2021 ZiPS Projections: Toronto Blue Jayson November 18, 2020 at 4:00 pm

2021 ZiPS Projections: Toronto Blue Jays

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for nine years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Toronto Blue Jays.


The Jays offense did what it needed to in 2020, with the team doing an excellent job filling some of the holes in the lineup, especially in the outfield. I was admittedly skeptical of the motley crew of players who aren’t related to former big leaguers, but most of the personnel decisions worked out solidly for the organization. Teoscar Hernandez finished in the top 10 in exit velocity; ZiPS now has him projected for a slugging percentage over .500 in 2021, enough to make him a legitimate starter rather than an interesting, one-dimensional bat. This is also the least skeptical ZiPS has been of Lourdes Gurriel Jr..

But while the outfield now looks like a decent group, the trickiest thing is still Randal Grichuk in center. I appreciate the Jays’ willingness to get creative and use a player who doesn’t look like a traditional fit at the position, but Grichuk still isn’t particularly good and his short-season 2020 stats were more good than great. After Grichuk, the team’s center field options aren’t all that appealing and I’d be inclined to improve the big league club’s depth at the position.

There’s a bit of disagreement between ZiPS and Steamer about Vladimir Guerrero Jr. ZiPS is more worried about Vladito than Steamer is (conversely, ZiPS likes Bo Bichette better than Steamer does). I’m not actually sure which projection system I’m closer to personally. Guerrero’s raw stats in the majors haven’t been mind-blowing by any stretch of the imagination, but he also doesn’t turn 22 until just before the start of the season. If you translated his actual major league performances to Double-A in 2019 and Triple-A in 2020, perfectly reasonable levels for his age, I doubt anyone would be disappointed. Still, his ceiling has to be slightly lower now, his conditioning is meh, and he has quickly moved the wrong way on the defensive spectrum.

That being said, I’m probably exaggerating the weakness of his ZiPS projection. ZiPS continues to expect him to be fine, it’s just not sure when; it still projects his average career at 50 WAR, only three less than it did before last season. While I haven’t run everyone yet, that would still put him in the top 15 for rest-of-career projections.


Going into the season, I was really concerned about how well the Blue Jays would patch their pitching together after Hyun Jin Ryu. Those worries turned out to be warranted, as apart from Ryu and the six starts the team got from Taijuan Walker, the rotation’s performance was pretty bleak. But it wasn’t so bleak that it kept the team from making the greatly expanded playoffs, finishing above .500. I’m actually more positive about the team’s hurlers this time around. Ryu pitched as well in the AL East as the projections hoped, so there’s much less worry there and ZiPS remains a fan of Robbie Ray. Both Ross Stripling and Tanner Roark project to have better seasons than their 2020 as well.

ZiPS is really into Nate Pearson for 2021 (another disagreement with Steamer). Only one other pitcher has gotten a comp to Jim Palmer at any stage of his career: Mike Soroka. I think the Jays would be quite happy if Pearson turned out to be as solid as Soroka was, pre-injury of course. The larger question is how durable Pearson will be, though 2020 didn’t provide much of a good answer.

I really hope the Jays are aggressive in adding to the bullpen this winter. Outside of Rafael Dolis and Jordan Romano, there’s just not a whole lot of zazz, zork, kapowza, or anything else that puts mazuma in the bank. This is a team that really could have justified claiming Brad Hand (not that there wasn’t company on that score). Average relievers tend to have an ERA+ of 108 or so, though that figure was lower in 2020; only the two relievers named above project to clear that mark. Toronto’s a team on the edge of the playoff race in a tough division and every win added is a high-leverage one.

One pedantic note for 2021: For the WAR graphic, I’m using FanGraphs’ depth charts playing time, not the playing time ZiPS spits out, so there will be occasional differences in WAR totals.

Ballpark graphic courtesy Eephus League. Depth charts constructed by way of those listed here.

Players are listed with their most recent teams wherever possible. This includes players who are unsigned, players who will miss 2021 due to injury, and players who were released in 2020. So yes, if you see Joe Schmoe, who quit baseball back in August to form a Finnish industrial death metal fourth-wave ska J-pop band, he’s still listed here intentionally.

Both hitters and pitchers are ranked by projected zWAR, which is to say, WAR values as calculated by me, Dan Szymborski, whose surname is spelled with a z. WAR values might differ slightly from those which appear in the full release of ZiPS. Finally, I will advise anyone against — and might karate chop anyone guilty of — merely adding up WAR totals on a depth chart to produce projected team WAR. ZiPS is assuming that the designated hitter will continue in force in 2021; if it does not, there will be widespread minor adjustments across the board come April.

ZiPS is agnostic about future playing time by design. For more information about ZiPS, please refer to this article, or get angry at Dan on Twitter or something.

Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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