Breaking down the Blue Jays after Week 1

April 4th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Keegan Matheson's Blue Jays Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

One week can’t show you much, but it can tell you where to look.

The Blue Jays’ opening series against the Rays and Astros have been a rollercoaster ride, complete with highs that inspire optimism and lows that inspire something completely different.

As they head to New York for a three-game set against the Yankees -- which is already a big one, given the potential of tiebreakers coming to play in the AL East and the AL Wild Card race down the road -- here’s what has stood out in the early days of the 2024 season.

1) Power matters ... and so does Schneider
’s home run Tuesday off Josh Hader was as big as a home run can get six games into a season. The Blue Jays had just been no-hit and would be shut out 24 hours later, not exactly the plan for a team that’s spent all offseason talking about internal improvement offensively.

This is exactly why power matters to the Blue Jays. With one swing, an otherwise ugly offensive performance is forgotten. With one swing, the sky stops falling. Schneider has been a menace against left-handed pitching and should continue to get as many at-bats as Toronto can find for him, because while pitchers will soon attack his weaknesses much more directly, Schneider has earned a shot at countering that.

So far, this offense looks awfully boom-or-bust. If there will be quiet days, particularly behind a pitching staff that still profiles as one of the best in the American League, there needs to be a threat of one swing changing everything. Waiting on the possibility of three singles strung together isn’t nearly as exciting.

2) Clement will get his shot
One idea I kept coming back to when the Blue Jays were shuffling their infield depth was that a player can’t simply be depth for the sake of depth. They need to have a standout trait or two, something that can have legitimate value off the bench or in a part-time role. Depth for the sake of depth doesn’t get you anywhere.

had a fantastic Spring Training and won a job, but with the raw talent he’s flashing in the early days, there could be more than just the odd backup reps waiting for him. Clement made a handful of excellent defensive plays in St. Petersburg, including a couple that were inches from landing on a highlight reel, and he’s earned a reputation as a contact machine at the plate.

The play that stood out most against the Rays, though? During Sunday’s 9-2 win, when Clement busted it up the line at 30.0 feet per second -- right on the line of what Statcast considers to be “elite” speed -- to beat out a double-play ball. Clement forced a poor throw with his speed, which resulted in another run. He’s one of the best athletes on this roster, and as long as his contact tool can turn into a decent average, the Blue Jays won’t let him collect dust on the bench.

3) Watch the lefties ...
It’s been an interesting start for Génesis Cabrera. Two innings, four runs, one suspension.

Cabrera’s suspension is finished in time for this weekend’s series against the Yankees, which is important, but Toronto needs to see some flashes from Cabrera early. His upside was a great fit in last year’s bullpen, given the depth and high-end options that insulated Cabrera, but as the Blue Jays wait for Jordan Romano and Erik Swanson to return, everyone needs to step up. Cabera is also tied to the bullpen’s other lefty, Ol’ Reliable, .

In Wednesday’s win over the Astros, Mayza came in to face Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker and Alex Bregman, a daunting trio. He retired Alvarez and Bregman while walking Tucker in the middle, but what really stood out was Mayza’s pitch selection.

Seven pitches, seven sliders.

Entering Wednesday’s finale, Mayza had thrown more sliders than sinkers (24-22) through his first three outings this season, and when you look at the early radar gun readings, his average sinker has been thrown at 91.3 mph, down 2 mph from his averages a year ago. Yes, it’s early, but when you look at Mayza’s month-to-month velocity trends in recent seasons, he’s not necessarily a slow starter. Hopefully, this is just a matter of Mayza loosening up. He’s one of the game’s most underrated left-handers and as beloved a teammate as you’ll find in the big leagues. Add the unpredictability of this bullpen’s other lefty on top of that, and it makes Mayza one of the most important arms on this roster.