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March 2018

Melanie Newman Prepares to Make Baseball History

By: RoseAnn Sapia

"Keep knocking on the door.”

That’s how Melanie Newman said she's navigated her way through the sports broadcasting industry. Because, as reason would have it, if you keep knocking, eventually the door will open. 

 

For Newman, another door did open. She saw an opening for the number two broadcaster with the Frisco RoughRiders, the Texas Rangers’ Double-A affiliate, last November, and decided to apply. Now, she’s getting ready to make her broadcast debut with the team on April 5th.

 

“I teared up”, says Newman of her first reaction when she was notified that she’d gotten the job around Christmas. The Newman family has roots in Texas on her father’s side, and Newman had previously worked with the Texas Collegiate League in 2014. However, it was the inviting nature of the RoughRiders’ organization that inspired her to accept the position, without hesitation.

 

Newman will be doing play-by-play and color commentary, alongside lead broadcaster Ryan Rouillard; additionally, she’ll contribute human interest features, and video content for the 2018 season. Although her favorite part of this role is the human interest side, it’s her joining the broadcast team that’s made headlines.

 

Newman is one of just three women in minor league baseball working in the booth doing play-by-play or color analysis, joining Kristen Karbach (Phillies A+ affiliate-Clearwater) and Emma Tidemann (Royals A+ affiliate-Lexington). 

 

Although the “unorthodox” nature of her position didn’t start to set in until the Dallas News ran an article about it this week, Newman thinks it’ll finally hit her once the guys return to Frisco for workouts and Media Day early next week. “I’m not nervous, I’m excited”, said Newman. 

 

Her gig with the RoughRiders will have her engaged with the team for the entire season, something she describes as a “big weight off.” This is just the reaction you would expect from someone who’s been grinding it out in this industry for quite some time. 

 

Newman's been involved in the sports industry for a decade in a multitude of ways. She’s freelanced, covered various sports aside from baseball including swimming, diving, and tennis; she’s also done sales, media relations, emceed, operated the pitch clock, and has even been a mascot, just to name a few. She also bartends and teaches as a way to help pay bills.

 

All of these positions have been little steps on the trail leading her to Frisco. “You either fall in love with the grind, or you can’t stand it,” she stated.

 

Listening to her, its clear that she does love the grind.

 

Covering a new team means getting to know a new bunch of players, coaches, fans, and colleagues. That’s why Spring Training isn’t just important for the players.

 

Newman spent the entirety of Spring Training on the back fields getting to know some of these players. She studied three player bios for three days, googling all of the guys’ names in an attempt to find human interest stories. 

 

“You gotta be a nerd, and be okay with it” is the mantra she lives by, and rightfully so. She originally had no desire to report from the sidelines, thinking it added no value, and didn’t like the questions reporters asked. When she was offered an opportunity to do sideline reporting for Atlantic Sun Conference baseball while in college, she almost turned it down. It was her father that convinced her to give it a try, telling her that she could change what she didn’t like. 

 

Now, Newman prides herself on bringing fans the best content that’ll leave them with more knowledge, and an emotional connection. There’s no better way to do that than to know these guys inside and out.

 

This knowledge especially comes in handy when interviewing players. Being around the team, both on and off the field, allows Newman to really know who’s who, and tailor questions towards them. She knows she has asked a “Golden Question” when her interviewee is talking more than she is. She considers reporting to be one of the most selfless jobs. The occupation may seem flashy, but it’s all about giving the player the spotlight, and providing them with a way to connect with fans.

 

She sees her career as being similar to that of a Minor Leaguer. “It’s not always the easiest route, but you wouldn’t change it,” she said.

 

For someone who’s so passionate about what she does, one would think this was the job Newman always saw herself having. Turns out, that’s not the case.

 

“I was morbidly shy growing up”, she said. Young Melanie was a book-worm, although she always loved sports. Growing up in suburban Atlanta, Melanie watched a lot of Braves baseball and SEC football. 

 

She originally envisioned a career as a veterinarian. That all changed when she had to dissect a shark in the fifth grade. “I threw that out the window faster than I ran away from the shark,” Newman said.

 

She latched on to writing and photography in high school, which eventually led to her involvement with her school’s baseball program. She photographed moments during the game, kept the scorebook, and traveled with the team to do so. 

