Donkey Cuts EP29: ‘Optimism & Uncertainty’, welcome to the 2019 Toronto Blue Jays

Shug McSween Mar 17, 2019

Hello, and welcome to the 29th episode of Donkey Cuts. If this happens to be your first time stepping in the box, expect a new type of spin on my baseballs. I’ll break down every and anything to do with the Toronto Blue Jays. You will step into some heat at times and I’ll even mix in a change. To ensure the ‘K’, my signature move will be to buckle your knees with a filthy knuckle-curve.  Those are the type of episodes where like today’s piece, I’ll keep you on your toes.

 For episode 29 it’s important we try to ‘touch em all’ and let’s justifiably start off today’s chatter with newly minted lead-off man Randal Grichuk.

1B: Once acquired for reliever Dominic Leone and prospect, Connor Greene, the 27-year-old Grichuk is coming off an up-and-down 2018 and certainly approaches 2019 as a chance to break out for the Blue Jays. Much like everyone else who puts on a jersey, it will come down to staying on the field to make it happen. With capabilities to hit 30 plus homers, drive in 100, hit 260 and get on base a bunch, it makes sense for Charlie Montoyo to give Grichuk a look at more at-bats. Montoyo also mentioned Billy McKinney will see time at the top of the lineup when he wants to give Grichuk a day.

Blue Jays fans should be happy with Team Shatkins for acquiring the outfielder from St Louis. In Dominic Leone, you get a solid middle reliever which unfortunately for him is a saturated and expendable market, and Connor Greene now resides on Kansas City’s 40-man roster and pitched for Vladdy Jr, Cavan Biggio and Santiago Espinal at the Arizona Fall League. The Desert wasn’t friendly to Greene as he gave up 12 runs in 9.2 innings and walked 15 batters. Looking back it was a solid move by Team Shatkins and smart play early on from Manager Montoyo as Grichuk is a great candidate for the top of the lineup card.

A question to ponder while we touch second base, what happens if the team struggles early on this season? Kevin Pillar, you may not be clapping after this one.

2B: If the Blue Jays struggle to win games in April and May, Team Shatkins will open the phone lines and light up the Open sign in the front window. Names like Pillar, Smoak, Morales, Richard, Shoemaker, and Biagini, will be mentioned in conversations around the league.

It will become a time of transition and the perfect opportunity to let the kids play and this is when we will see Tellez at first every day, Biggio being used all over the field, Bichette gets his chance at SS and Anthony Alford taking more reps in left-field. If the team breaks camp like a house on fire with the likes of the Stroman’s and Sanchez’s getting back to form, Danny Jansen getting off to a good start on both sides of the ball, and big boppers Hernandez, Smoak and Gurriel Jr providing some offence, the Blue Jays will be able to hold their own against a lot of teams.  A bit much to ask? Maybe, maybe not. My take…hold the phones but it’s true, there’s an outside chance the Blue Jays sneak into the wild-card game.

3B: Let’s round third and head home by shining a light on the pitching staff. It wasn’t long ago the Blue Jays led the league in ERA and Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez were a big part then, and they certainly are now. If these two can use each other for some internal competition and battle it out for the “Ace” of the staff, it would mean both pitchers stay healthy, they keep the ball down, and provide the lineup with quality start after quality start. It’s much easier on a young manager when you have starters who go at least five and allows for Montoyo to drop his relievers in exactly where he would like. Baseball players are all about routine, comfort usually equals results, so if Montoyo can keep the batting order similar throughout the year and get enough out of Stroman, Sanchez and the starters to give him a chance for his bullpen to know their roles, the team can surprise a lot of people.

The name Clay Buchholz should not be forgotten in any of this either, as he has done damage in the AL in previous years and if he can build on his 2018 in the NL, you just never know. Now it’s time to head home.

Home Plate: We touch the last by presenting you the biggest piece of the puzzle, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Suffering from an oblique strain was news that was music to the ears of Team Shatkins. You never want someone to get hurt, but even they would admit it was a blessing in disguise as the chatter about Vladdy’s service time is behind us all. Now we all can assume he will rehab his injury in AAA and his call up will have everything to do with when he is healthy enough, not when he is “ready” enough to play in the majors. Vladdy Jr is going to rake in the majors. He’s a natural, he’s a head-swivelling talent, and most importantly he’s a born and raised Baseball player. Vladdy Jr isn’t a football player who decided baseball instead at age 20, he’s not a college draft pick who developed throughout multiple college seasons. Sometimes it’s hard to comprehend his raw talent as he never played in organized leagues as a youth. Baseball wasn’t a sport, hobby, or past time, for Junior it was and continues to be, life.

If the Blue Jays make the playoffs this season, it’s because Vladimir Guerrero Jr arrived, and is mashing everything he makes contact with. He would have to bring the exact plate discipline and low k rates he’s carried along with him throughout his young minor league career to make it happen. Team Shatkins then better get on the horn and call Alex Anthopoulos in Atlanta to thank him. We probably all should.

The Toronto Blue Jays are all but set to begin the regular season. With only a few spots left up for grabs, Jays Manager, Charlie Montoyo is ready to make his way north with his collection of talent. His bosses, Team Shatkins, are full of optimism as they feel like this past offseason was a success. Now the uncertainty lies in the results ahead as question marks surround this ball club. It’s going to be an entertaining year trying to grasp the vision of management. Win games and hold serve. Or lose a bunch early and sell, sell, sell. Regardless of the outcome, I just hope you’re not stranded in a beer line and miss the fun. Thanks for stopping by, see you around the cage for Episode 30.

Shug McSween

Shug McSween is a veteran here at and has been contributing since day one. A sports nut with a sophisticated opinion, expect McSween to cover any and everything he's passionate about. When he's not busy writing and editing for our crew, McSween likes to get away via fairways and greens. He also contributes to The Hockey Writers, and

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