Projecting the Blue Jays' Opening Day roster

February 12th, 2024

TORONTO -- If you like Spring Training competitions, you’re in the wrong place.

The Blue Jays are essentially running it back, leaving them in a similar place to a year ago as camp opens in Dunedin, Fla. This veteran roster is, for the most part, locked in.

In 2023, the only true “camp competition” was between Otto Lopez and Nathan Lukes for the 26th spot on the roster. That eventually went to Lukes, but with the Blue Jays barely utilizing their final roster spot throughout the season, it didn’t lead to much.

This year’s competitions feel like they’ll happen on the roster’s doorstep. Top prospects Orelvis Martinez, Addison Barger, Leo Jimenez and Damiano Palmegiani will jockey for position, each vying to be the next man up, but it would take a phenomenal camp for them to crack the Opening Day roster.

This is a roster that still feels one piece away from truly fitting together, but for now, this is how it could all shake out:

Catcher (2): ,
Easy. This position remains a strength and there’s reason to believe in more upside, too. Kirk will enjoy a full camp this spring, which should set him up well to bounce back, and if Jansen can go a few weeks without taking a fastball off his knuckles, he’s primed to have a career year entering free agency.

First base (2): ,
Giving Guerrero 125 starts at first base with one DH day per week feels like the sweet spot. Horwitz isn’t the most natural fit here, given that Justin Turner and Cavan Biggio can also play at first base. But the organization loves his bat, and Horwitz’s veteran-like approach should allow him to succeed as a pinch-hitter when needed. If Horwitz can crush right-handed pitching, which he’s been doing, then there’s a role.

Second base (2): ,
Biggio will play everywhere, but I expect the largest share of those reps to come at second base, a position that will be a revolving door all season. How often the Blue Jays can trust Schneider in left field is a major variable -- keep an eye on that in spring -- but his bat needs to be in the lineup as often as possible.

Shortstop (1):
Bichette is the best bet on this roster to play 162 games, and the young star has continued to take strides as a defender. Bichette dedicates incredible time to that area of his game, and it is paying off. Santiago Espinal and Ernie Clement would be the primary backups here, but No. 6 prospect Leo Jimenez is a true shortstop and could force his way in.

Third base (1):
Much like second base, third will be a revolving door. You’ll see some of Justin Turner, Santiago Espinal, Cavan Biggio and others, but Kiner-Falefa should get the most cracks -- if the Blue Jays don’t make another move. This position could be closely tied to the outfield, though.

Outfield (3): , ,
Carrying just three outfielders doesn’t feel ideal, but consider that after breaking camp with Nathan Lukes last season, he made just 16 plate appearances in the first two months. Instead, the Blue Jays could opt to slide Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Davis Schneider, Cavan Biggio and others to the outfield on certain days. If an injury strikes, a true outfielder could be recalled on a more permanent basis. Keep an eye on No. 5 prospect Addison Barger.

Designated hitter (1):
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and others will get their days at DH, but this should be Turner’s spot for the majority of games.

Utility (1):
Half this roster could fit under the banner of “utility,” but Espinal gets the nod for now. His ability to back up Bo Bichette at shortstop is valuable, but the Blue Jays would love to see him rebound at the plate, especially if Espinal could do more damage against lefties.

Starting pitchers (5): , , , ,
The top four? Locked in. The fifth spot will be a competition between Manoah, and potentially Yariel Rodriguez, but Manoah lands in Dunedin with the inside track.

Relief pitchers (8): , , , , , , ,
This projection accounts for the chance Yariel Rodriguez sees some time in Triple-A as he builds up to contribute through the heart of the season. In the bullpen more than any other position, remember: the Opening Day roster is just the first version and can change one week in.