 

She entered college wanting to be a writer, at a time when “writing was dying” before outlets discovered that written content could be digital. It wasn’t until she transferred to Troy University in Alabama that she would fall into broadcast “haphazardly”, or so she thought.

 

When returning home for Christmas break her junior year, Newman found old tapes of herself using a Talkgirl, which allowed her to make an interesting discovery. 

 

“When I was four years old, I would run around my house doing play-by-play of my family.” Seems like Newman was really supposed to wind up as a broadcaster after all.

 

 But why baseball?

 

While at Troy, Newman would do play-by-play for women’s volleyball, softball, and baseball. “I would always come back to baseball,” she said.

 

Part of that is just her nature, as she said, she was always “intellectually drawn to baseball”. The other part comes from the guidance of mentors.

 

Newman names Ricky Hazel, whom she worked with at Troy; Justin Baker, whom she’s known since 2010, and later worked with in 2014 with the Mobile Baybears; Steve Berthiaume, who does play-by-play for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and his wife Cindy Brunson; as well as Bob Rathbun, who does play-by-play for the Atlanta Hawks, as her mentors.

 

Sometimes, mentors are found in the least expected way. Newman met Bob Rathbun after her family had adopted a dog through his wife’s agency. After meeting with her for three hours, it was Rathbun who noticed that Newman knew about other sports, but told her she should ultimately specialize in baseball. The rest is history. 

 

It’s important to have mentors, or as she puts it, family. “It’s not about who you know, it’s the bigger your family is, the more ears to the ground for opportunity.”

 

For the girls that want to break into the broadcast industry, she offers this advice: “Even if your feet are stuck in the mud, keep moving”. 

 

Newman had her fair share of tears and job rejections, referring to her jobs offered to jobs applied ratio as “not even close to a batting average.” 

 

Her persistence paid off.

 

And that TalkGirl proved to be one sound investment.

 

 

Melanie Newman will make her debut for the Frisco RoughRiders on April 5th. But what if she would be playing in the game instead of broadcasting it? 

 

Melanie’s walk-up song would be “Silence (Illenium Remix)” by Marshmello and Khalid. She’d have two throwing partners for warmups. Jessica Kleinschmidt of Cut 4 is her “realistic” choice, although Jessica would “make fun” of her un-athleticism. Jacob Barnes, a pitcher on the Milwaukee Brewers whom Melanie has known for a while, is her other choice, saying she would “actually learn from him”. If there were to be a rain delay, Melanie would spend it eating food. Last season, while working with the Atlanta Braves, Melanie experienced a lot of rain delays. Because of that, she’s “eaten everything there is to eat at Sun Trust”.

 

Be sure to follow Melanie Newman and her journey on Twitter and Instagram @MelanieLynneN

 


Old Dusty Baseball Vault: Women’s History Month Edition

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By Allison Place

“We do not want to take a man’s place. We want our own place.” – June Peppas, All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Players Association President, in a memo to former AAGPBL players, managers, chaperones, and friends

For Women’s History Month, I wanted to read something that celebrates, well, women. Dottie Wiltse Collins: Strikeout Queen of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League by Carolyn M. Trombe focuses not only on Wiltse Collins herself, but also touches on the other women that she played baseball and created history with. While I enjoyed learning about these women and discovered an incredible amount about their lives and the AAGPBL, my reading experience was diminished by narrative choices and a structure that brought the entire thing down several levels. Let me get these issues out of the way first.


For the most part, Trombe took a chronological approach in exploring Dottie Wiltse Collins’ life. There are some instances, however, where she kind of goes back and forth within a certain span of time and the result is a bit muddled. For example, there is a little bit at the beginning of a chapter about Dottie’s experience starting her junior year at high school, only for things to then shift around and for that high school experience mention to be left in the dust. I kept waiting for the chapter to circle back but it never really did, instead dissolving into a history lesson and seemingly never-ending game statistics and summaries (more on this later).

While having this historical context is undoubtedly important and interesting, it seemed, for me, to run on for pages and pages and take away from the star of the book.


