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Toronto Blue Jays Fans Should Look Forward to 2013 and Still Be Excited for 2012

Matthew SookramContributor IIJanuary 12, 2012

Toronto Blue Jays Fans Should Look Forward to 2013 and Still Be Excited for 2012

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    It seems as if Toronto Blue Jays fans are feeling a little frustrated this offseason. Big things were expected to happen, and so far, the Jays have made very little noise on the free agent market.

    Fans are starting to question GM Alex Anthopolus' motives for this team, but I think it's a little unfair, to say the least. Fans have been waiting for a big-name free agent to join the team this year, and it hasn't happened.

    Questions keep popping up such as, who will protect Jose Bautista in the lineup if we don't sign Prince Fielder? Who can fill out the rotation since we didn't win the Yu Darvish sweepstakes? Are we really going to rely on a second-year closer to handle that duty again? It didn't work out last time.

    Fans need to realize that Anthopolus has a much different mind set than former GM J.P. Ricciardi. And while fans have been waiting 17 years for the Jays to make the playoffs, AA has only been around for just over three years, so that is where his timeline starts. It's not like he has been building this team since he was in high school.

    What is different is that Ricciardi would complain about everything and point to anything but himself as to reasons why the Jays weren't winning: it's a tough division; we don't have the same kind of payroll as the Yankees and the Red Sox; our farm system has been depleted, and we don't want to sign international free agents.

    So, Ricciardi was given more money and different scouts, and what did he do? Spend as much as he could every year and only draft players he felt he needed at the big league level.

    Does Anthopolus complain about the division? No, he loves it and can't wait for the Jays to be ahead of the Beasts from the East.

    Does he waste money? He apparently has been told by ownership that he can have some money, and instead of throwing it away in one season, he goes the conservative trading route instead.

    When it comes to scouting, AA wants the best available player regardless of what position he plays. And the Blue Jays are once again an attractive destination to international free agents—they landed Adeiny Hechavarria and were right in the thick of the bidding wars for Aroldis Chapman and Yu Darvish.

    Ricciardi said at the beginning that he has a three-year plan (or maybe it was a five-year that turned into a God-awful eight) that will make the Jays competitive again.

    Ricciardi's best drafted product of the time? Russ Adams. His best free agent signing? Take your pick of A.J. Burnett, Troy Glaus, Lyle Overbay or Frank Thomas. His best contract extension? Vernon Wells certainly was the largest, but the best is hard to say.

    It wasn't until much later that other picks such as Aaron Hill, Adam Lind and Ricky Romero started to emerge, and by then, J.P.'s time was just about up.

    But enough of the bad memories. What I love about this new regime is how they want to connect to the fanbase.

    On Saturday, the players held a coaching clinic for about 200 kids at Rogers Centre. They are also about to embark on their winter tour that will take them out East and into the Maritimes. The Jays ownership realizes the marketing potential as Canada's team. They want the players to connect with the fans, and vice-versa.

    The one sure way of making this happen is by having a consistent winning product on the field. The Jays are working their way towards that, and while it may have been a little frustrating to watch this slow motion offseason, fans need to realize that 2013 will be the real year of contention for the Blue Jays.

    Why? Well let's take a look at the last couple of years. 2010 was AA's first full season on the job. It was about shedding payroll and acquiring small pieces for the contention years. 2011 was a learning curve for John Farrell, Jose Bautista and others, while continuing to add little pieces as the main puzzle was starting to take shape.

    The 2012 season will be about which players are ready to make that leap to help the Jays be a winner, and which guys will be used as trade bait in order for Anthopolus to find the last few pieces of the puzzle.

    I can see 2013 being the year that the Jays add a Jack Morris and Dave Winfield. By then, a lot more questions will be answered, and the Jays will know if there plan is set to be put into full motion.

    With all that said, let's take a look at the 2012 roster—see what we found out about these players in 2011, what will happen to them in 2012, and if they will be around for 2013 and beyond.

The Rotation

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    The ace of the rotation is Ricky Romero. He has improved in wins every year and last year proved that he could be the leader of this young rotation. His ERA was under three and he won a team-high 15 games while striking out a career-high 178 batters.

    In 2012, Romero should jump up into the 16-19 win mark, depending on his run support. He should be able to keep his ERA under or around 3.00 as he continues to develop, and hopefully finds a way to beat the Yankees and Red Sox consistently.

