The Toronto Blue Jays’ outfield was certainly not a strength of the team in 2019. They were not good in any particular category, offensively or defensively. For example, in terms of overall production, the Jays were 27th out of 30 MLB teams, receiving a total of 1.6 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) from their outfield. For context, the Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with a 17.7 WAR from their outfielders. 14 out of 30 MLB teams generated a WAR of at least 10 from their outfielders. These stats prove just how far away the Blue Jays’ outfield is from even being league average.
The 2019 Blue Jays’ outfield looked like this:
Left Field – Lourdes Gurriel Jr
Center Field – Teoscar Hernandez
Right Field – Randal Grichuk
- Derek Fisher
- Anthony Alford
- Billy McKinney
- Jonathan Davis
Lourdes Gurriel Jr began the season as a second baseman. He struggled significantly on defense, making inaccurate throws from feet away, which also made his offensive production decline. The Blue Jays sent him down to AAA Buffalo to work on being a left fielder.
A few weeks later, Gurriel returned to the Major League club and officially moved from second base to left. Since moving from second base, Lourdes Gurriel Jr has become a terrific defender and his offense has improved dramatically as he finished the season with a .277 batting average and a 127 OPS+. Although, he has room for improvement as he had a few lengthy cold streaks at the plate and gets injured easily.
In June 2019, Gurriel said this to Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet about his work in left field:
"I put in a lot of time, a lot of work — working very hard in the outfield. I'm just trying to get better every day. And right now, I'm feeling very good out there," Gurriel said through Blue Jays interpreter Hector Lebron. "It feels great. I'm feeling good at the plate. I'm helping the team as much as I can to win games. And I'll hopefully continue like that."
Lourdes Gurriel Jr has not even played a full season in left field and is already performing extremely well. Gurriel’s only 26 years old and with more experience in left, Gurriel Jr can only get better. Gurriel Jr isn’t moving away from left field any time soon.
Randal Grichuk was traded to the Blue Jays on January 19th, 2018 from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for pitchers Dominic Leone and Conner Greene. Just a year later, he signed a 5 year, $52-million contract extension in April 2019. This deal will pay Grichuk $12 million in 2020. Essentially, this means Grichuk is going to be seeing the majority of playing time in right field.
Grichuk is a power hitter, as he belted 31 homers in 2019. Aside from power, he’s a pretty average to a below-average player as his batting average is .232, .16 points below average, and his OPS+ is 93, which is 7 below average. On defense, he above average because he has some speed and can track down fly balls with ease. For Grichuk to be a serious difference-maker for the Blue Jays, he needs to do more than just hit for power and play good defense.
On the 2017 MLB July trade deadline, the Blue Jays gave up Francisco Liriano in exchange for Nori Aoki and Teoscar Hernandez.
In 2019, Hernandez proved that he is not reliable in center field. Hernandez has struggled with defense in left and center field throughout his career and although his defense has improved significantly, it still is not good enough. Hernandez played the majority of games in center field though, which proves that the state of the Blue Jays outfield is not good.
Offensively, Teoscar Hernandez is very inconsistent. Hernandez was red-hot with the bat in the second half but struggled a little bit during the first half of the season. Hernandez can hit for power as he launched 26 home runs in 2019. Overall, he is a slightly above average player as his OPS+ is 105. Due to the lack of options, Hernandez will most likely get the majority of playing time in center field in 2020. If Hernandez can stay consistent and fix his defensive issues, he could be a great player for the Blue Jays, but those are two big ifs’.
The roster depth for the outfield isn’t great either. The bench includes trade acquisition Derek Fisher, who struck out 43 times in 93 at-bats with the Jays, Billy McKinney, defensive whiz Jonathan Davis, and former top prospect Anthony Alford, who’s out of options and needs to be kept on the roster to start the season or he’ll be exposed to waivers. Nobody to get excited about.
The 2020 Blue Jays outfield will likely be the same as last year. Lourdes Gurriel Jr in left, Teoscar Hernandez in center and Randal Grichuk in right. Gurriel Jr is someone to watch in the Jays’ outfield but other than that is way below average and is not something Jays fans brag about.