Structured to mimic a baseball game’s innings, the book consists of only nine chapters; they are, in effect, quite lengthy. I’m not one to typically clamor about pace of play but it’s hard to be a won’t-stop-until-a-chapter-break type of reader when said chapters are dragging on and on and on. Dottie Wiltse Collins lived a long and fulfilled life and when you take into consideration her softball, baseball, and golf careers (plus starting a family and all of her other work), dividing that life into nine chapters maybe isn’t the best game day decision. My proposition: eliminate any paragraphs that do nothing but explain the mechanics of Pig Latin. Additionally, while the stats that Wiltse Collins racked up during her career are really impressive – no, wait, let’s look at some of those stats real quick.


During her six seasons playing in the AAGPBL, Wiltse Collins’ record was 117-76. She racked up 1,205 strikeouts. Her ERA was 1.83. In the 1945 season, that ERA was a miniscule 0.83 and, I suppose I should mention, she pitched two no-hitters in a span of 17 days. Pretty good for a woman, right? No, Dottie Wiltse Collins was pretty good for anyone. For some perspective, Corey Kluber has been in The Show for seven seasons and has a career ERA of 3.13. In 1945, the same year that Dottie put up a 0.83, Hal Newhouser was the MLB ERA leader with a respectable 1.81.


Sometimes the reading process was really bogged down by pages upon pages of play-by-play descriptions. While I loved learning about Wiltse Collins’ accomplishments, there were points when I just wanted to fast forward through the game tape and move on in her story.


It’s hard for me to review nonfiction because I don’t feel as if I can speak that much on the actual content – after all, Dottie Wiltse Collins existed, she lived an incredibly full life, and there’s nothing to debate or criticize there. What I can do, though, is mention a couple of things that I think are particularly interesting, especially within the context of being a feminist in 2018.
In the past few years, there has been an increase in criticism aimed towards so-called Ladies Nights at the ballpark (and rightly so). With more traditionally and stereotypically “feminine” giveaway offerings and focusing on really anything other than the game, Ladies Nights just need to stop. I would try to be more eloquent but, really, all I want to say is that they need to stop being a thing. During a Nylon Night in 1946, though, a giveaway of nylon pantyhose was heavily embraced; women were ecstatic that they could receive such a coveted item that was a luxury in the post-war climate.


Serena Williams shocked the world when she revealed that she had won the 2017 Australian Open while two months pregnant. Dottie Wiltse Collins pitched until she was five months along, stopping only when she decided that her body was ready for a rest, not at the discretion of her manager or husband. This freedom of choice that Wiltse Collins had over her body and career is something that is still being fought for today. From what I read, Dottie wasn’t too openly political; however, she won time and time again, both on the field and off, and just acknowledging some of the things that she did proved to be a catalyst for all kinds of women during her life.


Let’s come full circle. In the 40s, a reporter wondered how much time should pass after a game before a sportswriter could go into the women’s locker room. Today, women who write about sports face something similar.

While my role here at All Heels On Deck doesn’t require me to visit the clubhouse, other contributors do, and things are getting better for them but there is a long way to go. Nonetheless, some things are timeless: women are powerful and our place in sports will make history.

 

Allison Place is a book-loving baseball fan who likes to combine the two on her twitter, @booksandbalks. She has a blog by the same name that is mostly defunct but may feature the occasional post when inspiration hits, which you can find at booksandbalks.blogspot.com.


5 Great World Series National Anthem Renditions: Women's History Month

By Sydnee Williams

March is recognized as Women’s History Month, and what better way to show appreciation for baseball than highlighting some of the best World Series national anthem renditions. The Anthem is the hype before the excitement; when the singer takes the field there’s a certain buzz in the silence. The camera focuses on the entertainer and the audience stares with hand over heart, as the country is honored in song form. The moment is make or break, as a mistake in word of streak of note can be the center of attention for weeks on end. While one that is flawless in delivery will send a giant roar waving from section to section. While this is not a “best of” list, here are five stand-outs of women rocking the national anthem in the World Series: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5tRiz6gA_U

Demi Lovato sang the national anthem in 2015 as the Kansas City Royals squared off against the New York Mets. Dressed in all red leather with her dominant voice as the perfect accessory, she absolutely rocked it. The greatest moment of this performance is at the 1:00 mark where she takes a pause and soaks in the applause. After sharing a slight smile, she proceeded to sing the hymn with each word more powerful than the last. Demi had complete control over the crowd from the start and that’s what makes this rendition so great.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ttHSFnh-qI