    Romero had a huge second half in 2011, and barring any injuries, should bring that level of intensity right out of the gate to start 2012. 

    Will he be around for 2013? Definetly. He will be the ace for the remainder of his contract, and after that, we will see. After all those years of being a so-called "failed No. 1 draft pick," Ricky Romero is working his way to being the next Roy Halladay.

    He has a long way to go, but he can get there and hopefully do one better than Halladay—pitch in a postseason game with the Blue Jays.

    The No. 2 guy is scheduled to be Brandon Morrow. In 2010, Morrow had is first full year as a starter. He showed flashes of brilliance, including that one-hit shutout against the Rays.

    It got Toronto fans wanting more of Morrow, but to start 2011, he was injured. Upon returning, he had an up-and-down season, finishing 11-11 with a 4.72 ERA. Not the best of seasons, but again, there were some starts that made him look like he could be the No. 2 arm the Jays need.

    If he can maintain these flashes of brilliance throughout much of the season, then in 2012, he could establish career highs in wins, ERA and strikeouts. I think Morrow is capable of winning at least 13-15 games behind Romero in the rotation for 2012.

    Brett Cecil at this point may be the projected No. 3. He had a breakout year in 2010, winning a team-high 15 games. For some reason, he wasn't the same guy last year.

    He lost a lot of velocity on his fastball, and he was sent down to the farm in May. He returned at the end of June for the rest of the year and continuned to struggle at times, but also had some very good starts.

    I think Cecil learned a lot from his down 2011 year and will be better this upcoming season—he should make the Jays rotation out of the gate. If he can get around the 13-15 win mark as well, the Jays would have a very good 1-2-3 at the top of their rotation.

    The No. 4 spot may belong to Henderson Alvarez. This guy came up to the big leagues for 10 starts, and he showed electric stuff. In his 10 starts, he only let in four or more runs just three times.

    He had a wicked fastball that had a lot of life on it and a deadly curve. He was one of the few pitchers that suffered from a lack of run support in 2011, and only picked up one major league win agaisnt three losses. 

    Even though Alvarez is not experienced, he has shown he can adapt well. In 2010, he was playing in Dunedin at the Jays A-ball affiliate. Less than a year later, he's starting on the Rogers Centre mound.

    He may suffer some setbacks as all rookies do, but if he sticks to his natural abilities and mechanics, he could be a 10-game winner this year.

    The No. 5 spot in the rotation is the real toss-up. There's, Kyle Drabek, who in 2010 was projected as a future ace of the Blue Jays rotation and got a call up in late September. In 2011, he got shell-shocked, as the reality of how good MLB hitters are set in, he was sent down to the farm.

    Drabek has a very high ceiling. He is still very young, and there is no time to press the panic button and try to give up on him. I think Drabek will get as good of a shot as anybody in Spring Training to make the rotation—it's up to him to prove that he can handle it.

    Then there is Dustin McGowan, the ultimate Jays comeback story. I think this guy deserves to be in the rotation just because of his preserverance.

    Many fans believed he was done forever. But he made a few starts at the end of last year to show that he's still got it, and going into 2012, he will be fighting hard for a spot in the rotation.

    I think it might be best to give him a month or so in AAA games and have him on the emergency dial as soon as the injury bug bites.

    There is also Jesse Litsch and Carlos Villanueva, who have been there before, but may take there roles as middle relievers. On the farm, Deck McGuire, Drew Hutchinson and Asher Wojciechowski are knocking on the door. McGuire may make a start in late September, but barring any huge injuries, he should be in either New Hampshire or Las Vegas for most of the season. 

    What happens to the rotation in 2013?

    Of all these guys, I think Brett Cecil and Kyle Drabek are probably the least likely to be in the rotation in 2013. If Cecil has a good year like he did in 2010, he may be part of a package that lands the Blue Jays a big bat.

    Same with Drabek—I know I said that it's too early to give up on him and that he has a lot of potential going forward, but if he is being sought after by other teams who want him, then AA will be listening.

    If Drabek has a good year, teams will be interested. If he continues to slump, though, I see him dropping further down the depth chart. I also think McGuire will get his shot in the rotation in 2013 if he continues his strong climb up the organiztional ladder.

    There is also a big free-agent class of pitchers coming up next offseason. If the Jays can't make a trade, which AA likes to do, then they may go after one of the already proven talents that are set to hit the market. 

