The Toronto Blue Jays have always been a bridesmaid in the AL East. Not the ugly one, that falls to the Orioles, but not the one who lost fifty pounds but kept her **** like the Rays either. They enter nearly every season as a good to very good team that doesn’t have a realistic shot at the playoffs because they play in the toughest division in baseball. Uncle Bud has fixed all that. With the introduction of the second wild card mediocrity can finally be rewarded as it deserves and the Jays go into a season with sort of real playoff aspirations for the first time in many a year. What’s so sad about this turn of events is that the Jays seem close to actually turning the corner and becoming a legitimate contender under GM Alex Anthoupolos anyway. Unlike previous GM JP Riccardi Anthoupolos uses his ridiculously ethnic sounding name for good. If you’re looking for today’s “Moneyball” team, a team composed of players somebody else didn’t want that’s actually pretty good, you’d be hard pressed to not pick these guys.
RF Jose Bautista is arguably now the preeminent power hitter in the game after leading the AL in homeruns in back to back seasons with a combined total of 97. Yunel Escobar is a sneaky valuable shortstop with a new team friendly contract. CF Colby Rasmus is only a season removed from being pretty darn good himself and there is hope that over the offseason he’ll rediscover what made him such a highly touted prospect in the first place. 1B Adam Lind probably will never see his 2009 numbers again but you can hope. Brett Lawrie is the greatest wrestling heel working in the business today. J.P. Arencibia hit 23 homeruns last year as a rookie and probably isn’t even the catcher of the future for the team as prospect Travis D’Arnaud breathes down his neck. In a league where most teams can’t find one good catcher the Jays potentially have two. Kelly Johnson is not Aaron Hill. There are simply so many potential positives up and down a lineup that was sixth in runs scored in the AL last year. They’re going to hit and we all know baseball is 90% hitting.
The other ten percent is more worrisome and why optimism, at least for 2012, must be tempered a bit. Ricky Romero has entered underrated territory as he’s been worth 9.8 fWAR over his first three major league seasons. Brandon Morrow’s penchant for walks and subsequent inability to last deep into games is a hindrance but he and his strikeouts can cause a fella to dream a little bit on him. After that it gets ugly quick, as the Jays are depending on Brett Cecil, Henderson Alvarez, and Dustin McGowan to complete the rotation. Dustin was really good at one point, but that one point was three years ago and since then the dude has met with one injury after another, usually in his shoulder. He hasn’t been able to make it on the field and until he does so it is hard to believe he can. Cecil looked lost last year and Alvarez has good superficial numbers that lack the performance to back them up. At least the Jays should manage to hold on to any late leads they manage to get as they brought in Francisco Cordero and the amazingly awesome Sergio Santos in the offseason to lead a potentially deep bullpen.
Not a Hall of Famer Omar Vizquel hopes to make the club as a utility guy, which could jinx the team, but manager John Farrell is a smart guy so hopefully this doesn’t happen. If things break right the team could be contending in July and that would hopefully mean a move to acquire another starter. After that who knows? Not me, and I’m writing a preview. The more realistic expectation is another year of growth and a breakout in 2013.