In 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays and Philadelphia Phillies dueled in the World Series. Pennsylvania’s own, Taylor Swift, was selected to sing the anthem. Her performance was so special because she completely deviated from the norm. With her cowboy boots and glitter studded guitar, it almost sounded like a lullaby. Soft and soothing, with a slight country feel, her version is forever etched in history.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hHr-rPmQGQ

One of the greatest voices in the music industry took the field in 2010 to sing the anthem as the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants played for the trophy. The 2002 and first winner of the hit television show “American Idol,” Kelly Clarkson didn’t have to do much for this to be a favorite. As many would say, “she sang it the way it was intended to be sang.” She flowed through the anthem with ease and made her mark at, “And the rockets’ red glare...” Adding more oomph to her voice she finished on a strong note and got a boisterous cheer from the crowd as the fighter jets flew overhead. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLit2iIsndc

The New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies battled for the title of world champion in 2009. Mary J. Blidge brought swagger to this performance before she even opened her mouth. Wearing sunglasses, a long pin-striped jersey, and an oversized Yankee bomber jacket, she was fashionably ready. With a prolonged “Oh” to start, she had already won hearts over. A version entirely of her own, she put a unique spin on something that had been done so many times before. That, in my eyes, is greatness.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiEnRjtTXa8

One month after the horrific event that we now refer to as “9/11,” the Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees faced off in the World Series. An already emotional crowd stood to their feet as American singer and songwriter Jewel prepared to sing the national anthem. In an American flag shirt, she proceeded to hypnotize the crowd with her vocals. During different moments of her performance the camera panned to first-responders, which made this moment even more special. She sang with such grace and if I can say, this is the best version I’ve ever heard. 

On of the of biggest stages these women shined bright and made their marks. In baseball, women and their contributions are often overshadowed, so taking this time to acknowledge some of the greatest renditions is a huge honor. Happy Women’s History Month! 

Editors Note: Other notable women to sing National Anthem during World Series: Reba McEntire,1987; Debbie Gibson, 1988; Carrie Underwood/Taylor Swift 2007; Aretha Franklin, 1993; Linda Ronstadt,1977; First Class Tiffony CQ Oldham and Air Force Staff Sgt. Angela Matthews, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sydnee Williams is sports journalist out of the DC/Maryland area. She covers all dc sports on halfstreetsports.com. She is also the lead Washington Nationals beat writer at FOX Sports 1340am. You can follow her on twitter @sydneeW_

 

 


An Inclusive Response to Baseball Media/About the Name

An Inclusive Response to Baseball Media

All Heels on Deck takes the position that a multitude of voices in baseball media is valuable. Why don’t most outlets take this same position? That’s for them to answer. We’re changing the game. 

AHOD contributors will write about the game in an industry that consistently excludes a wide range of women, especially non-white women, as well as LGBTQ writers. The site was established to write about baseball, whether it’s stats-based, in-depth features, interviews, product reviews and a variety of unique topics. The focus is to be informative, fun, analytical, thorough, smart, and creative. 

As new media emerges, we’re determined to widen the field. There isn’t enough effort to make journalism, overall media and, in this case, sports coverage, not exclusively written by straight white men. You can look at any newsroom diversity report. Or the staff page of any website. Diversity lacks at an alarming and unacceptable level. 

We’re here to blow the doors off the male dominated room, the one with the door we always ask, and wait, to have opened.

Contributors are paid, because the work is valued. Period. 

As a feminist response to thousands of independent and major national baseball websites, All Heels on Deck is dedicated to creating a space that is all-inclusive, but prioritizes all women and LGBTQ writers. 

 

About the Name 

As the creator of All Heels on Deck, main editor, and the creator of Heels on the Field:  An MiLB Blog, I wanted to personally address the big question: what’s in a name? There’s curiosity as to why All Heels on Deck was chosen, and there’s been some criticism of the name. 

