2024-03-18 · 4 min read · MLB/Baseball
Jose Berrios and The Toronto Blue Jays

Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA TODAY Sports | Charlie Neibergall/The Associated Press

With Spring Training fully underway, it is no surprise that conversations about Opening Day rosters all throughout the league are beginning to ratchet up. Rumours, projections, hypothetical scenarios - a lot can change from now until March 28th, but as we sit roughly halfway through the Spring, these are my picks for how the Opening Day roster should look:
  • Kevin Gausman
  • Chris Bassitt
  • Jose Berrios
  • Yusei Kikuchi (L)
  • Bowden Francis
  • Jordan Roman0
  • Erik Swanson
  • Tim Mayza (L)
  • Genesis Cabrera (L)
  • Yimi Garcia
  • Chad Green
  • Zach Pop
  • Hagen Danner
  • Alejandro Kirk
  • Danny Jansen
  • Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
  • Justin Turner
  • Davis Schneider
  • Bo Bichette
  • Isiah Kiner-Falefa
  • Cavan Biggio
  • Ernie Clement
  • George Springer
  • Kevin Kiermaier
  • Daulton Varsho
  • Nathan Lukes
It should be said that this is what I think should happen, perhaps not what I believe will. As is obvious, there’s a number of names absent from those listed above - no, I haven’t forgotten, they just do not make the team better right off the bat (no pun intended). However, decisions must be justified - and while I will attempt to do so below, I am more than certain that there are those of you out there who already disagree with my prognostications.
Simply put, he just won’t be ready. I think that he can retain some of his value should his command come back into place, and I also believe he will be back with the club this year - at this moment though, yikes. Desperately, I want him to succeed once more, but we’ve now reached a season-plus where something is off. The yips? Well, those are definitely real. Combine his struggles with Bowden Francis’ success (and being stretched out) and there, to me, is not a difficult decision to be made. Besides the fact that Francis dominated in the Majors last season, his 8 IP thus far blows well past Manoah’s 1 ⅔ IP. Just over two weeks to go until Toronto heads to Tampa to open things up, it is hard to imagine a sufficient enough workload being built up for Manoah even if he finds his control. Send him to AAA, keep him there for a while, and when the inevitable happens and you need a spot-Starter or fill-in, give him a shout. Righties Wes Parsons and Paolo Espino should also begin in Buffal0, though each have had some level of success this Spring.
When it comes to the bullpen, I’ve always thought about it backwards. Generally speaking, the way MLB rosters are constructed these days are eight men in the ‘pen and four on the bench. If that’s the case, which I presume it will be, then let us work backwards from those eight. Romano, Swanson, Mayza, Cabrera, Garcia, and Green are all locks - I don’t necessarily ‘believe’ in Green’s stuff, especially with his struggles this Spring, but the simple fact remains that Toronto’s picking-up of his option will guarantee him bullpen time. Thus, the way I see it two spots remain for four arms - Zach Pop, Hagen Danner, Nate Pearson, and Trevor Richards. Right away, I think we can all agree Pearson’s stuff isn’t where Pete Walker and the staff would hope it is to immediately impact the MLB club, and so a MiLB assignment is - to me - all but guaranteed. Then, it’s down to Pop/Danner/Richards. I would LOVE for Danner and Pop to retain those two openings, as each provides things Richards does not. Sure, Richards’ changeup is appetizing and he’s gotten some whiffs so far, but over the last two years I’ve seen enough to suggest that his level of usefulness has fallen.
Visa issues and soreness will force the newly-signed righty to begin the year in the Minors, as Rodriguez still has yet to appear in a Spring Training game. It would have been a tight squeeze to have him stretched out enough to be on the Opening Day roster to begin with, though his current situation has made certain he won’t. Buffalo is where he is destined, likely out of the ‘pen or on short-start, pitch count outings until he’s ready to go. I wouldn’t expect him before the end of April or early May, though struggles in Buffalo may elongate his time there even when he is healthy. It’s bittersweet, as many Blue Jays fans expected big things right out of the gate for Rodriguez, but we’ll all have to wait a little while longer. Alongside the likes of Alek Manoah, Wes Parsons, Mitch White, and Ricky Tiedemann, Rodriguez - I expect - will eventually join the Bisons’ rotation. Paolo Espino too, now that I think of it.
In Votto’s case, it is all but guaranteed that he’ll begin the year in AAA Buffalo. If for no other reason, to catch up for the lost time not in Spring Camp prior to his signing. The first pitch he saw in an MLB Spring game was cranked for a bomb - a good sign - though the veteran hasn’t had the same time to workout like others have. Some folks have trouble seeing how neither Votto nor Vogelbach will make the roster, and perhaps one of the two will, but Nathan Lukes has been fantastic thus far and is more than deserving of the 4th Outfielder spot. Don’t get me wrong, Votto will absolutely play in the Majors this season - but even he has admitted that he’s more than onboard with beginning the year in the Minors. In hindsight, signing Votto may have been the final nail in Dan Vogelbach’s coffin as the two are similar in many respects; veteran left-handed bats who primarily DH and hit for power.
Perhaps the easiest of them all, Ernie Clement has played fantastic this Spring as well as Nathan Lukes. There is zero reason, nada one, for Espinal to begin the season in the Majors. His defence is not superb, and he’s had a rough go of it with the bat. Cavan Biggio, whom the Jays insist on keeping, fills that role adequately alongside newly-signed Kiner-Falefa (and, of course, Clement). Additionally, Espinal has options - you don’t have to risk losing him on waivers, and can have him play everyday in Buffalo. The other avenue that has been rumoured is the trade market, given Toronto’s newfound plethora of Infielders coming up through the system. Sure, you could trade Espinal and get another equally flawed piece back - I don’t think that’s the best move at the moment, but I wouldn’t say it’s terrible either. Whatever the case, Espinal mustn't begin the year with Toronto. Ernie Clement, for now, has solidified himself as an important piece, even more so now that Davis Schneider is stuck in a rut.
All that said, this assumes that Danny Jansen will be ready to go for Opening Day. If not, well, things would get weird barring an IL stint. Toronto only has two Catchers on their 40-Man, and one of either Brian Serven or Payton Henry would have to be added in the short-term. Obviously we hope this isn’t the case, but in an event where Jansen and/or Kirk are out for a prolonged stretch, dealing Espinal from a position of depth would open up the space needed. Anyways, just thoughts to consider, but it is important to remember that Jansen has played in more than 72 games just twice over his six-year MLB career thus far.
T-minus eight more games until the real thing starts once more, in a week-and-a-half against Tampa Bay.
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By: Gus Cousins


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