The Yankees may be the favorites in the AL East, but the Blue Jays lineup has just as much firepower as their rival.
Do not believe me? I’d like to invite you to take a closer look at the starting lineups between the two clubs, and I’ve added an extra player from each side who is also expected to play almost full-time as well. While the response is to assume that the Yankees are the superior group, the gap has been significantly closed with the emergence of a talented crop of young Blue Jays, and the signing of a few premium-free agents.
Since we only have two games in the books, I think it makes a lot more sense to use projections instead of numbers. For that I go to Fangraphs and their ZIPS projectionsThere are other systems out there, and some could argue in their favor, but this will at least give you a general idea of a reliable source. Instead of splitting up all sorts of songs, I kept it to a common number in fWAR.
With that in mind, let’s take a look.
Danny Jansen / Alejandro Kirk = 3.6 fWAR
Gary Sanchez / Kyle Higashioka = 1.6 fWAR
Advantage = Blue Jays (2.0 benefit Toronto)
Don’t believe it, the projections easily prefer the Blue Jays backstops. That’s probably in large part due to Sanchez’s disastrous 2020 season, as well as the positive projections for Alejandro Kirk, who wants to play his first full MLB season. For what it’s worth, ZIPS has both Jansen and Kirk planned for 1.8 fWAR each.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 2.8 fWAR
Luke Voit = 2.9 fWAR
Advantage = Yankees (1.9 Toronto advantage)
Obviously, it is a big blow that the Yankees will be without Luke Voit for at least the first month of this season. That said, ZIPS has him ahead of Vlad Jr., even with some downtime, and that’s probably fair for the 2020 AL home run champion. That said, don’t be surprised if Vlad Jr. outperforms him this year. He’s really looking good now that he’s in shape and looks like he’s rediscovered his old confidence.
Marcus Semien = 4.2 fWAR
DJ LeMahieu = 4.2 fWAR
Advantage = Even (1.9 Toronto advantage)
Yankees fans will likely disagree with this assessment, but we shouldn’t forget that it also packs defensive value, where Semien is likely to have an edge, even with LeMahieu’s versatility. That said, Semien needs to be more like the 2019 version of him to keep up with the AL batting champion in New York.
Cavan Biggio = 3.2 fWAR
Gio Urshela = 2.5 fWAR
Advantage = Blue Jays (2.6 Toronto advantage)
Granted, some of Biggio’s expected value comes from his own defensive versatility, but I’d still give him a slight edge over Urshela. ZIPS projections would agree.
Bo Bichette = 4.0 fWAR
Gleyber Torres = 4.4 fWAR
Advantage = Yankees (2.2 Toronto advantage)
For now, it makes sense that Torres would have the slight advantage, but this is another position that I could see the Blue Jays win towards the end of the year. Perhaps the biggest key is whether Bichette can stay healthy for an entire season, but otherwise you can expect him to keep up with the Yankee star.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. = 1.8 fWAR
Clint Frazier = 1.2 fWAR
Advantage = Blue Jays (2.8 benefit Toronto)
This could be an interesting fight, as I think both Gurriel Jr. if Frazier are stars flying under the radar. The Yankee’s outfielder should finally get the chance to play every day, and I’d be surprised if he doesn’t take advantage. Still, he should have some catching up to do to find out the value of Gurriel Jr. reach.
George Springer = 3.9 fWAR
Aaron Hicks = 2.4 fWAR
Advantage = Blue Jays (4.3 benefit Toronto)
Perhaps the biggest advantage the Blue Jays will have is one they didn’t have available for the opening series of the season. That said, their $ 150 million man should be back sooner rather than later, and he’ll make the Blue Jays better on both sides of the ball.
Teoscar Hernandez = 2.1 fWAR
Aaron Judge = 4.3 fWAR
Advantage = Yankees (2.1 Toronto advantage)
And the biggest advantage for the Yankees comes in the right field, with their brightest star Aaron Judge. If you looked at the 2020 numbers, Hernandez actually outperformed the Yankee slugger, but I’m not sure I’d bet this happens again. That said, Judge must also stay sane or Hernandez could win this position too.
Rowdy Tellez = 1.7 fWAR
Giancarlo Stanton = 3.2 fWAR
Advantage = Yankees (0.6 Toronto advantage)
Will this be the year that Stanton stays healthy? If he does, that’s a big advantage for the Bronx Bombers, but that’s a big advantage too. As for Tellez, we’ll see if last year’s outbreak was real, but I bet it was.
Randal Grichuk = 1.5 fWAR
Brett Gardner = 1.8 fWAR
Advantage = Yankees (0.3 benefit Toronto)
Chances are, both Grichuk and Gardner will each get 400 or more at-bats during the year, especially if one or both provide cover for injuries at all. At this point, Grichuk finds himself starting full-time, and will at least do so until Springer returns. As with the rest of the bank, these two can make a significant contribution.
Have I convinced you yet? Again, this is just one projection system, but my point is that there’s no reason the Blue Jays can’t stick with the Yankees as far as their lineup goes. The bigger fight will likely come with their pitching staff, with the Blue Jays hoping for upside plays from the likes of Robbie Ray, Steven Matz and more, and the Yankees praying for healthy seasons from Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon and later Luis. Severino.
The two clubs split the first two games of the year and don’t be surprised if it’s a close battle all year round.
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