan Biggio, Otto Lopez
This will be a big season for Biggio, who is working to get back to the on-base machine he was earlier in his career and as a prospect. He’ll split his time evenly between the infield and outfield. Lopez has done plenty to help his case for the 26th spot on the roster. Given his versatility, he’ll have a few different paths to even more playing time if he produces in his early opportunities.
Starting Pitchers (5): Kevin Gausman, Alek Manoah, Chris Bassitt, José Berríos, Yusei Kikuchi
The first four have long been locked in, giving the Blue Jays an impressive level of quality and length, especially if Berrios is able to rebound from a poor 2022. Kikuchi’s impressive spring has put him on the inside track to the No. 5 job. He’s also looking to bounce back.
Relief Pitchers (8): Jordan Romano, Erik Swanson, Yimi García, Adam Cimber, Anthony Bass, Tim Mayza, Trevor Richards, Mitch White
This is a deeper group than in 2022, largely due to the addition of Swanson from the Mariners. Chad Green could return from Tommy John surgery for the stretch run, too, while the hard-throwing Yosver Zulueta will compete for a spot. Canadian Zach Pop is in the picture, too, along with former No. 1 prospect Nate Pearson.