    Projected 2013 rotation: Ricky Romero, FA-pitcher (Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Dan Haren) Brandon Morrow, Henderson Alvarez, Deck McGuire.

    The Blue Jays will need a guy who has been there before to show them how it's done—look for them to get that guy either at the deadline or in the offseason.

The Bullpen

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    Alex Anthopolus has previously stated that building the bullpen is a yearly job and is the easiest to do.

    Last year he proved that wasn't necessarily the case when he signed Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco to one year contracts to handle the back end of the bullpen. They were amazing by anyones standards, but as the season winded down, Fransisco did his job a little better.

    This year the bullpen features a much different look.

    The closer's duty will be filled by Sergio Santos. In what many regarded as an under the radar trade, I consider a steal for the Blue Jays.

    Sure Nestor Molina was a top prospect, but Santos already has a 30 save season under his belt, and it isn't costing the Blue Jays millions of dollars like B.J. Ryan. Ryan was similar to Santos in regards to experience, and in his first season he was simply awesome. Elbow and shoulder problems got in the way of how good he could have been.

    Hopefully Santos doesn't follow down that road, and instead becomes the closer Jays fans have been waiting for since the days of Tome Henke and Duane Ward.

    Santos will get a big wake up call in the A.L. East, but hopefully he has a good enough skill set and natural ability to handle the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays.

    So far, he has looked good against teams in the A.L. East.

    Sure, they are limited stats, but ironically the team he fares worst against is the Blue Jays. If you can't beat em' join em'.

    Santos is signed for the next three years for $8.25 million with a buy out at the end. If he can keep up these stats for three years then the Blue Jays really got a great deal.

    Casey Janssen figures to be the set-up guy. It's hard to believe, but Janssen has been around for almost six years. He came up as a starter in 2006 and has worked out of the bullpen since 2007. He was put into the set-up role late last season after being a middle man for much of 2010.

    Janssen has had some injury troubles in the past, but he seems to be improving year by year. In a full season as the set-up man Janssen could be the guy that makes it a seven inning game. If the opponents are trailing by that inning it is game over, because Janssen and Santos are too stingy to let in any runs.

    It's a possibility, and with Janssen's talent Jays fans could see it as a a reality in 2012.

    Jason Frasor will also return and share this role with Janssen. Frasor will be very familiar to Jays fans, as he has been with this team for the better part of eight years. While he was never good enough to step into the closer's role, he has been good enough to hold down a spot consistantly in the bullpen for almost a decade.

    Frasor's return has given the Jays another veteran presence at the back of the bullpen.

    Darren Oliver will be the lefty specialist. He has been around the game for years—he was a starter when he came up in 1993 and moved to the bullpen a few years ago. It seems he is getting better with age in the pen—ERA has gone down every year for the past 4 years.

    Oliver is another veteran guy who can help the younger ones either in the rotation or in the bullpen.

    The other three roles will be filled by the likes of Jesse Litsch, Carlos Villanueva, Aaron Laffey, Luis Perez, and Joel Carreno.

    It will depend on whether the Jays want more long relief pitchers or more middle relief pitchers. With injuries sure to come throughout the season each of these guys should make at least one appearance for the Blue Jays (barring any cuts made in Spring Training).

    The bullpen is looking revamped and should be better than last year and should continue to be as good in years to come.

    Projected 2013 Bullpen: CL Sergio Santos, SU Casey Janssen and Luis Perez, MR Joel Carreno, Chad Beck, Jason Frasor, LR Jesse Litsch.

The Outfield

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    The Blue Jays have the potential to be one of the better defensive outfield units in the game.

    With Jose Bautista's rocket arm in right field and Colby Rasmus' range in center it will really come down to who get's the spot in left field. If you have followed the Blue Jays this offseason you will no doubt know they have plenty of options.

    Right field will be manned by Jose Bautista. In 2010 he was given the starting job out of Spring Training, and for the first time in his career he was able to relax, knowing he would be in the lineup the next day, He responded big time—aside from his monster season at the plate (which we will discuss in a different slide).

    Bautista also showed off his versatility by playing some games at third base and even first base. In 2011 Bautista was almost strictly a right fielder. There was a period where he was asked to step in at third but it didn't last long.

    This coming season there will be no doubt about who will be in right field for the majority of the 162 game schedule. I say majority only because even Bautista will need a day off once in a while.

