Sports Zone Exclusive: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Kansas City Royals: Who wins at each position?

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Starting Rotation

The Toronto Blue Jays acquired David Price at the trade deadline to help them win big games down the stretch and more importantly lead their rotation in the playoffs. When it came to game 5 of the ALDS, the Blue Jays didn’t start the guy they paid a big price for (no pun intended) but rather the young kid who tore his ACL just a short 219 days ago. Marcus Stroman started games 2 and 5 of the series and while he didn’t win either; he was composed and gave the Jays a chance to win.

The Jays rotation aside from David Price has been good when you really look at their performance in the ALDS. Marcus Stroman as we touched upon was good and the Jays certainly feel confident in him going forward. While David Price doesn’t have a pretty postseason record, he is still a former CY Young winner with the same pedigree of pitches and high socks too. As we know anything can happen in the playoffs and if Price pitches a complete game shutout it shouldn’t surprise anyone. Expect him to start Game 2 of this series and if he struggles the Jays will likely be open to using their bullpen early with an off day on Sunday. Marco Estrada continues to be the X factor for the Blue Jays and is coming off a strong must win game in Texas. He has been consistent for the Blue Jays ever since being put in the rotation and if people don’t think he is the real deal yet, then they haven’t been watching enough baseball. RA Dickey as we touched on last article, has looked like a whole different pitcher down the stretch. Like Estrada, he often finds success when he comes strong out of the gate in the first inning. Dickey pitched a very important game 4 which was also a must win.

The Royals will throw out Edison Volquez Game 1, who has had his share of antics with the Jays in the regular season. When you look at it he is an average pitcher at most who will have his share of good games and bad games. He had a strong finish to the season and you can expect him to seek revenge after losing his last start against the Blue Jays 3-1.

Yordan Ventura is a hard throwing right-hander who will try and beat teams with his fastball. This will be interesting to see with the Jays having such a potent lineup that can hit the fastball really well. As many would recall, Ventura was sent down to AAA mid season but was immediately called up due to an injury to Jason Vargas. He has the making of a strong pitcher for many years to come, and a strong showing in the playoffs can certainly go a long way towards his confidence on the mound.

The Royals in fact, paid a big price at the deadline too, for two players including Johnny Cueto from the Cincinnati Reds. While he struggled quite significantly down the stretch, he arguably pitched his best game as a Royal; throwing a gem in Game 5 of the ALDS. With the Blue Jays booking their ticket to the ALCS prior to the Royals/Astros game, Jays fans may have been hoping to avoid the Astros rotation and potential CY Young Dallas Keuchel. Though the Royals rotation doesn’t seem as intimidating as the Astros, the recent performance of Cueto makes things different. Watch out for the Jays fans to get to him mentally when he starts in Toronto.

Verdict: Blue Jays

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Bullpen

It was quite something to see the Blue Jays win the ALDS with three pitchers who are the future of the ball club. Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna, the 8th and 9th inning combo, were terrific in the series including a 5 out save by Osuna in Game 5. Both young guys have terrific fastballs and can reach the upper 90’s with it, which sets up their off speed pitches really well. The big story of the ALDS was Brett Cecil going down with a big injury late in Game 2. He remains determined to pitch in a potential World Series but that still remains in the air. He had been a critical part of the Jays success late in games and the Jays were down to 1 lefty in the bullpen for the rest of the series. Aaron Loup had a good outing in Game 2 but ended up missing the remainder of the series due to undisclosed family reasons. The Blue Jays used David Price in relief in a questionable decision by John Gibbons in Game 4. While he could remain an option for the ALCS, the Blue Jays could choose to stick with replacement Ryan Tepera or use Jeff Francis (or Mark Buehrle which is highly unlikely) as a lefty in the bullpen when they make their roster before Game 1 of the ALCS. Mark Lowe, Liam Hendriks, Bo Schultz and Latroy Hawkins will all have their share of innings in the ALCS and expect them to continue to do well with Sanchez and Osuna taking care of higher leverage situations.

