My, how things can change in one year. Last season, the Toronto Blue Jays had a 50.7% playoff probability at FanGraphs with a 3.2% chance to win the World Series. Entering the 2022 season, the Blue Jays have an 88.8% playoff probability, with baseball’s second-highest World Series odds at 11.7%.
The Blue Jays are no longer a dark horse, an under-the-radar pick or a long-shot pick to make the playoffs. They’re expected to do damage in the American League East. Expectations are sky high for this team, as they should be.
Most of this same core was responsible for the 91 wins from last year, so one would hope that win total would soar even higher in 2022.
With a tinge of rose-coloured optimism, here are five bold predictions for the Blue Jays’ 2022 campaign ahead of Opening Day on Friday.
1. Vladdy snags his first MVP award
Had it not been for one of the most unique campaigns in baseball history courtesy of Shohei Ohtani, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. might have one MVP award in his trophy case already. Vladdy did everything he needed to win the league’s top award last year, save for pitch 130 innings.
Because he’s been on Blue Jays fans’ radars since he was 16 years old, it’s easy to forget Vlad Jr. is entering his age 23 season. If 2021 was any sign of what he’s capable of, his numbers could get even better in the coming years.
Keep in mind that he posted those ungodly numbers last year as the Blue Jays caravanned to three home ballparks and it was Vladdy’s first full season playing first base. Through all that unrest, the Blue Jays’ first baseman finally fulfilled his prophecy as one of the most hyped prospects in MLB history.
In 2021, he tied Ohtani for the most homers in the league; he tied for the second highest batting average, and he posted the highest on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS in the American League.
Vladdy will have some stiff competition again in the MVP race this season, but I think he’ll take another step in his development and soar past 50 home runs in 2022 and win the first MVP award of his career.
2. Berrios finishes in top 3 for Cy Young
Speaking of awards, the next best bet to take home some hardware might be starting pitcher Jose Berrios. The Blue Jays already awarded their newly minted $131 million man with the Opening Day start, and the accolades won’t stop there.
Berrios has never finished higher than ninth in Cy Young voting, but he has a pair of All-Star Game appearances under this belt. Couple his powerful skill set with the fact that he had one of the best months of his career last August, we might have only witnessed the tip of the iceberg in terms of Berrios’ potential.
It’s a bit of a trope, but yes, the Blue Jays’ astute pitching department has a tendency to help unlock something special with starting pitchers. If it worked for Robbie Ray and Steven Matz last year. Why not Berrios, too?
He obviously believes strongly in the Blue Jays organization, enough to commit to the next seven years of his career in Toronto after only spending two months with the team post trade deadline. Berrios may not win the award in 2022, but he’ll rank up there as one of the best starting pitchers in the American League.
3. Espinal wins second baseman job and runs with it
Last year, the third base position was in flux for most of the season for the Blue Jays. There were seven, yes, seven different players who manned the hot corner last season. And none fared better than Santiago Espinal.
By grabbing Matt Chapman on the trade market, the Blue Jays shored up that position, but now second base looks like an everyday opportunity for someone like Espinal, or even Cavan Biggio could reclaim his native position on the diamond.
In case you haven’t seen Espinal this spring training, he’s jacked; he 27-year-old added 15 pounds of this muscle this offseason, and his exit velocity numbers this spring show this guy has added some significant pop to his bat.
Biggio is the more experienced player at second base, but he dealt with injuries last year, and he could be relegated to the Blue Jays utility player role without a native position. Espinal is yet another right-handed hitter, but if his bat plays, he stays.
4. Jays land Ramirez at trade deadline
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. The Blue Jays have reportedly swung and missed a few times on acquiring All-Star infielder Jose Ramirez, but I think they will eventually get their man.
The Cleveland Guardians are likely playing hard-to-get with the Blue Jays when it comes to their most prized asset, and will land a king’s ransom when they eventually trade Ramirez.
It’s probably going to sting in terms of prospect capital and/or big league players, but I think the Blue Jays will pull the trigger on a deal for Ramirez at the trade deadline. If they weren’t already one of the best lineups in the American League, this trade would push them over the top.
5. They’ll come close to making it to the World Series
Expanded playoffs work in favour of the Blue Jays this year as six teams will emerge from the American League instead of the typical five. Anything less than a playoff berth would be a disappointment for the 2022 Blue Jays, but they have the pieces to go deep into the playoffs.
Not to bring back those ill-fated 2015 and 2016 American League Championship Series, but I believe the Blue Jays will make to the ALCS and fall two wins short of the World Series, losing to the Chicago White Sox in six games. However, this 4-2 series loss will be nowhere as heartbreaking as the 2015 ALCS series against the Kansas City Royals.
Given the foundation of young talent and high-impact free agents, this won’t be the Blue Jays’ last trip to the dance. With the wealth of prospects, a healthy payroll and a solid core, they’re set up to make multiple runs at this thing.
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