Monday, March 7, 2011

MLB 30 in 30: Toronto Blue Jays

Has this team seemed like it was stuck in neutral since 1993? Well, that's because they have been. They haven't made the playoffs since the back-to-back World Series, and in the toughest division in baseball, it's pretty hard to catch a break. Will this year be the year?

What they Have: Their rotation is young, but could be one of the best in baseball in short order. Lead by Ricky Romero, who had a 3.73 ERA last season, they'll look to improve on their 23rd ranked team ERA. Also, Brandon Morrow and Jesse Litch are the veterans in the group and will have to pull some slack. The 2 wild cards are the young guys, Kyle Drabek, acquired in the Roy Halladay trade, and Brett Cecil. Drabek didn't look too good at the end of last season, but now with major league experience, that should change. Cecil pitched well last season, and he should continue that pace. On the offensive side, there are some bright spots in an otherwise bleak line up. Of course, there is last year's home run king, Jose Bautista at 3B. One can wonder whether he'll keep up last year's pace, and that seems doubtful, but he will provide a good force in the lineup. The guys that will have to pick up the slack are Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera, acquired in the Vernon Wells trade. There are other guys in the lineup that could provide some spark, like DH Adam Lind,  2B Aaron Hill, and RF Travis Snider, but they don't strike fear in an opponent. The bullpen is OK, lead by Octavio Dotel who did close a bit for Pittsburgh last season before being traded. Jason Frasor will probably assume the closer role, and those 2 will have to pick up the slack for the rest of an unproven bullpen.

What they Don't Have: Besides Jose Bautista and the rotation, the rest of the guys on the Jays are either unproven, or just not enough to solve problems for this team. OF Rajai Davis, SS Yunel Escobar, and 1B Edwin Encarnacion are more "guys to fill in holes before the prospects get up to the big league level" kind of players, and guys like Aaron Hill and Adam Lind have to up their production to help the lineup. Juan Rivera will have to shoulder the outfield offensive load, and Mike Napoli may not be enough offensively at catcher. The bullpen is mainly unproven guys, and that could hurt their very good starting rotation.

Any Help Coming? Besides Kyle Drabek, remember C J.P Arencibia from last year? His debut was pretty spectacular, going 4 for 5 with 2 homers, but faded after that. He has great power, but defensively he may be lacking a bit. 2B Brett Lawrie is another interesting case, as the Jays traded for him when they shipped Shawn Marcum to Milwaukee. He has great offensive potential, but also lacks defensive polish. SS Adeiny Hechavarria is a quickly improving Cuban prospect that has great defensive skills, but offense needs some polish.

Outlook: They're still building for the future. The rotation is there now, but the rest of the team may still need 2-3 more years. Alex Anthopoulos has wanted every player in the starting lineup to be a potential all-star, and every pitcher in the rotation to be better than a 3rd starter. He also wants to compete every year, and while they may for a bit, the Red Sox and Yankees are where the Jays want to be, now.

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