Other than a very balanced lineup from top to bottom the Royals pride themselves on their defence and their magnificent bullpen. While they lost their All Star closer Gregg Holland, they still have many weapons to get batters out down the stretch. The big three names to watch are Kelvin Herrara, Luke Hochevar and closer Wade Davis. While Herrara can throw some serious heat out of the bullpen he often faces control issues and can’t command his fastball from time to time. Wade Davis is very effective due to his ability to mix pitches and throw his breaking balls for strikes including a knuckle curve ball to some extent. The Blue Jays may have the best lineup in baseball but there is no fooling a bullpen like this. At the end of the day if any team is capable of giving a bullpen a run for their money though, it’s the Blue Jays.

Verdict: Royals

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First Base

The Blue Jays alternated between Justin Smoak and Chris Colabello at first base during the 5 game series against the Rangers. While Justin Smoak can hit the ball hard when he makes contact, he is clearly the better option when it comes to defence. Chris Colabello came up with some big hits throughout the series and got most of the playing time against a lefty dominant pitching staff. While the Royals have a big share of right handed pitching, expect the Jays to go with the hot hand in Colabello at first base, with Smoak coming in a defensive replacement late in games.

Eric Hosmer of the Royals had himself a very good season, hitting just shy of a .300 AVG and just shy of 100 RBIs. He has been a part of the special journey since last year and while he struggled offensively in the ALDS expect him to have a big ALCS. He hits well against right-handed pitching and the Jays have a big dose of right-handed starters unlike the Astros.

Verdict: Blue Jays

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Second Base

Ryan Goins continues to be a glove magician and came up with a huge stop late in Game 5, going towards the middle to stop a ground ball from being a costly base hit. While Goins makes all these tremendous plays, he has struggled to produce at the plate. He didn’t get one hit in the ALDS but he managed to lay down some good sacrifice bunts. With the Blue Jays lineup being so dominant, they can “afford” to have him struggling at the plate to such an extent but a couple hits here and there would be nice. With a glove like his though, it’s hard not to be happy especially if you are the guy standing on the mound.

Ever since being in Tampa Bay, Ben Zobrist has had the Blue Jays number. He had a big second half for the Royals and he can be the X factor in this series. Look for him to bat at the top of the lineup and get on base quite often. If he continues to hit Blue Jays pitching, the Blue Jays could be in for a fun ride.

Verdict: Royals

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Shortstop

Troy Tulowitzki was a huge part of the Blue Jays push to the playoffs but he didn’t have the best ALDS offensively speaking other than the homerun in Game 3. He has an act for coming up with timely hitting generally speaking but the Jays could have surely hoped to see more production from him. Tulo is a competitor who doesn’t let his offensive struggles affect his play on defence, so expect him to continue his terrific fielding at shortstop. Tulo is bound to get at the plate and you can bet Jays fans hope it’s sooner rather than later.

Alcides Escobar is the Royal’s leadoff hitter who hits to contact and likes to run the bases too. He is stronger defensively then he is offensively but he had a good ALDS at the plate hitting .286. He likes to swing at the first pitch and it is part of the reason why he does well with runners on base. We saw the Rangers try to hit and run off the Jays when things weren’t working out so don’t be surprised to see the Royals do the same.

Verdict: Royals

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Third Base

 MVP. MVP. MVP. The MVP chants were on full blast during home games at the Rogers Centre during the ALDS. Josh Donaldson didn’t deliver an MVP performance but he came up with a huge homerun in Game 2 and 4. That being said Josh Donaldson had some quality at bats with some good swings that just missed going out of the yard. Look for him to hit some big hits against pitchers who will try and sneak a fastball up and in. Don’t be surprised if he gets hit by a pitch at least once in this series.

Mike Moustakas had himself quite a season at the plate after spending time in AAA last year. He had career highs in homeruns, RBIs and average. While the second half of the season wasn’t as good as the first, Moustakas is more than capable of hurting the Blue Jays offensively. He is good hitter overall with even stats against LHP/RHP as well as at home/away but what stands out is his success with runners on base.