    Centerfield will be patrolled by Colby Rasmus. I liked the aquisition of Rasmus when it happened, but am a little worried about him now. I hope that he can be the five tool player the Cardinals drafted him as. Colby has great range and a great glove. He has speed and has enough height to reach the very top of the fence of the Rogers Center field wall.

    Pitchers were not afraid to let opposing hitters hit the ball when Vernon Wells was directly behind them, and now Rasmus should bring with him that same expectation.

    Left field is one of the big question marks that AA has yet to fullfill this off-season. Eric Thames and Travis Snider are the two guys who will get the best chance at filling stepping in. Both have very good defensive skills.

    Snider, while a little bit slower, makes up for it with a good arm that he showed off at times last year, but the awareness was a little off most nights. He will need to improve that if he his to make the big league club.

    Thames has more speed and can therefore cover more ground. I think he is more of a natural fielder than Snider, which may give him the leg up out of Spring Training.

    Manager John Farrell is a guy who is very aware of his defense and how important it is to the continued development of his young rotation. I think he is a guy that would sacrifice a little bit of offensive for more defense.

    With that said, Edwin Encarnation, Rajai Davis and Ben Francisco are on the outside looking in when it comes to the starting left field job. I have never seen Encarnation man the outfield, however if it's anything like him manning third base, look out!

    I like Davis—I really wish he could be the guy to be in leftfield everyday just for what he can do with his speed. But there is a glaring reason he won't be (which again we'll discuss later).

    Francisco was brought in as insurance and will only get to start in case of injury emergencies and rest days. I do think he will be on the bench to start the year though.

    What happens to the outfield in 2013? The Blue Jays have youngsters Anthony Gose, Moises Sierra and Jake Marisinick waiting on the farm.

    These kids have the potential to be big time players for the Blue Jays some day with Anthony Gose the most likely to make an appearance in late 2012. If Eric Thames, Travis Snider and Colby Rasmus flop the Blue Jays have talent not too far away.

    This will really be the make or break it year for both Thames and Snider, and I can see AA trading both at some point to make room for Gose.

    Projected 2013 outfield: LF Colby Rasmus, CF Anthony Gose, RF Jose Bautista

The Corners

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    The corner positions on the diamond are usually looked upon as the power in the lineup. However, on the field they have the quickest glove, as the ball reaches them faster than any other fielder, save the pitcher.

    Brett Lawrie will take over third base for a full season. There was concern with how he would handle the position change from 2nd to 3rd, but in his short time at the major league level he has shown he can be fast enough at the hot corner.

    He's got a good arm and showed great awarness last year as he started some crucial 5-4-3 double plays on weakly-hit balls that other third basemen might only throw to first.

    Lawrie is a big kid that throws an intimidating shadow over the left side of the infield.

    Adam Lind will make his second appearance at first base for a full year. He underestimated the physical toughness of the position last year and suffered through an injury early on. It was a huge question mark as to whether or not he could actually field the position last year.

    He proved that he could, but now he needs to have an injury-free year and do it while posessing a capable glove.

    The only other players that would see time at these positions are Edwin Encarnation and Mike McCoy, when either starter needs a day off.

    What happens on the corners in 2013? I think AA has invested too much time and interest into building these two players for their respective positions to get rid of them so soon. The Jays do have David Cooper on the farm but unless there is an injury to Lind, don't expect to see him in a Jays lineup anytime soon.

    Projected Corners for 2013: 1B Adam Lind, 3B Brett Lawrie

Up the Middle

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    This is an area that has seen many changes over the past few years.

    In fact there hasn't been the same shortstop and second base combination to start on two consecutive opening days since Chris Woodward and Orlando Hudson in 2003-2004. Since then, there has been a different player at either position every year.

    Although Aaron Hill has held down the second base spot for the last five seasons, he will be replaced this year by Kelly Johnson. Yunel Escobar will be a Blue Jay on opening day for just the second time in his career.

    Escobar established himself last year as one of the game's premier defensive shorstops. His range is excellent and his glovework makes you wonder why the Braves ever gave him up.

    He reminds fans of what Roberto Alomar used to do, only on the other side of the bag. Escobar is quick with his feet and hands, turning slow developing plays into fast finishes that sometimes just barely beat the runner at the bag, but beats them nonetheless.

