Exit Interviews: Blue Jays outfielders assess their 2019 seasons

Ross Atkins joined Tim & Sid to discuss the Blue Jays season. Atkins was asked several questions about the progression of the young core and what other types of pieces maybe needed to make the Blue Jays a contender.

During the final week of the season, GM Ross Atkins and manager Charlie Montoyo held meetings with each member of the Toronto Blue Jays to discuss how things went in 2019, listen to the player’s assessment of his performance and talk about how best to push things forward. Since those conversations aren’t available to the public, here at sportsnet.ca we decided to conduct our own exit interviews for fans to digest.

Friday, in the final instalment, the Blue Jays’ outfielders assess their seasons. On Monday, we heard from the starters, on Tuesday the relievers, on Wednesday the catchers and on Thursday, the infielders.

The comments from Lourdes Gurriel Jr. were made through club interpreter Hector Lebron.

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OUTFIELD

Anthony Alford
30 PA | 1 HR | .179/.233/.286 | 1 BB | 11 K | -0.2 WAR

“Just some ups and downs overall. I struggled in April and had some injuries, but you talk about perseverance and it’s just pushing through those tough times and finding a way to compete and help the team win. Overall, looking at the big picture, I think it was a success. I got my first home run in the big-leagues and it was a walk-off, so that’s definitely a season highlight. In triple-A this year we were having a really good season. We won a lot of games and were close to making the playoffs. From the middle of May to the end of the season, we were always in the hunt. It was always good games and it was always fun playing. Overall, it was a fun year.

“I’m still working to try to improve. Just searching for more consistency, especially when it comes to the offensive side. I hold myself accountable and want to make myself a better baseball player.”

Jonathan Davis
95 PA | 2 HR | .181/.266/.265 | 5 BB | 24 K | -0.4 WAR

“I’m going to feel good about 2019, for sure. There was a lot of growth. When you feel like you have everything figured out, you don’t. You’re always learning and I saw this year that there’s so much more I can learn each and every day. But I feel really good about the season I had. I started off with an injury, came back from it, weathered through some storms early on, started to play pretty decent when I came back and went through some adversity when I got back up to the big-leagues. I really, going into the off-season, have a lot to work on as far as, not necessarily changing my whole swing, but my approach. And I’m excited about it, man. I don’t think I’ve been at a stage like this when I’ve gone into the off-season knowing that I have to make a change. I’m ready to get after it.

“It’s just shortening up my swing, being more direct to the baseball. At this level, guys have a better command of their pitches and then you have more consistent velocity on a regular basis. With that being said, I can’t miss my pitches. So, that’s what I want to work on — being more direct, staying through the baseball. Just shortening up and working on getting on base more rather than trying to drive the ball as much.”

Derek Fisher
167 PA | 7 HR | .185/.287/.370 | 21 BB | 57 K | -0.2 WAR

“For me, 2019, honestly, was good. Because in 2018 I tried to change some things offensively. I came into 2019 when I was with Houston. I made some adjustments and I’d say 85 per cent of the year I was happy with what I was doing. Obviously (in Toronto) I was not. I’m not happy with what I was doing here. But the only thing I can ask for is to each and every day get better at that individual thing (you’re working on). Simplicity in the box and listening to my own body, listening to my own swing (helped). Making adjustments each day. I feel like once you start to make adjustments that don’t really make sense to your body or swing, some things can start to go awry. I learned that. So, this year I was able to listen to my own body, listen to my own swing and make adjustments. Probably the last 100 at-bats that I’ve had here aren’t what I want, but each day you just try to get better.

“Some things may not work and that’s baseball. It’s trial and error. I think it’s just being able to understand and be honest with yourself about what’s going on every day and what you need to change, instead of being stubborn and thinking that what you’re doing is right when you know there’s more to be done.”

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

Randal Grichuk
628 PA | 31 HR | .232/.280/.457 | 35 BB | 163 K | 0.3 WAR

“Honestly, I would personally say more negatives than positives. I feel like I need to get started off on a better foot. Finished the year solid but struggled early on. I think the power is there, even in a down year, which is good. But I definitely would like to be more consistent with my at-bats. I feel like I have spurts where they’re really, really, really good and then spurts where they’re pretty bad. I want to start off on a better foot. I think that clears up a lot of that stuff but the major thing is being more consistent.

“This off-season, I’m going to work on my speed more. I think that will help my defence. For the most part, my defence was pretty good. But with my heel last off-season, I wasn’t able to run until two weeks before camp. I’m going to work on that. And I’ve got a (high velocity) pitching machine — I’ll continue to see off-speed pitches, curveballs, changeups, cutters, and try to get better.”

Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
343 PA | 20 HR | .277/.327/.541 | 20 BB | 86 K | 1.7 WAR

“I feel very happy with the season I had individually. It feels great. The numbers I have, I’m happy with them. Collectively, of course, not what we expect. But, at the same time, I’m very happy because the group we have here, we’re going to be good for years.”

Billy McKinney
276 PA | 12 HR | .215/.274/.422 | 19 BB | 73 K | 0.2 WAR

“I learned a lot about myself this year. You learn a lot in the big-leagues, that’s for sure. (Recently) I’ve just been getting more comfortable and being myself a little bit. I know I put a lot of pressure on myself early, and I really tried in the second half to take a deep breath and not put that pressure on to put numbers up and (instead) let it happen. Obviously, I’d like to do better — there’s always room to do better. So, I’m looking forward to 2020. Definitely (plan to work on) defence and hitting to all fields, since I feel like I was pulling the ball early in the year. Maybe stealing more bases.”

Teoscar Hernandez
464 PA | 26 HR | .230/.306/.472 | 45 BB | 153 K | 1.3 WAR

“Obviously, I’m going to keep working hard on my defence and trying to get as good as I can. And my hitting — I know I have a lot of swing-and-miss. I’m going to keep working hard on that in the off-season. I’m not really worried about my strikeouts. I know that’s going to happen. I’m going to work on trying to reduce the strikeouts, but not worry about it too much at the same time.

“I like the challenge (of centre field). I don’t like the easiest way. I like the hard way. It makes me a better player. Moving to centre field has given me more confidence because that was the position I played throughout the minor-leagues. Last year, I tried to learn how to play left field, tried to learn how the ball moves in different ways depending on whether it’s a lefty or righty hitting. Now, I’m going to try to keep working on all three positions and see where they’re going to need me (in 2020).”

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