Monday, December 4, 2023

Uncustomed Heroes of 2023: Blue Jays


I think the best way I can sum up the Toronto Blue Jays this year is that, with how the custom order cycled, I was given thirteen chances to make customs of the best players, or most relevant players, on this team. Of those thirteen, I not only was able to do the usual suspects [Bichette, Gausman, Guerrero, Varsho] but the sudden unsung heroes that cropped up, including Davis Schneider, who set the league on fire on his come-up. And yet, as I am here for Uncustomed Heroes, and I only have four left, and two of them are the two next-best players I would have made if the cycle kept going. 

That's the Blue Jays for you. I have two players I absolutely should have talked about during the regular season, but I don't have much more than that. 

Chris Bassitt was one of those guys that was up next in the order a bunch of times, and someone else always overtook him. Jose Berrios at one point, Schneider at another, eventually Alejandro Kirk to round out the season. That shouldn't diminish his umpteenth excellent year, as the perennial workhorse didn't miss a start, led the league in wins with 16, a 3.60 ERA and a career high 186 strikeouts. For the first time in a couple seasons, Bassitt will be staying in one place for more than a year, and I think he's found a nice home in Toronto.
2024 Prediction: Bassitt will be turning 35, so he'll have the chance to establish a Charlie Morton-esque second act. I say he does it, but I don't think he'll be healthy enough to make all 33 starts again. 

The other Blue Jay that it's a wonder I'm just getting to now is Brandon Belt, who I thought nothing of when he signed but launched a homer against the Yankees on a night I was in the Bronx. Belt's consistent, peak years are over, and I don't think the Jays ever expected any Giants-esque performances when they signed him. As a DH, though, Belt was pretty nice, hitting 19 homers and 43 RBIs, despite a .254 average, in 103 games. 
2024 Prediction: A lower-key team will pick him up as a DH option. If he continues to surprise in his mid30s, perhaps a competitor, or an old friend by the Bay, will pick him up for a stretch run.

Though injuries have kept him from a full campaign since his impressive 2018-2021 run, Hyun-Jin Ryu has remained a threatening, intimidating presence in Toronto's rotation. In 11 games this season, Ryu, for the most part, delivered on the promises that his absence left. His 3.46 ERA and 38 Ks aren't completely stellar, but they padded the rotation during the stretch, and allowed for a 6-man platoon that kept the arms from overheating.
2024 Prediction: I don't know if anyone's gonna put trust in Ryu for more than a season. I'm thinking somebody relatively big will get him, but on a flyer. And hopefully, though with reduced velocity, he delivers for them.

The sole Blue Jays trade deadline deal that I actually understood, and of course it's the one that didn't amount to much overall. Jordan Hicks was having a decent year in relief for St. Louis, the Jays knew what he was capable of and dealt for him. In 25 games in Toronto he hit a 2.63 ERA, with 22 Ks and 4 saves. He was also masterful in an inning of postseason play, striking out 2 and allowing no runs. 
2024 Prediction: Hicks will sign a 'bang for your buck' deal somewhere big, and it will go so well that a team will no doubt overpay for him on a multi-year deal starting in 2025.

Coming Tomorrow- They were set to go all the way, and then by the grace of the round-1-bye they were gone. What happened?

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