    Escobar came over near the trade deadline in 2010 under a bit of controversy with the Atlanta Braves. People worried that his attitude and demeanour was uncontrollable and that he would just be a waste of space in the club house.

    In 2011 Escobar put those thoughts to rest. He hustled on every play, and made incredible back-handed grabs and leaping double plays. He is signed through to 2015 and the Blue Jays should consider extending.

    At second base, the Blue Jays will get their first extended look at Kelly Johnson, who came over from the Diamondbacks at last year's deadline. There was a bit of a grieving period, it seemed, when he decided to accept arbitration to stick around for another year.

    It seemed as if Blue Jays management was hoping to get two draft picks, had he signed with another team. Although it didn't work out that way, the Jays at the very least are not searching for a new second basemen and this time.

    Kelly Johnson should provided solid glove work at second base. The worst case scenario, if he really stinks things up, he is only around for the one year.

    For the first time in six years John McDonald won't be backing these guys up, as he was part of the trade that brought in Kelly Johnson. Instead, it will be Mike McCoy who is the ultimate utility man.

    McCoy is very good with the glove at either position, and if needed he can also play in the outfield. McCoy will see some action at both positions, but not a lot, as Escobar and Johnson should play at least 140 games a piece.

    What happens to the double play combination in 2013? The long await for the highly touted Cuban star Adeiny Hechavarria is almost over. There's no doubt his glove work could put him in the MLB right now—it's his offensive part of the game that needs a little more work. 

    Regardless of how Kelly Johnson is playing near the deadline, I can see the Jays trading him for anything and promoting Hecavarria. It's just a matter of whether you move him or Escobar over to second base.

    Most scouts think Hechavarria is more naturally a second baseman but AA has said they would not move Escobar anytime soon. I think they just want to keep a closed lid on their plans until they know that Hechavarria is truly ready.

    Projected middle for 2013: SS Adeiny Hechavarria, 2B Yunel Escobar.

Behind the Plate

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    Similar to the combination up the middle, the Blue Jays have not had the same players start at the backstop position for quite some time. Gregg Zaun has been the only consecutive opening day starter in the last decade.

    This year the catching duties will be shared by J.P. Arencibia and new comer Jeff Mathis.

    I use the term 'shared loosely,' as Arencibia proved last year that he was able to handle the catching duties of his pitchers towards the end of the season. Not only was he calling games better he was also playing better defense.

    This was an area that the Blue Jays staff was concerned about. They feared Arencibia would not be able to handle the jump from Triple A to the big leagues defensively.

    It took some time, but Arencibia got there—he was praised by his pitchers at the end of the year for how far he had come along. In his second year in the bigs he should continue to develop a steady presence behind the plate.

    Jeff Mathis has come over from the Los Angelas Angels organization, and he is one of the best defensive catchers in the game. He will be reaplacing Jose Molina, who left for Tampa Bay in the offseason.

    Mathis brings over a veteran presence, and while he may only see around 50 games this year, he will act as a great mentor not only to his fellow catcher Arencibia, but also to the young clubhouse as a whole.

    If any injuries occur, the Blue Jays have catchers Brian Jeroloman and Travis d'Arnaud waiting on the farm. The consensus is that it will be Jeroloman in case of an emergency, with d'Arnaud getting the call in September.

    What happens to the backstop in 2013? The second piece to the Roy Halladay trade may get the start on openinig day a year from now in Travis d'Arnaud. The Blue Jays will have a decision to make as to whether they keep both J.P. and Travis as catchers, or move one of them via a trade or position change.

    Mathis will sign elsewhere in free agency as long as the Blue Jays feel d'Arnaud is ready to make the jump and don't re-sign Mathis. Then again, Brian Jeroloman could suprise everyone and have a monster year and surpase d'Arnaud on the depth chart, although it is unlikely.

    The Blue Jays may go the obvious route and let Arencibia and d'Arnaud battle for catching supremecy in 2013by letting d'Arnaud work his way slowly into the lineup and have Arencibia learn a new position for 2014.

    It is a good problem for the Jays to have, but a problem nonetheless.

    Projected catchers for 2013: Starter J.P. Arencibia, Backup Travis d'Arnaud

The Lineup

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    This year's lineup will look much different than opening day last year. There is still some guess work as to who will be in which spot, but for the most part I think I have it right. It's all about using the players best abilities in the best spot of the order.

