Blue Jays unveil 2020 Opening Day roster
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays don’t have a ballpark to call home just yet, but they do have an Opening Day roster.
The club announced its 30-man roster on Thursday, as Toronto is scheduled to go through optional workouts before facing the Rays on Friday night in St. Petersburg. Rosters will remain at 30 for two weeks before dropping to 28 and then returning to the standard 26 after another two weeks.
The following roster moves were made to get things set:
• Starter Chase Anderson was placed on the 10-day injured list with a right oblique strain, retroactive to Monday.
• Ryan Borucki was optioned to the alternate training site.
• A.J. Cole and Brian Moran were selected to the MLB roster.
• Santiago Espinal, Thomas Hatch, Anthony Kay and Jacob Waguespack were recalled from the club’s alternate training site.
To open the season, the Blue Jays will use a three-man taxi squad of Borucki, Nate Pearson and catcher Caleb Joseph. This will allow Borucki and Pearson to stay in a Major League environment, and for Pearson, it will keep him tuned up for his MLB debut.
Here is how the final roster looks:
Catcher (2): Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire
The Blue Jays’ young catching tandem was set to operate as 1A and 1B this season, but it will be interesting to see how far that shifts in Jansen’s direction given that rest days won’t be as critical over 60 games. Jansen entered camp with an improved offensive routine after being nominated for an American League Gold Glove Award in 2019, but both catchers have the full confidence of the pitching staff.
First base (2): Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Rowdy Tellez
This is officially Guerrero’s position, and how he adapts to first will be a key story in 2020. Justin Smoak wasn’t a flashy defender at the position over his years in Toronto, but his glove was underrated as he acted as a safety net for the young infielders. Expect to see Tellez used mostly in the designated hitter role early on, but he’ll have to hit to keep his roster spot as the roster size falls to 28 and eventually 26.
Second base (2): Cavan Biggio, Joe Panik
Biggio is the man at second, but the Blue Jays have told him to be ready for the odd game in a corner outfield spot this season. He’ll be a major help to Guerrero’s learning curve at first, and he exceeded the defensive expectations of some in the organization as a rookie. Panik will play all over the infield, with manager Charlie Montoyo calling him this year’s Eric Sogard for the Blue Jays.
Shortstop (1): Bo Bichette
If there’s one Blue Jays hitter who could play all 60, it’s likely Bichette. Coming off a strong Spring Training and an even more impressive Summer Camp, the 21-year-old is giving every indication that he should pick up right where he left off in 2019. Keep an eye on him early in counts, especially as the leadoff man in innings. He was particularly aggressive in intrasquad play, and the results backed it up.
Third base (1): Travis Shaw
The counter move to Vladdy’s shift across the diamond was Shaw moving back to third, where he has plenty of experience. If Shaw plays even a league-average level of defense at third, that would represent a monumental upgrade from what Guerrero was able to provide last season. Shaw will need to hit, though, and prove that 2019 was an outlier. Expect Panik to be the primary backup here.
Outfield (6): Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Randal Grichuk, Teoscar Hernández, Anthony Alford, Derek Fisher, Billy McKinney
Gurriel's health status (left side discomfort) could have been a driving factor behind the Blue Jays carrying six outfielders, as he’s scheduled to test things out in live batting practice on Thursday in St. Petersburg. Once he’s healthy, Gurriel will be the starter in left, with Grichuk in center and Hernandez in right. Montoyo will play matchups with the rest, while both Alford and Fisher can be used for their great athleticism on the bases. If one outfielder could step forward from that depth group -- one that includes Jonathan Davis, who is not on the Opening Day roster -- the Blue Jays would be thrilled.
Utility (1): Santiago Espinal
Slowly becoming a fan favorite, Espinal’s versatility is matched with a bat that can provide some actual value thanks to his line-drive stroke. He’ll play all over the infield, and he has even played some center field in the Minor Leagues, making him a perfect fit for Montoyo's bench. He’s not a big name like Guerrero or Bichette, but players like Espinal are exactly what every winning team needs.
Starting pitchers (5): Hyun Jin Ryu, Matt Shoemaker, Tanner Roark, Trent Thornton, Anthony Kay
The veterans and Trent Thornton have been locked in, but the No. 5 job opened up to competition when Chase Anderson sustained his right oblique strain. Without Borucki on the roster, Anthony Kay could be next up for that start, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Blue Jays piggyback multiple pitchers or lean on their deep bullpen to fill that spot. The big story is the name who’s not here: No. 1 prospect Nate Pearson. He’s expected to be promoted for his MLB debut early in the season, likely for the second trip through the rotation.
“I felt like I put myself in the best position I can to make this team,” Pearson said Tuesday. “Whether they say I made it or not, I’m still going to keep working as hard as I normally do and I know my time will come.”
Relievers (10): Ken Giles, Rafael Dolis, Anthony Bass, Jordan Romano, Sam Gaviglio, Shun Yamaguchi, A.J. Cole, Thomas Hatch, Jacob Waguespack, Brian Moran
This big bullpen gives Montoyo plenty of multi-inning arms in Waguespack, Gaviglio, Yamaguchi and No. 24 prospect Hatch, who emerged in Summer Camp as a “sleeper of the group” for Toronto. The Blue Jays will match this length with a back end that brings more heat than the club has had in some time, with Giles, Romano, Dolis and Bass all looking at high-leverage innings. Toronto has been particularly high on Romano and Dolis, who could both work as setup men, and Cole is one to watch in middle-relief spots with the potential for more.