Toronto’s offense is much like Tampa Bay’s starting rotation: it’s filled with a plethora of talented young studs with the potential to put together a special group output. Jose Bautista is obviously the focal point and based on his growth as a contact hitter last season it’s safe to say another .302/.447/.608 line with 40 homers is likely this season. The more intriguing storyline will be how the rest of the Blue Jays’ line-up forms around him.
Adam Lind hasn’t been able to repeat his success from the 2009 season when he hit .305 with 35 homers and 114 RBIs but he’s continued to produce good numbers as a power hitter. If he can improve his average this season he’ll become a formidable three hitter and if he doesn’t, he’ll still be an effective run producer for one of the league’s top offenses. While there is some room to grow with Lind the real potential in Toronto’s line-up lies with Colby Rasmus and Brett Lawrie.
Rasmus came over from the Cardinals at mid-season last year, a move I’m sure St. Louis regrets now that Pujols is gone. He hadn’t met expectations in St. Louis and he was fairly awful during his short time in Toronto last season but he’s still just 25 years old and he stills has time to become an effective big leaguer. No such struggles are expected for Lawrie, who should breakout as a star right away this season. We could see a 30 homerun from the youngster this season.
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Ricky Romero will be the key for the Blue Jays this season. There is plenty of upside with guys like Brett Cecil, Brendan Morrow (who had a 10.19 K/9 rate last season but continues to walk too many batters) and Dustin McGowan but Romero will have to be the rock of this rotation even if he doesn’t have true ace stuff. Romero had an impressive ERA last season but his FIP told a different story. The Blue Jays can stay afloat if Romero delivers a slightly better season than last but in order for them to make a serious run at the post-season they’ll need Morrow to maximize his talents and to stop tiring out the bullpen. If he can do that, the Blue Jays will be more than just a side story.
With Sergio Santos in town the Blue Jays bullpen has a good chance to be excellent. I’ve always been a fan of Jason Frasor although he took a big step back from his good 2009 and 10 seasons with a 4.09 FIP last year, Fransisco Cordero has been a decent closer for the few years and has the pedigree to be a good set-up man and Darren Oliver had a decent 2.70 FIP against lefties last season, so he should conceivably take over the specialist role in Toronto. The problem here is that, outside of Santos, there isn’t a guy guaranteed to have a good season. They all can be good but I’m not sure of that at the moment.
If you told me to pick one organization whose affiliates I could spend the entire season watching, it would be the Blue Jays. Not only do they have an enviable chunk of up the middle positional talent, they have baseball’s best collection teenage arms. The fact that they have “a collection of teenage arms” is in and of itself a drool inducing luxury. I am insanely jealous of the scouts and player development personnel that get to watch them develop.
The names you should remember are: Daniel Norris, Drew Hutchinson, Noah Syndergaard, Adonys Cardona, Kevin Comer and Justin Nicolino. They all have a very long ways to go, but I know I’m looking forward to seeing their development. Kudos to Blue Jays ownership for throwing around so much coin in the draft to sign those kids.
Guy Primed to Explode: Any of the pups listed above. I have a feeling one of them will develop faster than the others and skyrocket to the top of prospect lists everywhere. Which one? I’ll take Nicolino.
Guy I like more than everyone else: C Travis d’Arnaud, who I think is going to contend for MVP awards one day. At least he’ll contend for MVPs among those who understand positional scarcity.
Guy I like Less Than Everyone Else: CF Anthony Gose, whose inability to recognize and adjust to breaking balls is very troubling to me. Other than the woes, Gose has elite tools everywhere you look. I see Greg Golson Part II. Hope I’m wrong.
Ridiculousness: In a Double-A game last year, I saw Cuban SS prospect Adeiny Hechevarria see a total of five pitches in four at-bats.