Blue Jays set Opening Day roster

April 7th, 2022

TORONTO -- Coming off some late roster shuffling, the Blue Jays have finalized their Opening Day roster as they enter 2022 with World Series expectations. 

Right-hander Nate Pearson will start the year on the 10-day IL with mononucleosis while lefty Ryan Borucki lands on the IL with a right hamstring strain, but otherwise the Blue Jays came out of camp in great shape. 

The season opens Friday night at Rogers Centre against the Rangers at 7:07 p.m. ET with José Berríos making what should be the first of many Opening Day starts for the Blue Jays. Here’s a look at the roster, position by position:

Catcher (3): Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk, Zack Collins
This position came into focus late in camp when Reese McGuire was dealt to the White Sox for Zack Collins. This move gave the Blue Jays more flexibility as Collins has an option remaining and McGuire did not, so the club can easily slide Collins back to Triple-A at any time. In the meantime, his presence allows the Blue Jays to deploy Jansen and Kirk properly.

This setup will see Jansen as the true starter to open the season with Kirk in line for plenty of DH opportunities. Kirk will also be a great option for a bench bat late in games and will continue to catch once or twice a week as that part of his game develops. Jansen already feels like a veteran just shy of his 27th birthday (April 15), and he finished strong at the plate in ’21 and has committed to identity as a hitter who pulls the ball for power.

First base (1): Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Guerrero is a superstar, the main attraction even in a lineup as talented as this one. Guerrero looked fantastic in Spring Training and should pick up right where he left off in ’21, when he finished second to only Shohei Ohtani in AL MVP voting. Last season, Guerrero played 133 games at first base and 28 at DH, which seemed to be a comfortable ratio for him. When Guerrero needs a DH day, expect to see either Cavan Biggio or Lourdes Gurriel Jr. at first.

Second base (2): Santiago Espinal, Cavan Biggio
This position will evolve through the season, and while Biggio and Espinal will split second base, they’ll also play elsewhere. Biggio is an option at first base and can play the corner outfield spots, while Espinal can back up Bo Bichette at shortstop and can handle third base when Matt Chapman needs a breather. Espinal added 15 pounds of muscle this offseason and has been hitting the ball harder in camp, making him a popular breakout candidate.

Third base (1): Matt Chapman
Chapman is one of the best third basemen in baseball and an elite defender, so he’ll be out there for 150-plus games if he stays healthy. After a down year statistically in 2021 following hip labrum surgery the offseason prior, Chapman feels much stronger in camp and is confident he’ll get back to his ’18 and ’19 form. A 30-homer season should come easily for Chapman, too, as he makes the move from Oakland to the hitter-friendly American League East.

Shortstop (1): Bo Bichette
Bichette is another franchise cornerstone who will push to play 162 games if you let him. He’s worked on his defense, which improved throughout 2021 and will only be helped further by the addition of Chapman beside him. Coming off an All-Star season in which he hit .298 with 29 home runs and 25 stolen bases, he’s fully capable of a 30-30 season with a .300 average. One of the best young offensive shortstops in baseball should be right back in that All-Star mix again this season.

Utility (1): Gosuke Katoh
Katoh earned this spot with a great camp, a well-earned payoff for a player who’s battled through nine years in the Minor Leagues. Katoh is a sharp defender, giving the Blue Jays an option at second base, third base and shortstop. He also has some experience in left field in the Minor Leagues, so you could see a healthy dose of Katoh coming off Charlie Montoyo’s bench.

Outfield (4): George Springer, Teoscar Hernández, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Raimel Tapia
The Blue Jays are sticking with four outfielders to open the season, something made easier by Biggio’s ability to slide out as a fifth option. Having Springer in the lineup for a full season will be one of the biggest upgrades the Blue Jays get form ’21 to ’22, while Hernandez is chasing a third consecutive Silver Slugger Award as one of the most underrated hitters in baseball. Add in Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and his ever-tantalizing upside and this is one of the most talented groups in the American League.

The depth picture does look much more balanced following the acquisition of Tapia from the Rockies for Randal Grichuk. Tapia adds a lefty bat capable of hitting for a high average, plus some speed. He’s primarily played left field in the big leagues, but has spent time in center and right, so he’ll be part of the solution to backing up Springer.

Starting pitchers (5): José Berríos, Kevin Gausman, Hyun Jin Ryu, Alek Manoah, Yusei Kikuchi
Locked and loaded. The Blue Jays added Gausman and Kikuchi via free agency this offseason, giving them one of the deepest rotations in baseball. This value will spill over into the bullpen, too, as it frees up some of the club’s younger depth options for more creative hybrid roles. It’s worth monitoring Kikuchi, as the Blue Jays see more upside than his career 4.97 ERA would suggest, but this group will stay locked in as long as health allows.

Relievers (10): Jordan Romano, Adam Cimber, Yimi García, Trevor Richards, Tim Mayza, Julian Merryweather, David Phelps, Tayler Saucedo, Ross Stripling, Trent Thornton
This group saw change in recent days given the IL designations for Pearson and Borucki, which opened the door for Saucedo and Thornton. Alongside Stripling, who can eat multiple innings, Thornton will be used in a bulk role as the Blue Jays work to manage workloads early.

Romano is locked in as Toronto’s closer and should be called upon often this year, but the setup roles could take some time to come into focus. This is by design, as the Blue Jays will target matchups instead of a strict seventh- and eighth-inning role with arms like Garcia, Phelps, Cimber, Richards, Mayza and Merryweather. 

It’s easy to see a situation where the Blue Jays add to their bullpen in July as they gear up for a postseason run, but this is a deep group to start the season.