Blue Jays look to leap from good to great in '23

March 27th, 2023

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The next six months will show whether the Blue Jays are a better team than they were in 2022, but they’re undoubtedly different.

Gone are Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., swapped out for and  in a series of moves that have made Toronto’s outfield one of the best defensive groups in baseball. Add in , and , and this team has taken on a far more balanced look than previous versions.

Now, the Blue Jays try -- once again -- to make the leap from good to great.

They were on the cusp of doing just that in 2022 before a sudden, shocking collapse against the Mariners in the AL Wild Card Series. Here’s what you need to know ahead of the '23 season, which comes with sky-high expectations:

What needs to go right?
The starting rotation.

, and give the Blue Jays an exceptional mix of quality and quantity (innings). is working to bounce back after a surprisingly poor season and has the No. 5 job to run with, so Toronto will need to see positive steps from each.

This group of five needs to produce, because the Blue Jays’ rotation depth, as it stands on Opening Day, is short on options. That could change by midseason, when No. 1 prospect is ready or is back from Tommy John surgery, but the early months are critical. The Blue Jays will score runs with ease, so it’s up to this rotation to carry them to the next level.

Great unknown
Tiedemann is ranked No. 32 among all MLB prospects, and he has as much momentum as almost any young arm coming off a spectacular 2022. He’s still just 20, but with Tiedemann expected to start in Double-A, he could quickly pitch his way into the conversation.

Tiedemann spending the full season in the Minor Leagues isn’t out of the question. It never is for a 20-year-old, of course. But with his talent level, the upside he could offer the Blue Jays by midseason is just incredibly tantalizing.

Team MVP will be … 
It’s not the shocking pick, but if he improves upon his 2022 numbers, it’s the easy one. Even if Guerrero finds the midway point between '22 and his near-MVP season in '21, that’s a .900-plus OPS with 40 home runs.

Guerrero is more relaxed this camp after sharing that he felt “anxious” at the plate at times last season trying to replicate those 2021 numbers. He should be entering the peak of his prime seasons and has an offensive ceiling that few players in the entire sport can match.

Team Cy Young will be … Gausman
In 2022, Gausman’s .363 opponents’ BABIP was the second highest since 1920. That’s not just bad luck, it’s historic.

When you look at the advanced numbers, though, Gausman was one of the game’s elite pitchers last season. The batted-ball luck ballooned his ERA to 3.35, which is still a fine number, but he’s a great candidate to improve on that in 2023.

Gausman got off to a scorching hot start in 2022, and he has been the Blue Jays’ best starter in Spring Training, using his trademark splitter to baffle hitters early on. There are a dozen arrows pointing in the direction of a huge season for Gausman.

Bold prediction
will produce the third 30-30 season in Blue Jays history.

Only Jose Cruz (2001) and Shawn Green (1998) have done this, but Bichette’s game should give him a real shot in the coming years. We know that Bichette has the power to hit 30 homers, and when you combine his speed with the Blue Jays’ eagerness to be more aggressive on the bases, there’s a path to him swiping 30 bags.

Bichette has been one of the most impressive players in camp from Day 1, and if he can carry over his hot finish from last September -- which is something many coaches and teammates are expecting -- then a 30-30 season is realistic.