Charlie Montoyo is about to embark on the first spring of his managerial career, and based on the number of decisions he has to make, it's going to be a challenging six weeks.The Blue Jays typically report to camp with a roster that is close to complete. The 25 names
Charlie Montoyo is about to embark on the first spring of his managerial career, and based on the number of decisions he has to make, it's going to be a challenging six weeks.
The Blue Jays typically report to camp with a roster that is close to complete. The 25 names might not be carved in stone, but they're at least written in pencil before the Grapefruit League season opens. This year, not so much.
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Toronto's front office and coaching staff have difficult calls to make all over the field. The roster is in a period of transition, and while that means some familiar faces have left the organization, it has opened the door for some top prospects to receive their long-awaited opportunities.
Spring Training officially opened Wednesday morning for the Blue Jays with pitchers and catchers reporting for physicals. The first official workout is scheduled for Thursday, with position players set to follow on Monday. Here are some of the top storylines to expect this spring:
The backstop:Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire will compete for the starting job behind the plate. Jansen enters camp with a clear edge after having posted an .863 OPS in 88 games at Triple-A Buffalo and then posting a strong .779 OPS in 31 games for Toronto late in the year. The 23-year-old is considered the long-term solution at catcher, and there's not much doubt he has the superior bat. McGuire arguably has the better glove and arm, so he will try to win this job in a different way. Jansen seems like the safe pick for Opening Day, but his performance this spring will decide.
Who starts in left? The other position battle to watch is in left field, where Teoscar Hernández and Billy McKinney are set to compete. The Blue Jays not only have to pick a starter, but they also have to decide whether this pair should be split up or kept together in a platoon. The starting job is up for grabs, and similar to the catcher's spot, these players offer different skill sets. Hernandez has more power while McKinney offers better defense and an ability to put the ball in play. Unlike at catcher, there's no real favorite, and their performance this spring really should decide who gets most of the at-bats.
Watching every pitch: The must-see bullpen sessions early in camp will be courtesy of Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez. Both starters are coming off injury-plagued seasons and need to remain healthy this spring if those bounce-back years are going to come to fruition. Sanchez in particular will have to be closely monitored, because each of his last two seasons have been derailed with finger issues. Add in the frequently injured Matt Shoemaker and the Blue Jays have a lot of risk here, which makes the spring injury report even more important than normal.
Mr. Versatility: One thing that has become evident with Montoyo is that he values versatility. Toronto has a couple of players on the roster who are comfortable at multiple positions, and it sounds like the goal might be to create even more. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is expected to move around the diamond instead of being limited to shortstop. Brandon Drury might return to a super utility role once Vladimir Guerrero Jr. gets called up. Then there's Devon Travis, who might see time in the outfield. This spring will be all about experimentation as Toronto discovers which options are viable and which ones need to be tossed aside.
The Vlad factor: No Blue Jays Spring Training story is complete without mentioning Guerrero, who is ranked baseball's top prospect by MLB Pipeline. By now, everyone should know Guerrero is reporting to big league Spring Training for the first time in his career, and that alone will be enough to entice people to pay attention. Up to this point, only the most diehard Blue Jays fans have caught more than a glimpse of Guerrero, but that's about to change in a hurry. This spring will be the first opportunity fans, and even the Toronto coaching staff, get an extended look at Guerrero vs. some of the game's best. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.