Toronto Blue Jays: Forgotten Blue Jays Who Could Surprise in 2012
Spring training is upon us. Pitchers and catchers have reported for duty, and some regulars have gotten an early start to the season.
The boys of summer are back, and some of these Jays will look for bounce-back seasons, comeback seasons or to just plain continue hitting well and pitching well.
Generally, most positions have been set with the Jays prior to the start of the season.
Two of the three outfield spots have been locked up; meanwhile, the infield, catcher and designated hitter have all been accounted for. As for the pitching, the bullpen is revamped and looks to be set, minus maybe a battle for the last spot in the bullpen. The starters, well, at least by the looks of it, are set for the top four, with the last remaining spot likely to be decided upon in the last week or so of spring training.
In order to be a successful team, you need players to either come out of nowhere and be outstanding, or you need steady performances from your all-stars and regulars.
Here's a look at six Blue Jays who have often been forgotten about, but could have a say in whether the Jays make the playoffs this season.
Outfielder Rajai Davis
Brought in last season in a deal for Daniel Farquhar and Tryston Magnuson, Davis was supposed to be the speed at the top of the order the Jays needed.
What they got was a player who struggled to find his stride at the plate, and as a result, never really was a threat at the top of the lineup.
His speed, however, was on full display last season before a season-ending surgery robbed him of the chance to rebound from his slow start.
Likely to see spot action against righties, at least to start the year, Davis' season previous to last season was just outstanding, with a .284 average and over 50 steals. Those kind of numbers would look magical at the top of the Jays lineup, with Yunel Escobar, Brett Lawrie and Jose Bautista behind him.
If he's not a regular for the Jays, he'll at least be a valuable piece off the bench in the later innings. His ability to steal multiple bases could really put a lot of pressure on opposing teams' bullpens and starters because he just creates havoc on the basepaths.
For the Jays to win, they need Davis' speed and ability to change the game by running the bases.
Outfielder Colby Rasmus
You maybe can't say he's been a forgotten Jay, but after his lackluster start with the Jays last year, hitting a measly .171, Rasmus was nearly invisible all year.
Hopefully, some renewed optimism, a renewed attitude and a better approach at the plate will mean more production from Rasmus. Before the trade, the Jays were relying on Rajai Davis for offensive production and got maybe a little more, but not much.
If he can average .250 with 25 home runs and 80 RBI, he just adds another potent bat to the Jays attack.
For the Jays to win, they need a bounce-back season from Rasmus.
2nd Baseman Kelly Johnson
Another hole in the Jays attack last year was second base. Aaron Hill last year struggled, at least with the Jays, to make any sort of consistent contact that resulted in hits.
When the Jays swung the deal to acquire Johnson, they got themselves a second baseman with more power, and he managed to hit for a decent .270 average despite being a career .260 hitter, and a .209 hitter with the Diamondbacks that season.
A full year of Johnson should mean a full year of production at second base.
I expect 20 home runs and 70 RBI minimum from the middle infielder this season.
For the Jays to win this year, they need consistent production from their middle infielders.
Outfielder Travis Snider
The former first-round pick straight out of high school has really struggled to find himself at the plate in his career.
Marred by long streaks of ineffectiveness and what I like to call a loopy swing, Snider hasn't found the consistency he wants at the plate.
He has tried a number of things at the plate in the offseason in an effort to improve his swing and approach.
After a season of nearly no production, if the Jays can manage to get Snider going, they could actually get some real value out of him for the first time this season.
For the Jays to win, Travis Snider will need to show everyone the Jays didn't waste a first-round pick on him.
Starters Dustin McGowan and Kyle Drabek
This is probably the most important slide of all of five I have listed.
The Jays have the hitting, and they have a nice, well-rounded bullpen, but they lack a good starting rotation. Filled with relatively unproven starters, the Jays will need Ricky Romero to continue pitching like the Jays ace again this season.
They will also need Brandon Morrow to pitch consistently for the first time in his career. He has the speed, he has the stuff; it's just a matter of putting it together consistently.
After that, it's really a mixed bag of peanuts for the Jays rotation.
Rookie Henderson Alvarez will need to show he can pitch regularly in the league, and Brett Cecil will either need to learn to pitch with his slower velocity or shed some pounds in an effort to gain back the velocity he once had.
Edit: I read afterwards Cecil has re-dedicated himself to eating well and working out and has managed to lose some weight.
Anyways, the Jays' fifth and final spot will either be occupied by Kyle Drabek or Dustin McGowan.
Both pitchers have front-of-the-rotation stuff, but right now, back-of-the-rotation control.
McGowan's control will eventually comeback after he returns fully from his injuries; however, Drabek's control issues are a lot more alarming.
Drabek's K/BB ratio has never really been that impressive, but last year, it was just atrocious at the major league level, hitting at a 0.93 clip. Good pitchers would like to see that number around 3 or 4.
As for McGowan, he is a guy the Jays are hoping can return from his injuries, sort of like Chris Carpenter did, and bounce back with the Jays.
The Jays don't want to be caught with their pants down by releasing McGowan and him going onto a Cy Young-caliber season with another club.
Look for McGowan to make the Jays out of spring training, if not for an injury.
For the Jays to win, their starters need to get them consistently into the sixth and seventh innings.