When I began my baseball career in earnest (capitalize and underline that word), I lacked confidence, direction or even a voice. I was a professional writer for a few years, and the amount of sexism I confronted was intense. I’d come to expect and accept that behavior. I’d learned to be quiet long before that, something I addressed in my work in the past few years. As a survivor of sexual assault and domestic violence, I was good at stuffing my feelings, denying them, or lacking even the clarity of mind to question what I was experiencing. I just kept on writing. I kept on entering hostile clubhouses and listening to male sportswriters tell me I needed to change everything about myself. I was constantly intimidated, and I realize now that I didn’t see myself as deserving of respect. 

I got tired of not having my own outlet outside of the work to randomly write about baseball and have creative control. I was opposed to a blog. I thought no one would be interested in what I had to say. But after some thought, I gave the blog route a shot. I don’t recall why or how I came up with the name.  But I do recall that I was immediately pulled to it, and intended it to be a bold statement: feminist, fun, kitschy and metaphorical. The larger idea was to pay tribute to all the women before me, while also saying, “We’re all here, and we’re not leaving because you’re uncomfortable. And if you are, too damn bad.”

After writing hundreds of stories, on various beats, about many leagues and from a ton of ballparks, talking to a long list of players, coaches and scouts, I began thinking about wanting to do more. What more could I do in the industry? How could I help other women and writers who maybe couldn’t get through to editors, or maybe just wanted a place where they could feel free as writers, as I did with HOTF? 

The idea for the name popped in my head. I ran it by some women colleagues, who said they loved it. I was boosted by that vote of confidence, and went with it. 

All Heels on Deck isn’t literal. It’s metaphorical as HOTF was. You do not need to wear heels of any kind to write for the site. The name is meant to be all the things that HOTF was, fun, tongue in cheek and unapologetically feminist. Just as Bitch Media and Bitch aren’t meant to offend and insult women, All Heels on Deck doesn’t exclude any woman.

I think back to the powerlessness I felt when I first started in the business, and I don’t ever want anyone to feel that way. I created this platform to give us our own space, to be part of an industry oversaturated with one kind of voice, and to feel confident in what we contribute. 

There are still many who might not like the name, and that’s fine. I’m not here to exclude women or make them feel ashamed of who they are. None of us should be excluded based on sexist ideas that men continue to uphold. 

I no longer feel powerless, embarrassed or afraid I don’t deserve respect. AHOD was born of that experience, and I’m so glad that we’re going to create something fiercely feminist, new and unique. I stand by the name and look forward to all that lies ahead for All Heels on Deck.

 

 


Old Dusty Baseball Book Vault: Adair's 'The Physics of Baseball' Delves into the Outer Limits of Baseball

By Jessica Quiroli

Advanced stats have changed baseball, creating a new scientific formula to measure just about every scenario. 

The 1994 book “The Physics of Baseball” attempts to explain all the basics of baseball, in a way you might never have imagined. Or even knew you wanted to know. But once you go down this rabbit hole, the complex journey gets increasingly fascinating. 

The title can easily give a sense of the oh-so-serious, but the explanations of curveballs, velocity and the journey of a baseball out of a park reads more as quirky and creative, than sitting through a science class. 

Some gems:

“Since the retarding force on a ball is proportional to the density of the air, a baseball will travel farther in ballparks at high altitude.”

“The weather affects the flight of the pitched ball mainly through the velocity of the wind over the diamond…the average wind velocity over the United States is surprisingly constant at 10 mph.”

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The section referenced in the above examples, titled ‘Pitching In The Wind—And On High’ is just one of the sub-sections in each chapter that are highly entertaining and richly informative (see also: ‘Judging Flyballs’ in the chapter ‘Running, Fielding and Throwing’, and ‘Batting Against the Fastball’ in ‘Batting the Ball’ in which he uses “Casey at the Bat” to explore the success, or failure as it were, against high velocity) . At times you might glaze over a bit (I did) with the technical language and scientific models, illustrated with charts and graphs (actually a helpful tool for the reader). But when you power through some of the information that’s a bit tough to process on first read, you’ll experience an understanding baseball at a heightened level. 'Physics' doesn't steal any enjoyment from the game; this study only adds to the beauty of it all.

