TORONTO -- The Blue Jays announced their initial 58-man player pool on Sunday, the first major step in roster construction as clubs begin to report to summer camps ahead of the 60-game 2020 regular season.
Toronto included each of its top five prospects per MLB Pipeline in its player pool, giving them an opportunity to continue their development as Minor League play appears unlikely this season. This is something the Blue Jays value, and it’s still possible that Austin Martin, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 Draft, will join this group once he signs.
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“After we feel like we have the right number to satisfy that depth, how do we utilize the remaining slots and how do we prioritize those players?” Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro said Friday. “How do we ensure that there’s an opportunity to foster their development? I think it is, and it can be. Those are absolutely conversations we’re having.”
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According to MLB's Operating Manual, all players on a 40-man roster “that the Club anticipates participating” during the season will be part of the player pool, while the rest will be made up of non-40-man roster players under contract. Any 40-man-roster players who are not included in a player pool (for example, maybe a prospect who isn’t deemed ready for the Majors) will still be paid during the season.
No team will be allowed to exceed the limit of 60 players in its player pool at any time during camp or the regular season.
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Here’s a look at the 58 players currently in Toronto’s player pool:
Catchers (5): Riley Adams, Danny Jansen, Caleb Joseph, Reese McGuire, Alejandro Kirk
Jansen and McGuire will be the 1A and 1B this season, but over 60 regular-season games, there won’t be a need to share reps for the sake of workload alone. Expect Joseph to be the next man up as the taxi squad catcher, but No. 5 prospect Kirk hits everything and should continue to make plenty of noise after impressing in February and March.
Infielders (12): Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Andy Burns, Brandon Drury, Santiago Espinal, Jordan Groshans, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Joe Panik, Travis Shaw, Kevin Smith, Rubén Tejada, Rowdy Tellez
The starting infield will still be an all-bloodlines group of Guerrero, Bichette, Biggio and Shaw, but the inclusion of No. 2 prospect Jordan Groshans stands out here. Groshans hasn’t played above Class A, but this will be an opportunity for him to continue his development in an MLB environment. Given the value of versatility on the three-man traveling taxi squad, keep Espinal’s name in mind. He has the ability to play multiple positions, and his line-drive approach at the plate impressed manager Charlie Montoyo this spring.
Outfielders (8): Anthony Alford, Jonathan Davis, Derek Fisher, Randal Grichuk, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Teoscar Hernández, Billy McKinney, Forrest Wall
The starting outfield remains Gurriel in left, Grichuk in center and Hernández in right, but the other competitions could last well into the season as rosters are trimmed. A 60-game regular season could mean the hot bats will get the opportunity to play in reserve behind them.
Starting pitchers (19): Chase Anderson, Ryan Borucki, Thomas Hatch, Anthony Kay, Elvis Luciano, Alek Manoah, Julian Merryweather, Patrick Murphy, Joey Murray, Nate Pearson, Hector Perez, Sean Reid-Foley, Tanner Roark, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Matt Shoemaker, Trent Thornton, Jacob Waguespack, Simeon Woods Richardson, T.J. Zeuch
This list showcases the Blue Jays’ starting pitching depth. Teams will experiment with rotation sizes and workload limits, but for now, the top four of Ryu, Roark, Anderson and Shoemaker are likely to be joined by Thornton, who held the advantage when Spring Training was suspended in March. With so many names here, though, don’t be surprised to see some used in bullpen roles.
The marquee name is Pearson, the club’s No. 1 prospect and MLB's No. 8 overall prospect. Service time remains an issue, but his triple-digit arm and devastating secondary offerings could lead to a few wins along the way. No. 3 prospect Woods Richardson is also joined by Manoah (No. 4), two big, strong right-handers behind Pearson.
Relief pitchers (14): Anthony Bass, Travis Bergen, A.J. Cole, Rafael Dolis, Wilmer Font, Sam Gaviglio, Ken Giles, Justin Miller, Brian Moran, Thomas Pannone, Jake Petricka, Jordan Romano, Ty Tice, Shun Yamaguchi
There will still be competition here, including for the eighth-inning setup role in front of Giles. Bass and Dolis had the advantage in March, but given the unpredictable nature of bullpen arms, much can change in the coming weeks. Yamaguchi might still be the wild card here, as the Blue Jays believe he can be a major factor, despite stumbling in Spring Training.
Keegan Matheson is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter @KeeganMatheson.