Top Bounce-Back Candidate: Toronto Blue Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays are hoping to take the next step this season, to make a push deep into the playoffs, with the World Series as their goal. To do that, however, they'll need help from one player who had the worst season of his career—and one of the worst in the majors for a starting pitcher. 

We continue our trip around the league looking at the best bounce-back candidate from each team.

For the Toronto Blue Jays, it's undoubtedly Jose Berrios.

The 28-year-old starter was acquired at the 2021 trade deadline with big hopes that he would be a near-top of the rotation piece. The Jays signed him to a 7-year, $131M contract in the offseason, and he even got the start on Opening Day in 2022. 

But Berrios got rocked in that opener, didn't make it out of the first inning, got just one out, and gave up four runs. The rest of the season didn't go much better. He finished with a 5.23 ERA, over a full run above his career mark, and a WHIP of 1.42. He gave up an MLB-worst 100 earned runs.

Let's face it, he's not an ace, and never has been. He's a pitcher with a career ERA over 4.00, but with the propensity to put up several ace-like starts a season. And several clunkers each season as well. But 2022 went completely off the rails. 

A reduction in the use of his fastball—which wasn't fooling anybody last season—would go a long way to restoring his value. In 2022, he gave up an unsightly .349 batting average on his fastball, and a .618 slugging percentage. Certainly, the Jays' coaching staff is working with him on a better pitch mix. 

If Berrios can return to the promise of his first trip through Toronto, the last two months of the '21 season, in which he posted a 3.58 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP and a 78:13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 70 innings, he'll be not only the team's bounce-back player of the year, but maybe the major league's Most Improved Player. 

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