 

 

 


Blue Jays Improved? An in-depth Analysis

By Tammy Rainey
 
Now that the Blue Jays roster is coming into clear focus, apart from a couple of middle relief jobs, it's time to analyze the extent to which the team has been improved.  Fans of any given baseball team are, by nature, prone to view the potential of the team in question through the lens of their own preconceptions. Some fans are given to negativity and are thus inclined to see dark clouds on the horizon and feel the need to blame management for poor choices that will surely bring about the impending doom. Likewise, the positivity inclined fan can be given to minimizing reasonable caution flags and presuming "best case" outcomes are easy to come by. This reality is what creates the need for more objective, data driven projection systems. While certainly not perfect, such calculations work to filter out the subjective and the emotional to provide a model that at least treats all players the same.
 
One of my spring rituals is comparing the previous year's roster to the one expected to break camp and seeing what the models project, as opposed to what I, with my acknowledged subjective bias, would project, and then using the former to restrain the excesses of the latter. In that spirit, let me share my results with you.  For the sake of simplicity, I'm going to confine my work to the numbers posted by Fangraphs. And from among those, I prefer the Depth Chart projections since it already serves as an amalgamation of two different projection models (Steamer and ZIPS) albeit adjusted by the staff estimations of likely playing time. 
 
The only way that seemed reasonable to me to construct a one-to-one comparison between the 2017 Blue Jays and the likely 2018 squad was to align players according to their role on the team. For example, Devon Travis did not get the majority of at bats among the team's second basemen last year, but he was obviously the team's starting second baseman. So I'll compare Travis '17 to Travis '18, rather than using Goins or Barney. Hopefully this will become clear as I go through the roster.
 
Catchers: The projections were kind to Russell Martin, figuring him for 2.6 WAR as opposed to the 1.8 he accumulated last season. Even the optimist that I am, I wouldn't have expected that and I'll note this again later. The real difference in the position though is the reserves. Five different reserve catchers amounted to a negative 1.5 fWAR last year, and the system projects Luke Malie for an even zero (perhaps generous) and rookie Danny Jansen for 0.5 which, if that held up would be a net swing of 2 WAR just among the relievers. For the position overall, +2.6 WAR ahead.

Justin Smoak - the system sees a decline from 3.4 to 2.2 WAR. That's understandable but possibly a bit severe. For now I'll note the drop of 1.2 WAR and move along
 
Devon Travis - In a mere 50 games, Travis was credited with 0.6 last season, and the projection is 1.7 for 2018 in twice as many games. This is one of the more volatile spots to project  due to the complete inability to  be confident in any playing time estimate. Still, in 2016 playing 101 games his WAR was 2.6 so this seems light to me. Still, there's a gan of 1.1 WAR per the projections.

TroyTulowitski - Despite totaling 0 fWAR in 66 games last year, DC projected 2.2 this year in just about twice the playing time. That may seem to be a lot but he accumulated 2.9 in a similar number of games in 2016.Obviously that's a net gain of 2.2 at this spot.
 
Josh Donaldson - In 113 games last year, JD accumulated 5.0 fWAR. Depth Charts expects him to play over 1/3 more games but only projects 6.2 WAR for 2018. I think this is low but note that here's another +1.2 WAR.
 
Reserve infielders - Here we compare the rather disastrous results of Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney (a combined -1.1 fWAR) with the projections for Aldemys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte (0.4 ad 0.9 respectively) for a net gain of a whopping 2.4 WAR
 
Kendrys Morales - Swings from a negative 0.6 to a positive 0.6 which, if it played out that way, is a +1.2 WAR net gain.
 
Right Field - Jose Bautista was scored at -0.5 last year, his replacement Randal Grickuk is projected at 2.0 (and that may well be conservative) for a net gain swing of +2.5 WAR.

Kevin Pillar - Depth Charts projections expect Pillar to rebound somewhat from the 1.9 fWAR he registered in 2017. Though somewhat more optimistic that I would be, the model has him at 2.7 for 2018 which is a net gain of +0.8
 
Left Field - Last year's pairing in LF was, however unintentionally, Steve Pearce and Ezequiel Carrera. While it was not perhaps your most traditional platoon the bulk of the playing time went to this pair and they combined for 0.7 fWAR. Carrera is gone now, replaced by veteran Curtis Granderson who is expected to be a considerable upgrade in a more traditional platoon role with the lefty-mashing Pearce. The projections have them combining for 2.1 WAR. 

