The On Deck Circle

The unofficial home of Real Talk

Toronto Blue Jays Season Preview

Posted by Blake Murphy on February 28, 2008

With the Toronto Blue Jays opening spring training today (1 PM vs. Detroit), we thought it would be a good time to start our spring training coverage here at The ODC. Today you get a double dose of Blue Jay preview, starting with this piece, submitted by A-Rod Snyder.

This is going to be the year that defines Blue Jays’ GM J.P. Ricciardi. He’s signed through 2010 but Jays fans are sick of missing out on the playoffs year after year. The Jays made a few nice additions this offseason with Scott Rolen, David Eckstein and even Shannon Stewart to a lesser degree. They gave up Troy Glaus in the Rolen deal, which is great news for Jays fans like myself. As big a Jays fan as I am, I’m also a realist. The last three years or so, when fellow Jays enthusiasts were telling me that it was the Jays’ year, I would tell them the reality of being in the AL East is that aint gonna happen, unless EVERYTHING goes right for them. This year I think we’re in the same boat. This year they do have their best team, in my opinion, in the last few years but still need everything to go right. By go right I mean Halladay to stay healthy all year and be in typical Cy Young form. They need AJ Burnett to finally go a FULL season healthy and pitch to his potential. The Jays need Marcum to pitch like he did last year as well as Dustin McGowan. They also need Rolen to stay healthy and produce all year, and staying healthy isn’t his cup of tea. Lastly, the Jays need Vernon to hit like Vernon again and their bullpen to pitch as well as it did last year. If ALL of these things happen this year and Boston’s starting pitchers get hurt, they have a good shot at winning the AL East. Here’s a quick overview of the Jays situation heading into the season at each position.

The Jays are going to be led by their ace Roy Halladay. Halladay led the majors last year in complete games (7) and was pretty healthy all year, only missing three weeks. Burnett should be poised for a big year and let’s just hope he can stay healthy. One thing I hope he worked on in the off-season is holding baserunners, as he had more stolen bases on him last year than anyone else in the AL (31). Dustin McGowan started to show his potential last year. A big prospect for years now, McGowan is finally showing Jay fans what he’s all about. Injuries are also a concern for him and if he can pitch like he has the potential to, he will be a really good #3. Closing out the rotation should be Shaun Marcum and Casey Janssen. If these two can pitch .500 ball, the Jays will be in great shape.

The bullpen was one of the strengths of the Jays in ’07 and should get even better this year. The Jays need BJ Ryan to be healthy and dominate like he did when he first got to TO. He had Tommy John surgery last year but should be ready to close out games come April. The rest of the bullpen is very solid with set-up man RH Jeremy Accardo followed by LH Scott Downs, RH Jason Frasor, LH Brian Tallet and RH Brian Wolfe. If guys like Downs and Accardo pitch like they did last year, the bullpen will be a major strength for the Jays.

Middle Infield
The Jays middle infield has had one gaping hole the last few seasons and that was at shortstop. It’s kind of an important position to be lacking if you want to be a playoff team. John McDonald played great defense for the Jays at shortstop last year but hit like Alfredo Griffin, not good. David Eckstein was brought in this off-season to take over the starting job at short. I love this deal for the Jays as Eckstein is an underrated little spark plug who plays solid D and will likely be their lead off man. This gives the Jays a great back-up in McDonald as well. Second base wasn’t a problem last year and won’t be again this year. Aaron Hill had a really solid year in 2007 and I expect even bigger things from him this year. A potential future gold glover, Hill can also mash the ball into gaps. I predict a .290, 17 HR, 86 RBI year from Hill.

This is possibly the biggest question for the Jays. Is Rolen going to stay healthy? I like the deal they made to get him because I’m a huge Troy Glaus hater and think Rolen will at least bring much better range defensively. The Jays need Rolen to start hitting again like he did four years ago when he was an MVP candidate with the Cardinals. At first, the Jays are looking for Lyle Overbay to bounce back from an injury plagued ’07. He hit only .240 last year with just 49 runs driven in, and that needs to increase dramatically.

There’s plenty of talent in the Jays outfield. Alex Rios is developing into a superstar right before our eyes. Without a long term deal, he may not be a Jay too far into the future. That being said, the Jays have him for now and he’s going to have a monster year (.300,30,100). In center, its already been discussed that Vernon needs to pick it up big time. There’s not as much pressure as last year on him so we should see a better Vernon this year. In left there’s a logjam of players vying for one spot. I think to start the year they will have Reed Johnson starting most games in left. Johnson would be a really good #9 hitter in the lineup and plays solid D. Johnson will be splitting a lot of time however with Adam Lind, Matt Stairs and Shannon Stewart. Outfield shouldn’t be a concern for the Jays this year.

If you want to look for a weakness, look no further. The Jays have two back-up caliber catchers competing for the starting job. JP brought in Rob Barajas this offseason. I like this move and feel Barajas is a very good BACK-UP. Then we have starter Gregg Zaun. Anyone else hear his B-S story about how he gave a blank check to a friend thinking it was for something else, but didn’t know it was buying HGH? The guy lies more threw his teeth more than Clemens. To know Zaun was taking HGH the last few years makes you think, how bad would this guy be clean? My guess: not even good enough for the Ice Park Slo Pitch recreational league.

Designated Hitter
Last year Frank Thomas had a good second half to finish up with a solid little season. This year the main DH will again be Thomas, barring injury. Stairs will also get some starts at DH, as will Adam Lind. The Jays have plenty of good bats to fill this role successfully.

The Farm System
The Jays used their first round pick and 16th overall pick on Kevin Ahrens. Ahrens is from Houston and was still in high school. He played short in high school but the Jays envision him as being their third baseman of the future. Some scouts have compared him to Chipper Jones, not too shabby. The top prospect in the Jays whole organization is twenty year old RF Travis Snider. He was the Jays first pick in ’06 and led the Midwest League in RBI with 93 at such a young age. He continued to flat out hit in the Arizona fall league. A lot of long-term depth in the farm system but outside of Lind and whoever loses the #5 starter’s job, not much help for 2008.

AL East Predictions
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
Toronto Blue Jays
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Baltimore Orioles

With the Toronto Blue Jays opening spring training today (1 PM vs. Detroit), we thought it would be a good time to start our spring training coverage here at The ODC. Today you get a double dose of Blue Jay preview, starting with this piece, submitted by A-Rod Snyder.

4 Responses to “Toronto Blue Jays Season Preview”

  1. AJ Says:

    More Skychiefs references! I love the IL, but why doesn’t the IL love me back?

  2. Blake Murphy Says:

    Al I liked the look but I definitely have to disagree on one thing - the Jays have stated time and again that, barring injury, Adam Lind will play out 2008 at AAA. With three candidates for the LF job (or platoon), I’m positive one of those players performs well. Thus, Lind is back to AAA because at this point he needs to be getting 500+ plate appearances to develop. I would think for him to see time this year he’d have to either hit like he did in 2006 (.300+ at every level) and the LF candidates struggle, OR there’s an injury to both a LF and Frank Thomas. Otherwise, the Jays have the major league depth to keep Lind down until 2009.

  3. alex Says:

    I agree with you 100% I think Lind will come up again late in the year and get some starts out in left.Until then ya, AAA

  4. AJ Says:

    Much happier now.

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