Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Rest of the East: Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays enter the 2012 season with a loaded lineup and a marginal rotation. When breaking them down from top to bottom, there are a few gaping holes that need to be addressed if they want to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox.

The Jays offense is frighteningly good. From top to bottom, they have pieces that are irreplaceable. Most free agents don't seriously consider Canada as an enticing destination, given that they play on artificial turf and also because they are outside the United States. An organization like Toronto needs to build within, whether it be through the draft or through trades. The three main staples in their lineup are Jose Bautista, Brett Lawrie, and J.P. Arencibia. Another big name is Adam Lind, but he hasn't had an all-around strong season since 2009. Bautista gives the fans something to look forward to. A remarkable story, with the slugger getting designated for assignment several times before finding his stroke in Toronto. Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus give the Jays a younger set of guys whose futures look especially bright. Lawrie always plays at 100% and it shows with his energy and passion for the game. Lawrie is someone to watch out for. After he fully develops, I can see a season from the youngster where he hits for major power and average.

If there is an area that the Jays seriously need to address, it's the starting rotation. Outside of Ricky Romero, their rotation is a bunch of question marks. Kyle Drabek, whom they thought would be an ace when they traded him for Doc Halladay, has not shown signs of dominance. Brett Cecil needs to show that he can be a dominant lefty starter. After a promising 2010 season, he disappointed in 2011 to the point where he was optioned to the minor leagues for some time. Morrow has a power arm but needs to throw better strikes. He was susceptible to getting hit hard in some starts and dominating in others. His ERA has approached 5 in the last two seasons, leaving people to wonder whether he will figure it out. With a solid front three, the Blue Jays would be a force in the AL East, giving the other big two teams in the division a run for their money.

The key to the kingdom is pitching, starting pitching in particular. The offense for Toronto is there, and with a better rotation, they would be ready to take on the playoffs, somewhere they haven't been since the year I was born. I see the Jays improving on their .500 record from 2011, but it won't be enough to clinch a playoff berth this year. This is an 85 win team. Who knows, they could surprise us and be the Diamondbacks of 2011 in 2012.

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