Seven Blue Jays land in poll of baseball's top 100 players

seven blue jays land in poll of baseball's top 100 players

Mar 22, 2023; Dunedin, Florida, USA; Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. smiles against the Baltimore Orioles during the fourth inning at TD Ballpark.

There is little doubt that the Blue Jays are among the most talented teams in the American League, if not all of baseball and as a result are a team tabbed as mid-range favourites to win the 2023 World Series.

How elite is that talent?

A ranking by U.S. sports media giant ESPN lands seven Blue Jays roster players in its top 100 list released on Thursday. Though none are in the top 15 and only two make it to the top 50 of the extensive list covering players in both the American and National Leagues, the fact that seven are there speaks to the Jays’ depth.

The highest-ranked Toronto player checks at No. 16 is Vlad Guerrero Jr., the Toronto first baseman who many are predicting a big bounceback season after regressing from 48 homers in 2021 to 2022 last season. Guerrero has looked strong at Spring Training and has simplified his approach at the plate.

Guerrero finished second to Los Angels star Shohei Ohtani in 2021 AL MVP voting but wasn’t a factor in the race last season when he struggled at times at the plate. He did excel defensively, however, earning a Gold Glove at first base, the first of his career.

Listed at No. 49 is Jays shortstop Bo Bichette, a perhaps underrated slot for the dude who led the American League in hits each of the past two seasons. The 25-year-old struggled defensively at times, however, recording a combined 47 errors over the two previous seasons. At the plate, Bichette was on fire in September, a streak he hopes to continue into 2023.

Two slots down at No. 51 is the Jays’ emerging starting pitcher ace, Alek Manoah, an AL Cy Young Award finalist in his second full season with Toronto. Manoah is seen as a player on the rise who will only get better as he matures and develops.

A healthy George Springer, after off-season surgery to repair his elbow, is slotted at No. 63 by ESPN, another potential low rating if the veteran can stay healthy for a full season for the first time in his Jays tenure. Springer will shift to right field in the Jays’ rebuilt infield and remains the team’s dangerous leadoff hitter.

One of these years, Matt Chapman will get his due. The Jays’ terrific defensive third baseman somehow was denied a Gold Glove at the position last season and is well down the ESPN list at No. 82. That said, another big season from the California native would surely land him a huge contract in free agency next winter. Chapman told us earlier in spring training that he sees himself as the type of hitter he was in 2018 and 2019 with the Athletics and if he returns to that form could be a key part of the Toronto offence.

Watching Jays starter Kevin Gausman this spring, we’re tempted to predict the righty will be a serious Cy Young Award candidate and an ideal tandem with Manoah at the front of the rotation. With an improved defence in front of him, Gausman has the potential to be much more impactful than the No. 85 rank by ESPN.

One newcomer to the Jays cracks the top 100 with left fielder Daulton Varsho holding down 93 on the list. Varsho will be a key defensive add replacing the at-times erratic Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who was dealt in the off-season.

The list is topped by the pair of Angels teammates – Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout – who electrified Tuesday’s final of the World Baseball Classic when the Japanese pitcher struck out the Team USA hitter to clinch the title.

Rounding out the top three is last year’s American League MVP Aaron Judge, who belted 62 home runs for the AL East winning New York Yankees.

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