The 2021 MLB season is nearly upon us, with less than a week remaining in spring training. The Toronto Blue Jays enjoyed a busy winter and will break camp with a squad that should challenge for a playoff spot — at least on paper.
While this year's iteration of the team features no shortage of exciting players, there will always be pieces of fans' hearts that remain with the old guard. Baseball thrives on nostalgia and it's always fun to reminisce.
Here's a look at how some former Blue Jays have fared as spring training winds down.
Marcus Stroman, New York Mets
5 GP | 3.44 ERA | 18.1 innings | 17 strikeouts | 2 walks
After opting out of the shortened 2020 season, Stroman is back pitching for the Mets on a one-year qualifying offer. He's throwing the ball well this spring and is an instrumental piece of New York's rotation with Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard both starting the year on the injured list. Off the field he remains one of baseball's most active and engaging social media presences, using his platform to speak out against racism and spread positive energy. Good vibes only for the former all-star.
Josh Donaldson, Minnesota Twins
10 GP | 2 HR | 5 RBI | .308/.333/.577
Donaldson's first year with the Twins after signing a four-year, $92-million contract didn't go as planned. He injured his right calf just a week into the 2020 campaign, returned for the final stretch of the season, but aggravated the issue before the playoffs. All told, the third baseman appeared in just 28 games. Now the former MVP is looking to make a second "first" impression on his new fan base and prove he still has a 30-homer bat and a capable glove.
Aaron Sanchez, San Francisco Giants
2 GP | 7.94 ERA | 5.2 innings | 5 strikeouts | 2 walks
Sanchez hasn't taken the mound in the majors since 2019 with the Houston Astros, but he landed with the Giants on a one-year, $4 million pact this off-season as he looks to rebuild his value. The right-hander has battled a number of injuries that derailed what was a promising start to his career but has made it through camp healthy and is projected to open the year in San Francisco's rotation. He's put an increased focus on his curveball, which features a 91st percentile spin rate. His command has been shaky in exhibition play, though, with three hit batters in 5.2 innings.
David Price, Los Angeles Dodgers
3 GP | 2.70 ERA | 6.2 innings | 4 strikeouts | 2 walks
Yet another player on this list who did not play in 2020, Price returns to the Dodgers' staff after COVID-19 concerns led him to opt out of last season. His Cy Young-calibre days are likely well in the past, but Los Angeles doesn't need him to be an ace with Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and Trevor Bauer ahead of him in the rotation. The Dodgers also feature talented young hurlers Dustin May, Julio Urias and Tony Gonsolin, so they have the luxury of being able to get creative with how they handle Price to keep him rested and healthy for a playoff run.
Kevin Pillar, New York Mets
12 GP | 0 HR | 2 RBI | 2 SB | .324/.395/.500
Pillar landed with New York on a one-year deal that reunites him with Stroman from the Blue Jays' recent glory years. You know what you're getting with the glove, and Pillar will be looking to build off his career-best .798 OPS from 2020. He's done just that so far this spring, tearing the cover off the ball with hit after hit. April has traditionally been Pillar's best month over his eight-year career, so sustaining that production into the summer will be key to finding playing time in a crowded Mets outfield.
Jonathan Villar, New York Mets
11 GP | 1 HR | 3 RBI | 0 SB | .138/.194/.241
Villar joined the Blue Jays from the Miami Marlins at the 2020 trade deadline but didn't make the best impression down the stretch. In 22 games with Toronto, the utility man posted a rough .481 OPS. Things haven't gone swimmingly with his new club this spring, as evidenced by the putrid slash line shown above. That said, the Mets don't need him to play a huge role on the team, and he still figures to provide value with his versatility and speed on the bases.
Taijuan Walker, New York Mets
2 GP | 3.00 ERA | 6 innings | 5 strikeouts | 3 walks
The final Met on this list, Walker held plenty of prospect pedigree after being drafted out of high school in 2010, but a number of injuries early in his career held him back from consistently reaching his potential. Finally healthy, things clicked in 2020 with the Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners, and he parlayed that success into a two-year, $20-million deal with the Mets. Spring results must be taken with a grain of salt, but he looks like a strong addition to a team that has as good of a starting rotation as any when at full strength.
Off the field, Walker made history by becoming the first MLB player to make and sell an NFT (non-fungible token).
Matt Shoemaker, Minnesota Twins
3 GP | 7.71 ERA | 9.1 innings | 6 strikeouts | 0 walks
Speaking of rough injury luck, Shoemaker might be the poster child. Last we saw him, he was dealing for the Blue Jays in Game 1 of the playoffs against the Tampa Bay Rays before being lifted after just three innings. He's had a rough spring but still figures to crack Minnesota's opening day rotation alongside another ex-Blue Jay in J.A. Happ. Here's hoping Shoemaker can finally put together a healthy season.
Anthony Bass, Miami Marlins
8 GP | 2.45 ERA | 7.1 innings | 6 strikeouts | 3 walks
There's a fish joke to be made with Bass joining the Marlins, but we'll pass up that opportunity. The right-hander was a pleasant surprise in Toronto's bullpen last season, emerging as a late-inning option for manager Charlie Montoyo. He's firmly in the mix for the closer job in Miami thanks to his strong spring and the struggles of fellow high-leverage reliever Yimi Garcia.
Don’t forget a sneaky good bullpen https://t.co/P13uBVr0yu
— Anthony Bass (@AnthonyBass52) March 5, 2021
Derek Fisher, Milwaukee Brewers
9 GP | 1 HR | 6 RBI | .273/.333/.545
Toronto was elated to trade for Fisher in 2019, but he couldn't put it all together at the major-league level. Fisher's lasting impression on Blue Jays fans will likely be a slew of errors in the outfield. He's getting a fresh start in Milwaukee and was putting together a successful audition before a hamstring injury wrecked his chances of cracking the opening day roster.
Anthony Alford, Pittsburgh Pirates
11 GP | 2 HR | 4 RBI | 1 SB | .276/.323/.517
Alford had plenty of hype after the Blue Jays drafted him in the third round in 2012, but his prospect stock took a hit when he failed to consistently succeed at the triple-A level. He had cups of coffee in the majors in each of the past four seasons, but a path to regular playing time wasn't in the cards. He should find that opportunity in Pittsburgh, where he has been a big story throughout camp.