Toronto Blue Jays: More prepared to battle the injury bug in 2018

DUNEDIN, FL - FEBRUARY 27: Devon Travis
DUNEDIN, FL - FEBRUARY 27: Devon Travis /

The Toronto Blue Jays’ main focus this past off-season was to upgrade their depth at the major league level, so they can avoid last year’s struggles with the injury bug.

The biggest hole the Toronto Blue Jays had to address in the off-season was their lack of depth up the middle of the infield.

Not only have the Blue Jays addressed those holes with Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Díaz, but if everyone stays healthy those positions will be an area of strength this season.

But that’s the main driving point, “if everyone stays healthy.” Every Blue Jays fan remembers the injury-filled season that both Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis had last year.

Now, even though Travis looks healthy, the same can’t be said about Tulowitzki.

It was reported early in spring training that he was dealing with a bone spur in his right ankle. At first, manager John Gibbons downplayed the injury. But now there are several reports indicating the 33-year-old won’t be ready for Opening Day.

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If Tulowitzki isn’t available for Mar. 29, it’s expected that Diaz would fill in full-time. After his breakout year in 2016, Diaz struggled in 79 games last season only hitting .259/.290/.392 with seven home runs and 20 RBI. Even though Diaz hasn’t impressed many people with his bat this spring, the Blue Jays remain positive he will be a key contributor offensively and defensively.

Another player who has really emerged this spring is infielder, Gift Ngoepe. The 28-year-old was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates back on Nov. 20 for cash or a player to be named later. In eight plate appearances, he has a line of .250/.500/.625 with one home run and one RBI.

Out of all the players he has seen in Spring Training, Gibbons believes Ngoepe has stood out the most to him, according to Sportsnet‘s Arden Zwelling

A year ago, the Blue Jays’ outfield heading into the season lacked serious depth. This time around they made sure they were ready to battle any injuries thrown at them. Adding veteran, Curtis Granderson and a promising option in Randal Grichuk gives the team a more reliable outfield than they had a year ago.

Grichuk, who is expected to start the season playing everyday in right-field, is already impressing Blue Jays fans in spring action. In six plate appearances, he is hitting .333/.429/.500 with one run batted in.

"“He can play all over that outfield. He’s going to make our outfield that much better. He’s got a lot of pop,” said Gibbons, to Sportsnet‘s Ben Nicholson-Smith on the potential Grichuk brings to the lineup."

Adding to their outfield depth at the major league level also gives the Blue Jays a handful of minor league players ready to take the next step. Anthony Alford and Teoscar Hernandez are the first names that come to mind. But Dalton Pompey and Dwight Smith Jr. are also capable of being in a starting role if called upon this season.

Hernandez is the most ready out of all the names mentioned above. After arriving at last year’s trade deadline, he hit .261/.305/.602 with eight home-runs and 20 RBI. Hernandez will be the go-to player if any of the current outfielders get hit with the injury bug.

Next: Jays unconcerned by Seung-hwan Oh's shoulder issue

Staying healthy will be the reason the Toronto Blue Jays can be a playoff contender into this season. However, if they do suffer any injury issues, at least they are better prepared to deal with them.