A report card look at the first half of the Blue Jays

After finishing the first half of the regular season 44-37, the Toronto Blue Jays are near the playoff line as the second half of the campaign begins.

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The New York Yankees appear poised to run away with the American League East this year, while division rivals Boston, Toronto and Tampa Bay own the AL wildcard spots for Tuesday’s games.

An expanded playoff structure this year — a third wildcard team has been added in both leagues — could help teams like the Blue Jays, who narrowly missed the postseason last year, 91-71.

Here’s a testimonial look at Toronto’s first half of the 2022 season (all stats come into play on Tuesday):

START ROTATION

While Alek Manoah is enjoying an excellent second season, disagreements have plagued several Toronto starters this year.

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Manoah has developed into a personal ace thanks to a 9-3 record. The mighty right-hander is third in the AL with a 2.33 earned run average, his .99 WHIP is fifth, and he’s ninth on opposing batting average (.213).

Kevin Gausman (6-6, 2.86) was pretty reliable, but Jose Berrios (6-4, 5.72) and Yusei Kikuchi (3-4, 4.74) had too many ups and downs. Ross Stripling (4-3, 3.32) has transitioned well into rotation from a long backup role following a season-ending injury to Hyun Jin Ryu.

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Overall grade: C

BULLP

Canada goalkeeper Jordan Romano (2-2, 2.79) was a workaholic in the first few months as the Blue Jays ran into close games remarkably often.

His ninth-inning performances are a big reason the Blue Jays are 18-12 in one-run games. Romano of Markham, Ontario has 17 saves this season and is second in the AL behind Emmanuel Clase of Cleveland.

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However, Toronto’s general lack of relief depth must be noted. Setup people Tim Mayza and Yimi Garcia have struggled with injuries at times this season, forcing manager Charlie Montoyo to get creative, sometimes using lower leverage arms in high leverage spots.

Among the main helpers, Adam Cimber and David Phelps posted decent numbers, while Trent Thornton was mediocre. Trevor Richards and Julian Merryweather had a down years before they went to IL.

Overall grade: C-

OUTFIELDER

A healthy George Springer has helped stabilize Toronto’s outfield. The midfielder has solid offensive stats and his defense has also been strong.

Teoscar Hernandez has returned to form from an angled injury and Lourdes Gurriel Jr has also provided a stable presence. Raimel Tapia was a competent option and backup outfielder Bradley Zimmer’s speed made up for a weak bat.

Overall grade: B

INFIELDER

There’s a lot to like about Toronto’s infield situation.

Shortstop Bo Bichette and first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will likely be All-Star game starters. Matt Chapman was a rock at third base and Santiago Espinal proved to be a good everyday second baseman.

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Cavan Biggio has been wielding a hot bat since his recall from Triple-A Buffalo in late May. He was a valuable utilityman as he can play well defensively in several positions.

Overall rating: B+

CATCHER

The Blue Jays are loaded behind the plate. The Toronto catchers currently lead the major leagues in hits (84), batting average (.295), on-base percentage (.367), and OPS (on-base plus slugging) (.869).

Alejandro Kirk hits .315/.405/.910 in a breakout season while forming an impressive 1-2 with Danny Jansen.

With Jansen twice on the injury list this year, the Blue Jays have given top prospect Gabriel Moreno some big league repeats and he has shown some of his impressive skills.

Overall grade: A

MANAGEMENT

General Manager Ross Atkins has done a good job of shaping a competitive roster with a bright future. The next few weeks will be a real test as he looks to make improvements before the August 2nd trading close.

Addressing the lack of depth on the mound is priority #1. Another left-handed racquet would also be a welcome addition.

Toronto ranks ninth in the 30-team MLB performance rankings, with its 44-37 record slightly better than the 2021 roster (43-38) at the halfway point last year. According to FanGraphs projections, the Blue Jays currently have a 90.7 percent chance of making the playoffs.

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Injuries to key players have not made life easy for Montoyo, who is in his fourth season as skipper. He will be under pressure to bring an expected contender back into the postseason.

Overall grade: C+

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 5, 2022.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

https://globalnews.ca/news/8968523/a-report-card-look-at-blue-jays-first-half/ A report card look at the first half of the Blue Jays

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