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Toronto Blue Jays 2023 Mid-Season Report

The Toronto Blue Jays command a loose but present grip on a playoff spot as the month of July comes to a close.

Hot or Not?

Heading into the final days of July, the Toronto Blue Jays hold an impressive 59-47 record, good for third in the American League East behind the surging Baltimore Orioles and stalwart Tampa Bay Rays. This team is about as good as expected, and they will make a run at the World Series.

Resident producers SS Bo Bichette, 1B Vladimir Guerrero jr., and 3B Matt Chapman continue to impress, providing the bulk of the Blue Jays offense. Save for an underperforming OF George Springer (56), the three Jays infielders currently pace the club in runs scored with 50, 52, and 57, respectively. Supporting cast members 2B Whit Merrifield, OF Kevin Kiermaier, and 1B Brandon Belt have all performed admirably as well, each posting an OPS+ above 110.

C Alejandro Kirk, George Springer, and OF Daulton Varsho have all taken steps back offensively. Starting catcher and 2022 silver slugger winner Alejandro Kirk sports an OPS of .696, 90 points shy of his 2022 peak and 68 points below his previous career low set in 2021. While still finding a way to produce in the run department, George Springer has been underwhelming thus far through 2023. His .249 batting average is his lowest since his 2014 rookie campaign and his .701 OPS marks his career low, a full 79 points removed from his 2018 All-Star campaign.

The Daulton Varsho trade continues to confound, and Varsho continues to struggle. Varsho, a career .306 OBP hitter during his time with Arizona, was swapped for Blue Jays prospect OF Gabriel Moreno and OF Lourdes Gurriel jr. While neither Moreno or Gurriel have exploded in Arizona, Varsho’s paltry .214/.276/.358 triple slash does not inspire confidence for a strong second half from the left-handed outfielder.

On the Bump

Thus far, Toronto’s pitching staff has been excellent. Their staff ERA of 3.76 ranks second in MLB and first in the American League. SP Kevin Gausman and SP Jose Berrios have been solid, posting 3.10 and 3.31 ERAs respectively. SP Yusei Kikuchi and SP Chris Bassitt both own ERAs under four, making the Jays the proud owners of one of the most well-rounded starting rotations in either league.

Alek Manoah

Unfortunately, the rotation is not completely well-rounded. SP Alek Manoah. I’ll give Blue Jays fans a quick respite here, and I’ll keep my rendition of Manoah’s well chronicled collapse brief.

2022 Alek Manoah seemed to be the beginning of a career littered with All-Star appearances, ERA titles, and Cy Young Awards. The then 24-year-old posted a 2.24 ERA in 196.2 innings, en route to his first All-Star nod, a third-place finish in AL Cy Young voting, and even an MVP vote.

In 2023, after dragging SP Gerrit Cole through the mud, adding what looks like 30+ pounds to his already sizeable frame, and beefing with analysts on Twitter, Alek Manoah has failed to reach his 2022 success, or come within a country mile of it.

After posting an abysmal 6.36 ERA in his first 13 starts, Manoah was optioned to the minor leagues. Unlike on his way up, this time Manoah skipped AA, and AAA, finding himself trying to right the ship in the rookie ball league (FCL). In his lone rookie ball start, Manoah got slaughtered, surrendering 11 earned runs in just two and two thirds innings. Since his return to the Bigs, Manoah owns a poor but better 4.45 ERA in 18.2 innings pitched. If he can find his way back, it would be a massive addition to an already great starting rotation.

Out of the Pen

The back half of Blue Jays contests have been a mixed bag. CP Jordan Romano has been excellent, posting a 2.79 ERA in 44 appearances before landing on the Injured List. RPs Trevor Richards, Erik Swanson, Tim Mayza, Bowden Francis, and Jay Jackson have all been very efficient out of the pen, and recent trade acquisition RP Jordan Hicks will undoubtedly bolster the solid core of Blue Jays relievers.

RP Chad Green, still recovering from Tommy John Surgery, is progressing towards rehab assignments and will also provide a welcome addition to a solid bullpen.

Blue Jays Second Half Outlook

Just five games out of first place and with a Wild Card spot already in hand, the Blue Jays have no reason not to buy at the deadline. What’s more, after their stellar start to 2023, the Rays have quietly fallen back to Earth, posting a 26-28 record in their last 54 games, winning just seven games in the month of July. The window for the Blue Jays is now, and there is no reason they can’t make a splash in the playoffs with their pitching depth and solid core of offensive performers.

Starting pitching is currently a non-issue for the Jays, and with SP Shane Bieber hurt and SP Lucas Giolito off the board, it seems like Toronto might skip adding a starter at this year’s deadline.

The Blue Jays could do with another outfielder, however, to replace the underperforming Daulton Varsho. OF Tommy Pham has been very solid at the plate this season, slashing .270/.350/.474 with an OPS+ of 127. What’s more, Pham plays for the shockingly disappointing New York Mets, who have made it clear they fully intend to sell at this year’s deadline.

Any way you slice it, the Jays potential for the second half is through the roof, and they might only be one or two moves away from becoming serious World Series contenders.

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