No, we’re not trying to troll anyone here. Although, with the Jays currently sitting 20+ games under .500 and over a billion* games out of first place, let alone a Wild Card spot (*approximately), you can’t really fault Toronto baseball fans for feeling cynical. It’s basically the fanbase’s default mode these days.
Still, no one wants to hear “There’s always next year” in August (and — let’s be real — this year you probably started hearing it as early as May). But in the Jays’ case, it’s actually true. So go ahead and throw in the towel on 2019. Here are six reasons why the Jays could shock the league — not to mention their fans – next season. No joke.
No one knows anything
OK, so maybe we are trolling stat heads with this one, but it’s true. When it comes to prognostication, pundits, fans, broadcasters, GMs, even their in-house sabermetrics departments — no one ever really knows how a given season’s going to play out. Just look at the Mets, who somehow went from being left for dead at the All-Star Break to, now, a mere month and change later, one of the hottest teams in baseball.
We’re not saying Toronto should go ahead and pencil in another championship parade next fall on the basis of, essentially, ‾\_(ツ)_/‾ “Shit happens?” But… there’s always at least one playoff contender that comes seemingly out of nowhere each season. Who’s to say that won’t — or can’t — be the Jays in 2020?
The kids are alright
Better than alright, actually. In fact, they’re pretty damn good. And that’s probably the biggest reason why there’s actually something approximating a light at the end of the tunnel for Toronto fans. Between Vlad Jr. and his tape measure home runs, Bo Bichette, who, at this rate, may just never stop hitting, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and (maybe) Cavan Biggio and deadline acquisition Derek Fisher, the Jays boast the most talented crop of position players they’ve had since the good old days of Joey Bats and Edwin and his parrot. Everyone expected the Jr. Jays to be good someday. No one expected that day to come this early. And as of next year, every single one of them can be penciled into the starting lineup from Day 1.
There’s even more help on the way
This isn’t basketball or the NHL, so, no, the fact that the Jays will have a likely top 5 pick in next year’s draft isn’t going to matter much for 2020. But thanks to a farm system that’s still ranked ninth overall by Baseball America — even after graduating top prospects like Guerrero Jr. and Bichette — there’s more help waiting in the wings. Including the Jays’ new #1 minor leaguer Nate Pearson, a starter with a triple-digit fastball, a first-round pedigree, and the secondary stuff to slot into the Jays’ rotation as early as next season.
And while fans may (rightly) point out that the Jays could’ve/should’ve gotten a bigger haul for Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez at the trade deadline, the pitching staff’s 2020 prognosis isn’t quite as grim as it initially looked. Former Diamondback prospect Zack Godley will spend the rest of 2019 auditioning as a potential bounce-back candidate, and Anthony Kay – part of the return in the aforementioned underwhelming Stroman deal – profiles as a future middle-of-the-rotation starter. Between Godley and Kay and Wilmer Font and Brock Stewart and, well, you get the idea, if even just one or two of those darts hit, it’ll go a long way towards making the Jays legitimate contenders.
Atkins might actually be convinced to spend this offseason
Provided the Jr. Jays keep hitting above their weight, Toronto’s GM might finally be convinced to open up the checkbook for a big-name free agent in 2020. Someone like, say, 29-year-old righty Gerrit Cole, who can expect to cash in big after spending the last two years dominating the AL with the Astros. Operative word here being “might,” of course… Jays president Mark Shapiro has promised to be “opportunistic” when it comes to adding free agent pieces around this growing young core. Which isn’t the same thing as promising to actually add said pieces. Still, the fact remains: having tons of payroll space plus a crop of exciting, young (and cost-controlled) players is a pretty great spot to be in.
And if the Jays’ payroll stays below league average? Maybe the youth movement leans into the whole “Nobody believes in us” mantra and gives their stingy ownership no choice but to get behind them by next year’s trade deadline. It worked for the Cleveland Indians… in the Major League movies. (OK, fine, so maybe this isn’t my most compelling argument.)
Their schedule should be (a little) easier
I know, I know, this kind of runs counter to that whole “nobody knows anything” spiel from a few paragraphs ago, but when you’re looking for reasons to hope, you’ll grasp at any straws you can find. And while it doesn’t totally excuse their lopsided record, the Jays have run into some tough sledding this season. Luckily, things project to get slightly easier next year.
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) August 12, 2019
2020 schedules were released earlier this month, and the Jays actually have a pretty decent one, pulling the NL Central in interleague play. Which A) cuts down on their travel mileage a bit, and B) means series against the perpetually-rebuilding Pirates and Reds. Not to mention, they still get the usual 19 games against Baltimore. AKA the sole silver lining of having to also share a division with the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays.
They really can’t get much worse
…I just jinxed it, didn’t I? Sorry.