Blue Jays' playoff fate could be determined by these 6 out-of-town heroes

·MLB Writer
·5 min read
Juan Soto and Shohei Ohtani could determine the Blue Jays' playoff fate this weekend. (Photo by Matt Dirksen/Colorado Rockies/Getty Images)
Juan Soto and Shohei Ohtani could determine the Blue Jays' playoff fate this weekend. (Photo by Matt Dirksen/Colorado Rockies/Getty Images)

After a disappointing series loss at the hands of the New York Yankees, the Toronto Blue Jays’ playoff hopes have entered tenuous territory.

There's still hope considering they’re only one game out with three remaining, but they will need to take care of the Baltimore Orioles, almost certainly three times in a row, and get some help.

Watching closely for that assistance will become a central component of the Blue Jays fan experience this weekend — just as it was on Thursday night when Orioles slugger Ryan Mountcastle briefly became a folk hero on Blue Jays Twitter for delivering a three-run home run to bury the Boston Red Sox. Fans across Canada are about to find themselves investing more in the Washington Nationals (the Red Sox’ opponent) and the Los Angeles Angels (the Seattle Mariners’ opponent) than they ever thought possible.

In order to enrich that experience, we’re going to shine a spotlight on some potential Mountcastle types to watch this weekend — possible Blue Jays heroes who won’t be wearing Blue Jays jerseys:

Juan Soto, OF, Nationals

If anybody is capable of individually derailing the Red Sox this weekend it’s Soto. The 22-year-old currently leads all position players in WAR and is undoubtedly the hardest out in the game. Since the all-star break he’s hit a ridiculous .360/.532/.662. In September, he’s managed an even more absurd .404/.565/.691.

Soto is a one-man wrecking crew doing his best Barry Bonds impression down the stretch. There’s no one in the entire league you’d take over him in an individual at-bat right now, and it would be far from shocking to see him put up a monster performance or two over the weekend.

Josiah Gray, SP, Nationals

Unlike Soto, Gray is the farthest thing from a safe bet to put on a show over the weekend. The right-hander who came from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Max Scherzer trade is in the midst of a volatile rookie year and the 5.85 ERA attached to his name is far from pretty.

The reason Gray gets a mention on this list is raw talent alone. The top prospect can bring the heat with a fastball that averages 94.6 mph and comes with significantly above-average spin rate and movement. When his command is on, it can be a deadly pitch he can dial up to blow past some of the best hitters in the game — like he did on this 97-mph beauty to Freddie Freeman:

Unlike the Nationals’ other starters this weekend (Josh Rogers and Erick Fedde), Gray is a high-ceiling guy capable of spinning a gem, even if it’s not something you can count on.

Lane Thomas, OF, Nationals

Thomas is a former Blue Jays prospect who has taken over the centre field and leadoff roles for the Nationals this year. Not only does he have wheels — as his 93rd percentile Sprint Speed attests — he’s also come on strong this month:

It’s too early in Thomas’s career to tell if he’s figuring it out or simply on a hot streak, but either could work in the Blue Jays’ favour this weekend. The 26-year-old is capable of changing games with his bat, glove, or legs, and that’s precisely what he’s been doing lately.

Shohei Ohtani, SP/OF/DH, Angels

This one might be a touch bittersweet for Blue Jays fans as Ohtani has been the antagonist in Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s quest for the MVP all season, but it looks like the two-way star has already won that race. Now he can help Toronto by continuing to be the offensive monster he’s been all season, and especially in recent days as he has three multi-hit games (including three triples) in his last five contests.

Ohtani’s power is truly breathtaking, and his speed is underrated as well — making him a multi-faceted headache for opponents, even when he isn’t pitching. The Mariners haven't had much luck with him either, as he’s hit four home runs and two triples with four stolen bases in his 16 games against them.

José Suarez, SP, Angels

Suarez is no household name, and he’s far from an ace, but he’s on a roll right now. The 23-year-old has posted a 3.20 ERA in September while holding opposing hitters to a measly .204/.253/.355 line and even mixing in a one-run complete game against the Texas Rangers.

The rookie has a respectable fastball that averages 92.8 mph and his signature pitch is a changeup that hitters have whiffed on at a 38.2 percent rate this year. The offering has a nearly 10-mph gap to his fastball and the potential to make hitters look silly:

To make matters worse for the Mariners, they are one of the worst teams in the league against left-handed pitching, slashing just .231/.299/.393 this season.

Jared Walsh, 1B, Angels

A 27-year-old late bloomer, Walsh has established himself as an everyday player this year, and his rise forced Albert Pujols off the roster earlier in the season. Although the first baseman brings a dose of power from the left side of the plate, what’s most notable about him is what he’s done lately.

Not only does he have an excellent .323/.390/.483 September line to his name, he also has 10 hits in his last five games, indicating he’s zeroed in down the stretch.

Walsh tends to hit directly behind Ohtani, which gives him the best chance to drive in runs on the Angels. If the Blue Jays broadcast flips over to a multi-run homer in the Mariners-Angels game this weekend, there’s a pretty good chance Walsh has authored it.

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