Others - the next three most appearances last season went to Teoscar Hernandez (+0.7), Chris Coghlan (-0.5), and Richard Urena (-0.2) who combined to basically cancel each other out; the projection model identifies Hernandez, Dalton Pompey, and Gift Ngope as the "next three" and there's no gain or loss in this regard.

Overall, on the position player side of the equation, the Blue Jays project to be dramatically better. There's an accumulated +14.2 WAR here and while it's true that it's not as simple as taking last year's win total and adding another 14 wins, it's certainly a portent of a much better season. Moreover, I would suggest that some of these are off a bit. I personally think they are Martin, Morales, and Pillar (by a total of around one and a half wins) but also low on Donaldson, Travis, Girchuk and possibly Granderson (by a combined 3 WAR or so) but everyone will have their own opinions on individual projections.
 
Turning to the pitchers, the models are in some cases less satisfying but they are not a source of bad news. I'll order them by the role they are expected to play, more so than by the highest WAR contributors, for ease of direct comparison. 

Marcus Stroman - Accumulated 3.4 fWAR in 17, and projected for 4.3 in the upcoming season.
Aaron Sanchez - came in at 0 fWAR last year and is projected for a (far too low) 1.9 in 2018
JA Happ - 2.9 last year and projected to match that figure this year
Marco Estrada - He registered 2.6 fWAR last year in a season that went sideways for a couple of months mid-season, yet is only projected for 1.6 for 2018. Estrada is one of those pitchers that the projection models struggle with and even the folks who run these systems will acknowledge that some pitchers "break" the model.
Fifth starter - the season opened with Francisco Liriano in this role last year, and he's credited with 0.8 fWAR as a blue Jays before being traded. Jamie Garcia steps into this slot for 2018 and the model projects him for 1.5 WAR
Sixth starter - This was and likely will remain Joe Biagini. He was at 1.6 last year (some of which was accumulated in the bullpen) and is projected for 1.1 in the new season (mainly a function of playing time).
Others - Brett  Anderson was the most prolific of an otherwise motley crew that combined for - 0.7 fWAR (that's a total of everyone who made at least two starts though several of them pitched some in relief as well) and DC projects only one other option to acquire positive value as a SP in 2018, that being Ryan Borucki at 0.2 WAR.
As a unit, all these SP combined for 10.6 fWAR last year, and projects to 13.5 in 2018. One could, with some objectivity, argue that both Garcia and Estrada are a half-win too low, if not more, and that a full healthy season of Aaron Sanchez would be worth twice what the model projects (i.e. something similar to what he was worth in 2016) and there's another 3 WAR more or less.
 
The bullpen is a place where WAR doesn't work very well for middling guys. It's not common really for a reliever to even reach 1.0 fWAR even when he had a relatively good season.
 
Roberto Osuna - was at 3.0 last year, and though there's no objective reason to suppose a decline the model still projects 1.6 which may be as much as 1.5 too low in my opinion.
Dominc Leone/Seung-Hwan Oh - Since traded Leone accumulated 1.5 fWAR last year, his obvious replacement Oh is projected to only 0.2
Ryan Tepera -  1.0 last year, the model says 0.6 this year. 
Aaron Loup - 0.6 in 2017, projected for 0.5
Danny Barnes - 0.2 last year, 0.3 for 2018.
Joe Smith/John Axford(?) - it's not certain Axford wins this job but he seems to be leading the pack. He is one of a half dozen "other" relievers in competition for the last 2-3 bullpen jobs and all of them have a 00.0 projection. Smith, before the deadline trade, gave the Jays 1.0 fWAR. This contribution, though, is canceled out by Jason Grilli and Matt Dermody combining for a -1.0 total. 

Collectively, the bullpen that is credited with 6.3 fWAR for last year is projected for 3.2 this year. This loss essentially wipes out the uptick in projections for the starters. But here, too, it's easy to quibble. particularly with Osuna. All totaled, using the Depth Charts number you still have a team projected to total 14 more WAR than the 2017 team did. And that, in my subjective view, is conservative by something around 3 WAR. Such a level of improvement, if it played out on the field, would make the team very much a wild card contender and one that's within striking distance of the  Yankees and Red Sox if good fortune is on their side this time.