This story is from Keegan Matheson’s Blue Jays Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, Click here. And subscribe to receive it regularly in your inbox.
I love it when a round number meets an arbitrary threshold in baseball.
The Blue Jays are at 30 games, after a grueling streak of 20 games in 20 days against the Red Sox, Astros and Yankees. The Guardians, supposedly the softest opponent in the group, just took three of the Blue Jays’ four.
Monday, which plays into Game 1 of Tuesday’s series in the Bronx, is a good point for us to stop and look around. We’ve seen the Blue Jays outperform some of their flawed games through April, while learning the skill of winning the game by one point. May, however, showed us some of the challenges the Blue Jays face today, tomorrow and over the next five months.
At 17-13, here’s where the Blue Jays are at.
GOOD: Toronto’s starting pitcher needed a week or two like most clubs, but the organization must be feeling good with the trio of Kevin Gausman, José Berríos and Alek Manoah leading this group.
Gausman has been one of baseball’s best, doing an outstanding job of limiting walks and home runs, while young Manoah is emerging as one of baseball’s best young arms. He’s already turning his performances against the Yankees into a trademark, and even at 24 he has all the attributes you want on the mound in October. Berríos hasn’t been the sharpest yet, with a 5.34 ERA, but it’s easy to bet on one of baseball’s most consistent arms over the past five years by rebounding.
This conversation needs more time when it comes to jobs #4 and #5, of course. Yusei Kikuchi showed some very encouraging signs last time out, but will have to string them together consistently as he continues to work closely with Pete Walker. How Hyun Jin Ryu’s return and Ross Stripling’s roleplay remains to be determined, but with Toronto’s talent in the top three of his rotation, it’s a good place to start.
THE BAD: Range, especially when it comes to situational strikes. It was the ultimate surprise for a club set to make baseball coverage again in 2022.
Going into Monday’s games, the Blue Jays ranked 13th in MLB with a team OPS of 0.692, more than 100 points below their 0.796 mark of ’21. Granted, the numbers are down in baseball, but the Blue Jays have had a particularly tough time with runners in scoring position. In these situations, the club ranks last in MLB with an average of .187 and 28th with a .574 OPS.
Charlie Montoyo, the optimist of optimists, thinks that will change. He’s right, especially given the recent return of Teoscar Hernández and his impact on the lineup, but it was an unusual start for the star-studded group. When this turns around, don’t be surprised if the dam suddenly bursts.
THE X FACTOR: Gabriel Moreno looms. It’s a real sweet spot, to have a roster as talented as the Blue Jays with the No. 7 prospect in all of baseball waiting in Triple-A. Add to the fact that he’s a catcher who can hit? Jackpot.
That being said, the Blue Jays will still need to see a little more from Moreno before making the jump to Toronto. Entering Monday, the 22-year-old from Barquisimeto, Venezuela, was hitting .299 with a .720 OPS in Triple-A. More power is expected, whether in the form of doubles or home runs, but it should come. Keep in mind that Moreno delayed the start of spring training due to visa issues.
When the time comes, however, this captivating situation becomes very interesting. Danny Jansen got off to a stellar start before a slant injury sidelined him and Alejandro Kirk, who also has to warm up at home plate, looked more comfortable defensively than I thought.
Those things tend to take care of themselves with an injury or a cold streak, but sooner or later the Blue Jays will be faced with the best kind of problem: a tough decision between several quality options.