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Predicting Blue Jays' Opening Day roster

@KeeganMatheson
November 5, 2019

TORONTO -- Looking ahead to 2020, the Blue Jays have a handful of clear needs to fill around their emerging young core. The starting rotation will be the club’s top priority entering this offseason, with multiple additions expected, but Toronto's front office will also be busy addressing its bullpen and

TORONTO -- Looking ahead to 2020, the Blue Jays have a handful of clear needs to fill around their emerging young core.

The starting rotation will be the club’s top priority entering this offseason, with multiple additions expected, but Toronto's front office will also be busy addressing its bullpen and complementing the positional group.

Here is how the new 26-man roster could play out on March 26, when the Blue Jays open their season at home against the Red Sox.

Catcher (2)
Locks: Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire
Possibilities: Luke Maile
Many teams will envy the Blue Jays’ catching depth in Jansen, a Gold Glove Award nominee in his rookie season, and McGuire, a solid defender in his own right who just keeps hitting at the Major League level. The veteran Maile is still in the picture, but it would take an injury or an unexpected move to open the door for him. At a position so many teams are scrambling for depth, Toronto has the luxury of two young, talented options.

First base (1)
Locks: Open (1)
Possibilities: Rowdy Tellez, free agent
With Justin Smoak a free agent, first base is wide open. Rowdy Tellez hit 21 home runs last season, but his .227 average and .293 on-base percentage show that there were some empty at-bats in between. Tellez will clearly have a shot at being part of the first-base/designated-hitter picture, but given the nature of that market, the Blue Jays could also find some real offensive value without committing much financially. Keep in mind that Smoak, also a Gold Glove Award candidate, brought an underappreciated value with his glove, operating as a safety net for his young infield throughout the season.

Offseason checklist: Blue Jays’ needs, moves

Second base (1)
Locks: Cavan Biggio
Second base is Biggio’s position for now. Manager Charlie Montoyo was pleasantly surprised with his defense, and if Biggio can post another .793 OPS and potentially hit 20-plus home runs over the course of a full season, that’s some serious value from second.

Shortstop (1)
Locks: Bo Bichette
Bichette put many questions about his defense to rest in 2019 and showed he has the natural ability to continue developing there. Even if Bichette can play an average MLB shortstop through his 20s, the offensive value he brings to the position will be extremely rare across baseball. He’ll be out there every day.

Third base (1)
Locks: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
The Blue Jays are committed to keeping Guerrero at third base for the time being. That could change six months from now or three years from now, but on March 26, expect to see Vladdy back at third. With an increased focus on his defense and his body this offseason, all eyes will be on that element of his game in Spring Training.

Utility (1)
Locks: Internal candidate
Possibilities: Brandon Drury, Richard Ureña, Breyvic Valera, Santiago Espinal
Given how Montoyo constructs his lineups and moves players around the diamond, the extra infielder can safely be called a utility player. Drury hit just .218 with a .642 OPS in 2019, but Montoyo trusts him at multiple positions. Arbitration will be a factor here, too. Ureña continues to get some looks and is only 23 years old, while prospect Espinal is a name to remember entering the season after he reached Triple-A Buffalo last year.

Designated hitter (1)
Locks: Internal candidate
Possibilities: Rowdy Tellez, Teoscar Hernández, Rotation
Much like first base, DH is up for grabs. Along with Tellez and the potential of an external addition, though, the DH spot could be used to rotate the club’s outfielders or young infielders needing a day off their feet.

Outfield (5)
Locks: Randal Grichuk, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., open (2-3)
Possibilities: Teoscar Hernández, Derek Fisher, Billy McKinney, Anthony Alford, Jonathan Davis, Forrest Wall
Here lies the tangled web of the Blue Jays’ roster. This group could account for the four (or five) rostered outfielders in March, with someone like Alford or Davis earning that 26th spot with his athleticism -- or things could get much more complicated. As a whole, the group needs to improve its defense and on-base percentage, and it’s possible Toronto could target a true center fielder. This group could also end up taking the majority share of DH at-bats.

Starting pitchers (5)
Locks: Matt Shoemaker, Chase Anderson, free agent or trade (2), open (2)
Possibilities: Ryan Borucki, Trent Thornton, Jacob Waguespack, Anthony Kay, T.J. Zeuch, Patrick Murphy, Hector Perez, Sean Reid-Foley, Nate Pearson
The Blue Jays wasted no time in their offseason search for pitching, as they acquired veteran starter Anderson from the Brewers. Shoemaker was off to an incredible start in 2019 -- a 1.57 ERA over his first five starts -- before tearing his left ACL, but he should have every opportunity to pitch near the top of this rotation. The rest make up a crowded group of “possibilities” because even Thornton, who led the team in starts (29) and innings (154 1/3) is not guaranteed a spot. Pearson will be the story of the spring, but an in-season arrival remains likelier.

Relievers (8)
Locks: Ken Giles, free agent (3), open (4)
Possibilities: Derek Law, Wilmer Font, Ryan Tepera, Jordan Romano, Jason Adam, Anthony Bass, Sam Gaviglio, Thomas Pannone, Justin Shafer, Sean Reid-Foley, Bryan Baker, Jackson McClelland, Travis Bergen, Brock Stewart, Kirby Snead, Danny Barnes
Similar to the rotation, the bullpen group is wide open with plenty of names involved. The Blue Jays, as they have in each recent offseason, will likely add multiple veterans to the group. Just how the right-handers shake out, though, and who replaces lefty Tim Mayza, will be up to a combination of roster logistics and competition. If Giles is dealt this offseason, then things will really get interesting.

Keegan Matheson is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter @KeeganMatheson.