Verdict: Blue Jays

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Catcher

As discussed in the ALDS preview, Russell Martin needed to play a big role in slowing down the Rangers running game, and he did just that. With DeShields and Odor running the bases well, he managed to slow down the running game with a big throw in Game 5. At the end of the day his game calling behind the plate is tremendous but he struggled offensively; hitting lots of balls in the air. The Jays are a team that wins with hitting so you can expect the Jays to look for a way to get his bat going. Expect Navarro to take over behind the plate in Game 1 with Estrada pitching. At least the Jays didn’t lose the series on the bizarre play when Martin threw a ball back to Sanchez that hit Choo’s bat.

Salvador Perez had a great series against Houston and is arguably the backbone of the Royals lineup. Like Russell Martin, he plays a big part behind the plate that often gets overlooked. Like Eric Hosmer, Perez will be happy to see more right handed pitching from the Blue Jays and will hit in the middle of the lineup. Though it is a relatively small sample size, Perez struggled against the Blue Jays this season both at home and at the Rogers Centre.

 Verdict: Royals

Oct 14, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals designated hitter Kendrys Morales reacts after hitting a three-run home run against the Houston Astros in the 8th inning in game five of the ALDS at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Designated Hitter

As mentioned in the ALDS preview, Edwin Encarnacion is one of the deadliest hitters when he is hot. He had a great ALDS, batting cleanup and was intentionally walked multiple times. Look for him to continue to drive in runs and hit for power when he is given a chance to hit.

Kendrys Morales’s homerun was the icing on the cake for the Royals in the ALDS in Game 5. He had a wonderful season and was a big part of the Royals success down the stretch hitting over .300 in the second half. He is an absolute killer with runners on base and could be the Blue Jays enemy in this series at the plate. He is very similar to his counterpart Edwin, who comes up with hits down the stretch.

 Verdict: Tie

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Outfield

It was a bat flip for the centuries. Jose Bautista hit a homerun to deep left field that put the Jays ahead and was ultimately the winning runs in Game 5. He didn’t have the best series offensively before the big homerun and people may be complaining about him not doing enough at the plate if the Jays didn’t win the series. While the homerun was nice, expect him not to be satisfied until it’s all said and done. In other words, expect him to drive in some big runs especially late in games.

While Jose Bautista’s homerun was something special, Kevin Pillar continued to be a hero in center field. He made an incredible catch in Game 5 that may have saved the game entirely. Pillar was also the hottest hitter in the ALDS for the Blue Jays but look for him to bat towards the bottom of the order. As mentioned in the ALDS preview, Pillar is a streaky hitter, so expect him to continue to come up with some big hits. Ben Revere had a great series and continues to put the ball in the play at the plate. He was also active on the base paths during the ALDS and you can expect him to continue to produce in both ways moving forward.

Alex Gordon is very similar to Kevin Pillar who is known for his defence in the outfield. He can also be a streaky hitter at times and tends to hit the ball better in Kauffman stadium. While Alex Rios didn’t have his best season at the plate, he quietly had a great ALDS hitting almost .300 at the bottom of the lineup. He has a very strong arm in RF and some would even say it’s up there with the best of them including his counterpart Jose Bautista. He is a former Blue Jay and you can bet he will get booed just a little extra when playing Games 3, 4 and 5 in Toronto.

Lorenzo Cain is an All Star and last years ALCS MVP, who absolutely dominates left handed pitching. That being said, he is a very consistent hitter who, like Ben Revere, will put the ball in play and steal when he gets on base. Cain has played really well at the Rogers Centre this season and you can expect him to be a big part of the Royal’s offence in the ALCS.

Verdict: Blue Jays

Final Thoughts

Both the Blue Jays and Royals dug themselves a hole in the ALDS and came back wit their backs against the wall. The Blue Jays did the improbable coming back trailing two games to nothing to win the series including two big wins on the road in Texas. On the other side, the Royals were trailing 6-2 in game 4 but struck back to force a game 5 which they would ultimately win in Kansas City. The Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals have an intriguing matchup head to head with a benches clearing incident in which Josh Donaldson was almost hit twice as the Royals tried to pitch up and inside to him. You can bet this series will be scrappy as both teams will try and do everything they can do to make it to the World Series. The Jays lead the season series 4-3 and you can expect the ALCS to be just as close. It could really go either way but expect the Jays to prevail in 6 games. It’s a rematch of 1985 folks.

 

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