21. Toronto Blue Jays (66-77, minus-90, LT: 21)
The Blue Jays have endured many problems during this cellar-dwelling season. Perhaps none more acute than their outfield problem.
In right field, they’ve got Jose Bautista, who can’t field, can’t run, and nearing his 37th birthday, doesn’t look like he has much left to offer with the bat either. Ezequiel Carrera’s enjoying the best offensive season of his career. But he’s built those numbers on an unsustainable .368 batting average on balls in play, and wields less power than almost any other corner outfielder in baseball. Neither Carrera nor his platoon partner Steve Pearce produce anything close to playable defense either.
Now here’s the good news: Help is on the way. For starters, Teoscar Hernandez figures to win one of the starting jobs. Inexplicably stolen from the Astros for a couple months of lousy Francisco Liriano innings, Hernandez broke out with a two-homer game on Sunday, and figures to receive regular playing time down the stretch. Meanwhile, 23-year-old rookie Anthony Alford dazzled with a .310/.406/.429 line at Double-A New Hampshire this year, and possesses the combination of on-base ability and speed that could lead to him becoming the leadoff man the Jays have sought for a while. Alford has only played in seven games above the Double-A level and might not be as polished as Hernandez, so the Jays might wait a bit before giving him a clear shot at an everyday job in the majors. But there’s a real possibility that both Hernandez and Alford could be starting for the Jays at some point next year.
None of that addresses what the Jays might do with Kevin Pillar. Arguably the best homegrown position-player prospect the team has shepherded to the majors in two decades (exactly, yikes), Pillar’s made his reputation as a Gold Glove-caliber gloveman who makes far too many outs at the plate. But with Pillar arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and showing no signs of progress with the bat, the Jays could try to trade him and look for help outside the organization to complement their coming kids.
However this all shakes out, one thing seems clear: The Jays outfield of 2018 won’t look anything like the Jays outfield of 2017. Given how this year’s group performed, that’s a very good thing.
20 Pittsburgh Pirates (67-77, minus-71, LT: 20)
19 Miami Marlins (68-75, minus-38, LT: 15)