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Playing Pepper 2011: Toronto Blue Jays

Posted on March 17, 2011 at 10:13 PM
Filed Under: Playing Pepper | Toronto Blue Jays
Two years ago, I started a series I called Playing Pepper, where I asked questions of bloggers of each major league team about the season to come.  Not only was that informative and entertaining, it led to the spawning of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.  With spring training coming up, it's time to get back into shape by again playing a little pepper.

Toronto Blue Jays (85-77, 11 GB and fourth in the AL East)

85 wins.  In the AL West, that would have put the Jays second and third in any other division.  Yet since they have the misfortune to play in the powerhouse AL East, that eight-games-over-.500 mark was just good enough to beat out Baltimore.  At times, it just doesn't seem fair.

It's possible that misery, or at least misfortune, does love company because Toronto is one of the largest chapters in the BBA.  I was able to get three of those quality writers to sit down with the Playing Pepper questions.

Chris writes Infield Fly, a baseball blog with Toronto tendencies.  You can follow him on Twitter for a little north of the border flavor.

The Blue Jay Hunter is written by Ian Hunter, the president of the Toronto chapter of the BBA.  As with Chris, you can also follow him on Twitter to get his thoughts.

Finally, Jeremy writes from the cheap seats at his blog 500 Level Fan.  Along with the other two, he has Twitter but also has a Facebook group as well.

Jose Bautista and other nuggets of info after the jump!

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C70: What was your opinion of the Toronto offseason?

IF: The Jays had a superb offseason. Signing Jose Bautista to big, long-term deal was a serious risk, but even if he flops, I don't think I can sour on what Alex Anthopoulos accomplished. Getting rid of Vernon Wells and his ridiculous contract would more than make up for any missteps -- and I'm not even sure he really made any. 

BJH: It was another very active offseason for the Blue Jays this year. Last time around, they traded the face of the franchise in Roy Halladay, and this past offseason the organization also dealt another big piece of the team in Vernon Wells, as well as locking up Jose Bautista long-term. 

Alex Anthopoulos was a busy man this past winter, but overall I'd say the organization fared pretty well. Escaping the Vernon Wells contract alone was a Houdini act in itself and should be revered as the greatest offseason move by the Blue Jays. 

500: I thought it was amazing, for three reasons: 

1 - Alex Anthopoulos was able to unload Vernon Wells and his enormous contract, a feat that was previously thought to be impossible. 

2 - He re-signed Jose Bautista. Many people did and still do criticize the deal, and yes I think it is a bit too long and for a few too many dollars, but all-in-all it was a great signing. I think it shows the league that Toronto is serious and it also shows the players that the Jays are serious about constructing a winner as well. They are not about to let players that they believe in walk away. 

3 - They stuck to the plan, meaning they remained committed to their young players. After losing Wells, Overbay, Marcum, Buck, Downs, and Lewis, the temptation was surely there to overpay for guys like Joaquin Benoit, or Jesse Crain, or Johnny Damon. But they stuck with the guys that they believe in, including Travis Snider, Adam Lind, Aaron Hill, Brett Cecil, Jason Frasor, and J.P. Arencibia. Picking up Rajai Davis was good too.

C70: How many home runs can reasonably be expected out of Jose Bautista?

IF: There's a chance Bautista will continue to mash at a 50-per-season pace, then again he may slip back to his previous levels of performance and hit maybe 15 or so. Really though, I'm not expecting him to do either. I'd have to say somewhere in the range of 30 dingers is a reasonable expectation from Jose. 

BJH: No one expects Jose Bautista to match his 2010 total of 54 home runs, so I'd say somewhere around the 30 home run mark is a fairly safe guess as to how many he will hit in 2011. The adjustments he made prior to last season will hopefully carry over and continue to serve Bautista well, as opposing pitchers will be gunning to find a weakness in Jose's game. 

500: Tough to say. I think he is for real, though I doubt he'll smack 50+ again. I think 35 should be a lock, and I think he can clear 40.

C70: What would you consider the most glaring weakness of the team as it is currently constructed?

IF: Right now, I'd have to say it's the outfield. Travis Snider, I'm fine with. I'm convinced he's going to have a breakout season. Rajai Davis, I'd like him as a 4th outfielder or maybe even in a platoon situation. His speed is nice, but he just doesn't get on base enough to justify being an everyday player. As for Juan Rivera, I'd say I expect him to be a disappointment, but that would imply I'm expecting something from him in the first place. 

BJH: There will likely be some growing pains at first base as Adam Lind becomes accustomed to playing that position full time. Blue Jays fans were perhaps a little spoiled by the above-average defense from Lyle Overbay the past five seasons, so expect there to be a few hiccups from the right side of the diamond. 

Even though he's been handed the starting catching job, J.P. Arencibia still has to prove he has what it takes to play nearly every day behind the plate. He'll be guided by seasoned veteran Jose Molina, and Bench Coach Don Wakamatsu will also provide a wealth of knowledge as a former catcher himself. 

500: Probably a tie between the inability to get on base and the starting rotation. Toronto had the 5th worst OBP in baseball last year (3rd worst in the AL), and didn't really add anybody who will help in the category. Rajai Davis might, but only if he reverts back to his 2009 form. I wrote a post on my site about the starting rotation. If they go with Romero, Morrow, Cecil, Drabek, and Rzepczynski, that will be the youngest rotation the Jays have had since 1978. That will likely be a great thing in a few years, but might be tough in 2011, especially in the AL East.

C70: Is there a Blue Jays prospect that will make a significant impact this season?

IF: Everything is pointing to Kyle Drabek breaking camp as the fourth or fifth starter, so yeah, he should have a pretty significant impact on the team this season. Hopefully it's a good one.  

BJH: One prospect who has jumped out of the gate so far in Spring Training is Eric Thames. He might not be on everyone's radar, but come the end of 2011, Thames certainly could be. He was named the Blue Jays Double A player of the year in 2010 with 104 RBI and 27 home runs. If one of the corner outfielders goes down due to injury or trade, I could definitely see Eric Thames getting the call to Toronto. 

500: It's tempting to say Arencibia but I think Drabek will make the biggest impact. I would peg him as the #4 starter, and think he might be one of the biggest surprises in the league.

C70: What's your prediction for Toronto's record and divisional finish?

IF: I'm going to put the Jays down for an 83-79 record which, because of the stacked AL East, will likely land them in fourth place. 

BJH: This might be a little overly optimistic, but even though the Baltimore Orioles loaded up on free agents, I still believe the Blue Jays will finish ahead of them in the standings. Probably somewhere around the 75-87 mark. This isn't the year the Blue Jays are going to win the pennant, but it could be the beginning of their next run at glory. 

500: As much as I want to say this is the year, I don't think it is. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Jays take a step back from last year, especially with all the youth. I would guess 75 - 87, but still ahead of the Orioles for 4th.


1 Comment | Leave a comment

I think they will win 85 games again and be a nice surprise. I like their young players. I'm not sold on Arencibia though. JoBau will hit 40 homers. Book it.

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