    Last year's lineup looked like this:

    1. CF Rajai Davis* 

    2. SS Yunel Escobar

    3. RF Jose Bautista

    4. 1B Adam Lind

    5. 2B Aaron Hill* 

    6. 3B Edwin Encarnacion

    7. LF Travis Snider*

    8. DH Juan Rivera*

    9. C J.P. Arencibia 

    The stars mark the players who are either no longer with the team or who are most likely to start on the bench this year.

    As I said, there is still some guess work, but the opening day lineup may resemble something like this:

    1. SS Yunel Escobar

    2. CF Colby Rasmus

    3. RF Jose Bautista

    4. 1B Adam Lind

    5. 3B Brett Lawrie

    6. DH Edwin Encarnation

    7. 2B Kelly Johnson

    8. C J.P. Arencibia

    9. LF Eric Thames

    This is going to be a lineup that is based more around power than anthing else. Last year with Davis at the top the Blue Jays had more of a focus on speed, which if they get the right situation could still be a threat.

    This lineup will still be high run-scoring.

    Escobar is a consistant contact hitter, while he lacks true leadoff speed he shows great awarness on the base paths. Rasmus can hit for power and average and can be a star if he wants to be, in front of Bautista he should see a lot of quality pitches to hit.

    Bautista is the two time reigning home run king. He had to learn how to hit without being pitched to for most of last year, and he came through with a better overall average and on-base percentage.

    Adam Lind will be somewhere between his 2009 season (.305, 35 HR 114 RBI) and his 2011 season ( .251, 26 HR 87 RBI). If Lind can hit closer to .300 then he should get nearer the 100 RBI mark with Escobar, Rasmus and Bautista in front of him. He needs to hit for consistancy right out of the gate because pitchers will be going around Bautista all year long if he doesn't.

    Brett Lawrie showed he deserves to be in the show with a line of .293 9 HR 25 RBI. He also stole 7 bases, which means he could bat second (a bit on that in a minute). In a full season if Lawrie stays healthy he can turn that line into a .280-.305 average with 25-35 HR and 85-100 RBI. He will have some ups andd downs along the way, but he showed great plate presences in his short time.

    Encarnation seems to be a favourite of Anthopolus' and as long as he's wearing batting gloves and not a fielding glove I don't mind him in a Blue Jays uniform. According to baseball-reference.com Encarnation has averaged .260, 24 HR 81 RBI a season.

    Those are solid numbers for a DH that may be in his last season with your team. If he gets close to that and the Blue Jays are out of contention, teams will be calling for EE's services.

    Same goes for Kelly Johnson. He has some pop and can hit near the .260-.280 mark. Like E, Johnson's services could be sought after by a team that needs a veteran second baseman, if the Blue Jays are not in the running.

    J.P. Arencibia rose quickly through the ranks of the Jays system because of his batting skills. He set the Blue Jays catching record for home runs in a single season with 23 dingers—another reason to believe it will be all about the power numbers for this Jays squad. Arencibia will have to pick up that average down the road, but if he keeps up those power numbers he will be a mainstay in this lineup.

    (Favourite funny Jays moment of 2011; When the Blue Jays were accused of sign stealing, Arencibia responds with "I'm hitting .200. If we were stealing signs don't you think I could hit the ball more often?)

    Rounding out the lineup could be Eric Thames. His play last year moved him ahead of Travis Snider on the depth chart and I have a feeling he will break camp with the Jays while Snider will have to either serve in a platoon role or keep working at it on the farm. Thames showed that he had some pop last year, and if he can stop swinging at the bad pitches he would make a dangerous "second leadoff hitter."

    Off the Bench the Jays will have: Jeff Mathis, Rajai Davis, Mike McCoy, Ben Francisco and possibly Travis Snider.

    Personally my ideal lineup would have been this.

    1. LF Rajai Davis

    2. 3B Brett Lawrie

    3. RF Jose Bautista

    4. 1B Adam Lind

    5. DH Travis Snider

    6. CF Colby Rasmus

    7. SS Yunel Escobar

    8. C J.P. Arencibia

    9. 2B Mike McCoy

    I love the speed aspect of the game more, and this lineup would allow them to have two fast guys at the top and another at the bottom.

    But this would have only been possible if Snider could prove he can hit at the MLB level, Johnson didn't accept arbitration and Davis could actually get on base. A guy could dream right?

    What happens to the lineup in 2013? Ideally the projected 2012 lineup will be much different as the season comes to a close and some of the Blue Jays prospects start forcing their way into the lineup.

