TORONTO -- Voting is currently underway for the annual Esurance MLB Awards, where former Toronto utilityman Chris Coghlan has been nominated for the best offensive play of the year.Coghlan could receive some league-wide recognition for his head-first dive over Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, but what about the rest of the
TORONTO -- Voting is currently underway for the annual Esurance MLB Awards, where former Toronto utilityman Chris Coghlan has been nominated for the best offensive play of the year.
Coghlan could receive some league-wide recognition for his head-first dive over Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, but what about the rest of the Blue Jays? In the spirit of the MLB Awards, we're taking a closer look at who the winners would be on Toronto's roster.
• Vote for this season's best stars and moments in the Esurance MLB Awards
Best hitter: Josh Donaldson
Smoak seemed like an obvious winner for this category at the start of August, but his slump over the final two months gives the edge to Donaldson. Smoak did finish the year with more home runs and RBIs, but Donaldson holds the edge in just about every other major offensive category. Donaldson had the higher on-base percentage (.385 vs. .355), OPS (.944 vs. .883), OPS+ (144 vs. 128) and WAR (4.8 vs. 3.2). He also hit just five fewer home runs, despite appearing in 45 fewer games. That's enough to give the slight edge to the former American League Most Valuable Player Award winner.
Best pitcher: Marcus Stroman
Stroman was the clear ace of the Blue Jays' staff in 2017. He surpassed 200 innings for the second consecutive year, posted a personal-best 3.09 ERA and won a career-high 13 games. Toronto's rotation was a disappointment, but Stroman can hardly be blamed for that, as he made it through the year without missing a start, and his numbers should be enough to warrant consideration as a top-five candidate for the AL Cy Young Award. J.A. Happ and reliever Dennis Tepera deserve a mention here as well, but Stroman is the runaway winner.
Best rookie: Danny Barnes
Barnes is one of the main reasons Toronto's bullpen went from a major weakness to a relative strength during the early stages of 2017. He became a favorite of John Gibbons and joined forces with Tepera to form the core of Toronto's bullpen in front of closer Roberto Osuna. There were occasional signs of fatigue down the stretch, but Barnes still finished the year strong, with a 3.55 ERA and 11 holds over 66 innings. Teoscar Hernandez did set a Blue Jays rookie record with six home runs in the final month, but the full body of Barnes' work gives him the edge here.
Best social media personality: Stroman
Stroman is a polarizing figure both on and off the field. He's Toronto's most active player on social media, with daily posts on Twitter and Instagram. Whether it's to raise funds for Puerto Rico, promote his HDMH brand or hold Q&As with fans, Stroman rarely takes a day off from social media. He even uses it to take an occasional shot at the opposition, as evidenced by his "Lions never concern themselves with the opinion of sheep" tweet from Aug. 2 after an on-field argument with White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson.
Best play, offense: Coghlan's slide
Coghlan is nominated in this category for the Esurance MLB Awards, and he's the clear-cut winner for these Toronto awards. The Blue Jays' motto in 2017 was "Let's Rise." Coghlan took it one step further during an 11-inning victory over the Cardinals on April 25 with one of the most acrobatic "slides" ever seen. Coghlan turned what appeared to be a guaranteed out into a Blue Jays run by soaring over the head of Molina in the seventh inning of a tied game. Molina appeared to have Coghlan out on arrival, but clearly, the veteran utility man had other ideas.
Best play, defense: The brick wall
Kevin Pillar didn't exactly run through a brick wall to make the highlight-reel catch, but he came pretty close. Pillar made one of his most difficult grabs yet during an August game at Wrigley Field. He has survived some crashes before, but nothing quite like the one he experienced in the series finale vs. Chicago. On the surface, this wasn't Pillar's most difficult catch, and it can be argued that dives to rob Jose Ramirez on May 9 and Mookie Betts on Aug. 29 were tougher, but I'm still going with the Wrigley play because of the fearless approach.
Best moment: The walkoffs
Steve Pearce became one of three players in MLB history to hit two walk-off grand slams in the same season. He joined his former hitting coach, Jim Presley, who did it in 1986, and Cy Williams, who did it the same season that Rogers Hornsby's Cardinals beat Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and the Yankees in Game 7 of the 1926 World Series. The first one came on July 27 and the second came later that week on July 30.
Kendrys Morales became the first Toronto player to have four hits, three home runs and seven RBIs in the same game. He went deep early and often as the driving force behind an 11-8 victory over the Orioles on Aug. 31. The seven RBIs were a career high, and the three home runs matched his personal best. It was a night to remember, but not quite enough to unseat Carlos Delgado, who still owns the bragging rights for the best offensive game in franchise history with a four-homer performance on Sept. 25, 2003, but he finished that one with six RBIs.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.