In this installment of “30 Teams in 30 Days” we will look at a team that is attempting to become competitive in the A.L. East, the Toronto Blue Jays. It has been a rough couple of decades for the Jays, who just finished their 16th consecutive season without a playoff birth. Even so, last year’s 75-win season was a considerable drop off for a team that can usually be found hovering around the 85-win mark. This year, the Blue Jays are healthier then they were a season ago, and are looking to gain some ground in 2010 after saying goodbye to perhaps the best pitcher in all of baseball.
|C John Buck||.247||.299||.484||16||8||36||1||186|
|1B Lyle Overbay||.265||.372||.466||57||16||64||0||423|
|2B Aaron Hill||.286||.330||.499||103||36||108||6||682|
|SS Alex Gonzalez||.238||.279||.355||42||8||41||2||391||W/2 teams|
|3B Edwin Encarnacion||.225||.320||.410||35||13||39||2||293|
|LF Travis Snider||.241||.328||.419||34||9||29||1||241|
|CF Vernon Wells||.260||.311||.400||84||15||66||17||630|
|RF Jose Bautista||.235||.349||.408||54||13||40||4||336|
|DH Adam Lind||.305||.370||.562||93||35||114||1||587|
Unsettled: Left and right field. General Manager Alex Anthopoulos has made it clear that the only player who has a definite starting position in the outfield is Vernon Wells. The other two spots will be decided during spring training. At this juncture it looks as though four players will be in the mix for the remaining two outfield positions: Travis Snider, Jose Bautista, Joey Gathright, and Jeremy Reed. Of the four, it would seem that Snider and Bautista are favored to take the spots, as Gathright and Reed have done little to speak of in their young careers, each sporting a sub-.700 OPS in just over 1,000 career at bats. However, a productive spring from either of them may be enough to force manager Cito Gaston to make some tough decisions.
Target: Adam Lind. After struggling at the major-league level early on, Lind had an absolutely incredible 2009, posting a .370 OBP while hitting 35 home runs. The question that inevitably arises when dealing with a player like Lind is, was this season an aberration, or is this just a case of a promising young player hitting his stride? One could certainly make the argument that an increase in patience has led to better results. Last season, Lind’s BB% was 8.9, the best it has ever been at the major-league level. Last season was also the first in which Lind received more than 350 plate appearances. It would seem as though practice is making perfect, and it will be very interesting to see the type of season Lind has this year.
|Shawn Marcum||9-7||3.39||1.16||123||50||151.1||2008 stats|
Unsettled: The rotation. The Blue Jays enter the 2010 season with some major pitching question marks, the most pressing of which may be the status of RHP Dustin McGowan. McGowan, who is recovering from a shoulder injury he sustained in 2008, reported no pain after throwing a mound session on January 29. This is good news for the Jays going forward, as a healthy McGowan would almost certainly be a mainstay in the rotation. However, to this point his availability for this season is still unknown. If McGowan does pitch in 2010, his presence would effectively bump one of the young arms out of the rotation.
Target: Shaun Marcum. By all accounts, Marcum has fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and is ready to take the helm as the ace of this pitching staff. Marcum looked as though he was ready to be considered a quality pitcher in 2008, when he posted a 125 ERA+ along with a 2.46 K/BB ratio. If he is as healthy as the reports make it seem, Marcum could be the driving force behind this staff in 2010.
The 8th and 9th Innings
Chasing Saves: As with the outfield situation, the closer role is one that is not defined at this point, and can be won by a number of relievers in spring training. The smart money says Jason Frasor will reprise his role, having struck out 56 batters in 57.2 innings in 2009, but Scott Downs and newly acquired RHP Kevin Gregg will also be competing for the job.
Don’t be shy about drafting Adam Lind a bit early. His 2009 season was not entirely unexpected judging by his minor league numbers, and his increased walk rate suggests that he is doing what young players need to do to be successful in the major leagues. If you need a starter to round out your rotation, think about taking a flyer on Shaun Marcum. All reports to this point indicate he is healthy and ready to go, and if he picks up where he left off in 2008, he should put up some quality numbers. Be very wary of Aaron Hill. While he did hit 36 home runs in 2009, his slugging percentage failed to break the .500 mark. When he found his home-run stroke, he seemed to lose some plate discipline in the trade-off, as his BB% dropped to 5.7, the lowest of his career. I predict some major regression from Hill, and would advise against drafting him while any viable second basemen are still available.
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