    The 2013 additions to the lineup once again look different, but I think it will look better. There will be a very big balance of power and speed and although some ofthe guys inserted will be rookies, they would fit in well with what is already a young - turning into a veteran- core.

    Projected 2013 lineup:

    1. CF Anthony Gose

    2. 3B Brett Lawrie

    3. RF Jose Bautista

    4. DH ?????? (Free agent, proven Snider)

    5. 1B Adam Lind

    6. LF Colby Rasmus

    7. 2B Yunel Escobar

    8. C J.P. Arencibia

    9. SS Adeiny Hechavarria

    One and two provide speed and power. Three, four, provide more power than average. Five and six hit more for average than power. Seven provides constant on-base apperances and contact hitter. Eight provides with more power. Nine is your secondary leadoff with a lot of speed.

    This lineup has potential, although that's alot it is right now potential. The Blue Jays have an opportunity to find a way to make this work, and that's by playing through 2012 and making the players decide who gets to stick around.

So Why Be Excited for 2012?

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    The Blue Jays are young and will be exciting to watch.

    The lineup will provide plenty of offense while the rotation could be it's own reality TV show—like Survivor—as they will be trying to make it onto a team that is very close to being a perennial winner.

    The bullpen has a lot of experience that should help out the starting rotation. While it's youngest component is the closer, he seems to already be showing that shutdown mentality that the good closers posses.

    The Blue Jays could make things interesting against an aging Yankees team and a confused Red Sox team. They will have to be better against the Rays as well, who for the last several years have had the Jays number.

    If things go right for the Jays they could be in the race right until the end—but of course a lot of things need to go right every year. Even if they don't, we will see some of the core pieces really mesh together while Anthopolus dangles the trade bait right on the Major League stage.

    The Blue Jays truly are close, and 2012 will show it.

    But you can't blame Anthopolus for not making some moves this off-season. Throughout this report you have read why he took this route and how it will help the Blue Jays in the future, and that future is looking very bright.

What to Look Forward to in 2013?

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    The Blue Jays will see some of the long awaited draft pieces and young player signings get their first sniff of MLB in 2012, albeit briefly. Then in 2013 all signs point to them getting a spot to play on a full time basis.

    If they are everything projected to be, the Blue Jays will have one heck of a team for years to come. Of course, injuries and the learning curve will get in the way, but these players are projected,  fast learners and are almost ready to make that leap.

    There are also a number of big time free agents on the market for 2013. Guys like Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton, Curtis Granderson, Travis Hafner, Torii Hunter, and Carlos Lee are all slated to become free agents at the end of this season. Their teams will be looking to either extend their contracts or ship them at the deadline.

    All of these guys are big time players that would fit in well behind Bautista in the DH/No. 4 hole, while a couple of them can still play a position in the field. They also all have playoff experience which is something that can be very valuable to a younger team like the Jays. Also, none of these guys will (or at least shouldn't) command the same kind of money that Prince Fielder is sure to get.

    Starting pitchers to hit the market are: Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, Dan Haren, Tim Hudson, Colby Lewis, Kyle Lohse, Ervin Santana and James Shields, just to name a few. Again all of them have playoff experience and none will command the $100 million plus it would have taken to secure Yu Darvish (posting fee and contract).

    So while Jays fans may be inclined to whine about what could have been this year, just know that Anthopolus has a plan. He has been told that he can have some more money. He listens to his scouts and we will see in the following months if they did a good job.

    This year the Blue Jays will be looking to see which one of their homegrown talents will stick around for the next version of the glory years, and which will be moved out to make room for potential all-star players.

    It will be exciting to watch this young team progress forward and know that this time next year the Jays should be adding the finishing touches to the master plan.

    What would I want the roster to look like in 2013? In my perfect world the Jays would look like this:

    Lineup

    1. CF Anthony Gose

    2. 3B Brett Lawrie

    3. RF Jose Bautista

    4. DH Travis Hafner

    5. 1B Adam Lind

    6. LF Colby Rasmus

    7. 2B Yunel Escobar

    8. C J.P. Arencibia

    9. SS Adeiny Hechavarria

    Rotation

    1. Ricky Romero

    2. Cole Hamels

    3. Brandon Morrow

    4. Kyle Drabek

    5. Deck McGuire

    Bullpen as is

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