Many 2021 Blue Jays 2021 awards are obvious, so we dove deep on 10 special honors and superlatives for Toronto's recent season:
Most Inspiring Story: Connor Overton
What began as an open solicitation on Twitter manifested itself into a truly unique major-league debut for reliever Connor Overton.
A 2014 draft pick of the Marlins, the 28-year-old bounced between the minor leagues and independent ball for a while, before reviving his career and debuting with the Blue Jays on August 12.
His time with Toronto spanned just 6 2/3 innings, but his first appearance in the majors was one of many feel-good moments during the Blue Jays’ season. A deeper dive of Overton’s seven-year trek to the majors is available here.
Most Random Appearance: Jared Hoying
Yes, Tanner Roark pitched three games for the Jays in April, but an even stranger Blue Jays cameo came in mid-June.
32-year-old outfielder Jared Hoying got into two games (one start) with Toronto, marking his first big-league reps since 2017. He went 0-for-3 with a strikeout.
Hoying’s stint as a Blue Jays didn’t last long, nor was it a memorable one—he elected free agency on June 24 and returned to the KBO. Instead, he kept the outfield warm for when George Springer re-joined the club days later.
Best Hair: Kirby Snead
Bo Bichette and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. are easy picks, but a lesser-known mane takes the trophy here. Left-hander Kirby Snead debuted his luscious locks during his Blue Jays debut on July 28 and wound up working a 2.35 ERA in seven appearances.
“I have the longest [hair], that’s for sure,” Snead said during the season. “I don’t know if it’s the best, but definitely the longest.”
Please Kirby, stop being modest. Your flow is fabulous.
Most Likely To Bounce Back: Cavan Biggio
2021 was a forgettable season for Cavan Biggio; lingering neck and back issues bothered the 26-year-old for most of the season, which helps explain his .224/.322/.356 slash line through 79 games.
But 2021 was an outlier. From 2019 to 2020, Biggio’s 15.9% chase rate was tops among qualified major-league hitters, and his 16.1% walk rate ranked eighth. When he’s at his best, Biggio is an OBP machine with incredible plate discipline—a great guy to have on base for when the big boppers come to the plate.
A permanent move away from third base should make him more comfortable and get him on track towards a bounce-back year in 2022.
Most Likely 2022 Opening Day Third Baseman: TBD
The Blue Jays have a deep position player core, but third base is a position where they can still improve. Toronto’s third basemen ranked 19th in MLB in wRC+ (86), 20th in wOBA (.301), and 21st in OPS (.684). Santiago Espinal boosted the club’s overall third-base WAR output with some excellent defense, yet there’s room for a little extra pop at the hot corner.
A left-handed bat is a priority. The Blue Jays reportedly targeted Jose Ramirez at this year’s trade deadline and could pursue him again this winter. Veterans such as Kyle Seager or Eduardo Escobar are viable cheaper options, too.
Upgrades are available via trade or free agency, meaning there’s a good chance someone brand new starts at third base when Toronto opens the 2022 season.
Life Of The Party: Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was taped to the bench and Teoscar Hernàndez flashed his smile all season, but there was one Blue Jay always in the mix. If Lourdes Gurriel Jr. wasn’t on the field or in the batter’s box, he was at the end of the Blue Jays’ dugout cracking jokes, hanging out with teammates, building sand structures, or staring through water bottles.
Best Bromance: Hyun Jin Ryu and Alek Manoah
This year's Blue Jays had no shortage of love stories: Vlad and Bo, Bichette and Semien, and Robbie Ray and throwing strikes. But, one bromance rose above.
The two largest lads on the Blue Jays, Manoah and Ryu, were constantly by each other's side walking in from the bullpen, chatting at the top step of the dugout, and going out for steaks and Korean barbecue after games.
“He’s a huge role model. He’s definitely like a big brother to me, somebody that I can look up to,” Manoah told MLB.com’s Keegan Matheson.
Hottest Prospect: Gabriel Moreno
Alek Manoah debuted and Orelvis Martinez flashed power, but Gabriel Moreno was the fastest rising prospect in Toronto's system in 2021. Despite playing just 37 games of organized baseball in 2021 due to injury, Moreno broke into Top 100 prospect lists and even shot up into the Top 10 of Baseball America's rankings.
Currently getting some extra work in at the Arizona Fall League, Moreno posted a 1.060 OPS across three levels this season. Graded as one of the best catching prospects in all of baseball, the 21-year-old will likely start next season in Triple-A and receive an invite to Major League Spring Training.
Most Improved Player (Not Named Guerrero): Santiago Espinal
While Marcus Semien, Robbie Ray, and Steven Matz all had massive years, none are locks to be on the Blue Jays roster next season. So, for MIP in the non-Guerrero category, we'll go with Espinal.
There wasn't a single major offensive statistic that Espinal didn't show significant improvement in from 2020 to 2021. He walked more, struck out less, hit his first (and second) career homer, and added .140 to his OPS.
There's room for regression, with Espinal posting a high BAbip and facing sheltered at-bats against largely left-handed pitching. But, his 114 OPS+ and elite defense (89th percentile OAA), position him as a great utility infielder, at the very least.
Team MVP: Vlad Guerrero Jr.
We couldn't make it through a 'best of' list without highlighting the superlative superlative for the 2021 Toronto Blue Jays. With only a Babe Ruth reincarnation preventing him from winning MVP, Vlad Guerrero Jr. had the best Blue Jay offensive season since Josh Donaldson. Everything has been discussed, written, and lauded about Guerrero Jr. already and there's not much left to say.
However, there's one aspect of Guerrero's incredible 2021 that has gone largely underappreciated: availability. Guerrero notched 48 homers, collected 363 total bases, and drove in 111 runs, but he couldn't have reached those gaudy counting stats without forcing his name onto the lineup card almost every single day.
Guerrero registered more plate appearances than all but one Blue Jay in a season (Semien) since 2016. He played in all but one of Toronto's games and the 22-year-old's ability to withstand and flourish under the onslaught of his first 162-game season further highlights the athleticism he unlocked with recent offseason changes.