Knock on wood.
The Blue Jays have been one of baseball’s healthiest teams in 2023. There have been ailments, like Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s recent knee issue, and a virus has bounced from player to player for weeks, but the Blue Jays haven’t lost a key player for any significant amount of time.
The reality of an MLB season is that, at some point, it happens to everyone. It’s about surviving those tough stretches when bad luck comes knocking, and the Blue Jays’ depth will need to be ready when that time comes.
“It’s part of a long season,” said manager John Schneider. “Whether it’s getting hit by pitches or weird things like this, we’ve been fortunate to this point. Hopefully, we can continue to be like that.”
Here’s where the Blue Jays’ depth stands at each position (all stats through Tuesday):
The Blue Jays reacquired Tyler Heineman earlier this season and have him on the 40-man roster, so he’d be the next man up behind Danny Jansen or Alejandro Kirk. Heineman has 85 games of MLB experience, including 10 with Toronto last season. Rob Brantly is also in Triple-A, where he’s played the majority of the team’s games behind the plate and posted a .713 OPS. Brantly would require a 40-man roster move, though.
Spencer Horwitz, the Blue Jays' No. 18 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is batting .317 with a .443 on-base percentage for Triple-A Buffalo. The 25-year-old doesn’t bring much power, with just one home run in 33 games, but his plate approach is very advanced and should translate to the big leagues.
Let’s blend shortstop together with second and third base here, given how rare it is that a player sticks to just one. No. 6 prospect Addison Barger is still on the IL with an elbow issue, and while No. 14 prospect Otto Lopez is starting to turn a corner, he’s still batting just .197 with a .496 OPS.
The Blue Jays would love for Lopez to get hot and be a viable option at multiple positions, but if not, Ernie Clement has earned a crack at the 40-man roster with a great start in Buffalo. Clement is hitting .322 with five home runs and a .912 OPS through 27 games. Don’t sleep on the versatile Davis Schneider, either, who could be at option at several positions. The No. 28 prospect has earned a longer look and is off to a fine start with the Bisons.
This is where the Blue Jays’ depth has been most interesting. They’ve kept Nathan Lukes and Jordan Luplow as 26th men on the roster (it’s currently Lukes), but those players have barely seen the field.
The two have combined for 13 plate appearances and zero hits, meaning the Blue Jays have essentially played with a 25-man roster. Whit Merrifield and Cavan Biggio having the ability to play the corner outfield spots is a factor here, of course, but it’s been a fascinating roster decision to watch play out. Currently, Luplow would be next in line to bounce back up to the MLB roster, with Wynton Bernard also part of that conversation.
This is a worrying spot. Mitch White, who is near the end of his rehab assignment for an elbow issue that popped up in Spring Training, is the No. 6 starter. Beyond that, it’s not clear.
Zach Thompson is the only other traditional starter on the 40-man roster, but he has a 7.79 ERA. Casey Lawrence (5.84) and Drew Hutchison (6.48) aren’t exactly kicking the door down, either, while No. 3 prospect Yosver Zulueta (4.24) has been inconsistent and came out of the bullpen in his last outing.
Eventually, Hyun Jin Ryu could return from Tommy John surgery or No. 1 prospect Ricky Tiedemann could return from his left biceps injury and force the Blue Jays’ hand. Until then, the Blue Jays desperately need their five starters to not only perform but stay healthy.
This group is in a good place. Adam Cimber is nearing a return from the IL and should provide the Blue Jays with steady innings, then Zach Pop could be coming down the line as depth when he recovers from his hamstring injury.
The recently-optioned Jay Jackson is part of this picture and Thomas Hatch, who’s with the Blue Jays now to give them some multi-inning length, could earn a longer look. Zulueta and Trent Thornton could also get a look, but the return of Chad Green from Tommy John surgery at some point later this season could really take this group to another level. Bullpens are nearly impossible to predict, but the Blue Jays have put themselves in a good spot. Until the Trade Deadline, at least ...