Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos has worked diligently over the last couple of years since taking over the position to build the Blue Jays organization into a powerful force to contend in the American League East.
Fighting harder each season in the toughest division in all of baseball, Anthopoulos has made some highly perceptive and forward-thinking moves as if he were playing a championship game of chess.
Each move that he has made has strengthened the ballclub, not only for the 2012 season, but for future seasons as well.
The Jays have had a strong team for the last four seasons, but they ended each of those seasons in fourth place.
Anthopoulos doesn't make national headlines nearly as often as other general managers such as Brian Cashman and Theo Epstein. In a more subtle and reserved way, he is just as intelligent, may possibly be more insightful and has an excellent touch in building a powerhouse ballclub.
Take a look at some of the moves that he has made to build Toronto, not only for the 2012 season, but for a solid future.
He had a solid season in 2011 playing center field for the Blue Jays' Double-A affiliate New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
Gose is aggressive, powerful and has extreme base-running speed. His speed led Baseball America to rank him as the fastest base-running prospect for 2012.
He led the Double-A Eastern League division with 70 stolen bases in 2011.
A strong, solid hitter, he also strikes out often. With a little more time in Double-A and then Triple-A, he will have a chance to refine his hitting skills and be a little less aggressive at the plate, making better choices with pitch selection.
Gose has tremendous talent that continues to grow and progress. His speed is not only effective in base-running, but it is a huge asset chasing down fly balls in center field.
When he is ready to be called up to the majors, the Blue Jays will greatly benefit from this rising star.
Mike McDade, another New Hampshire Fisher Cats veteran, was added to the Blue Jays' 40-man roster for spring training this year.
The first baseman earned a spot on the roster after having a strong season in Double-A.
In the 2011 season with the NH Fisher Cats, he had 136 hits, 16 home runs, 74 RBI, 37 doubles and scored 71 runs in 484 at-bats with a batting average of .281.
He is one of Toronto’s best prospects as a first baseman with a .993 fielding percentage, 79 double plays turned, 57 assists and seven errors committed in 2011.
In 2010, he struck out 141 times in 480 at-bats. He showed improvement in 2011, striking out 104 times in 484 at-bats.
McDade is an intimidating presence, standing at the plate at 6'1" and 250 pounds.
In a typical, forward-thinking move, the Blue Jays purchased his contract during this offseason to bring him onto the 40-man roster.
This will give him valuable experience to prepare him for MLB. McDade is on course to become another rising star in the Toronto organization.
Right-handed pitcher Kyle Drabek had a difficult season with the Blue Jays in 2011, but don't think for a moment that his performance last season is indicative of his future.
In his MLB debut on Sept. 15, 2010 against the Orioles, he pitched seven innings, threw 101 pitches with seven strikeouts and gave up one hit and one earned run.
Drabek’s four-seam fastball tops out at about 93 MPH. His curveball seems to be his knockout pitch, and he often utilizes it when batters have two strikes.
He has a win-loss record of 4-8, an ERA of 5.83, 63 strikeouts and a 1.72 WHIP in a total of 21 games since his call-up to Toronto.
Drabek has exceptional pitching skills that need to be further developed and refined for 2012. He has some MLB experience behind him now that will build his confidence.
He will settle down and find his groove. When he does, he will become one of Toronto's top pitchers.
The 2012 season may not be his breakout season, but 2013 and 2014 may be his years to shine.
Cordero will enter his 14th season in the major leagues in 2012, and Toronto made an excellent move bringing on an experienced veteran.
He had been the full-time closer with the Reds until he signed with the Blue Jays as a free agent. His role with the Blue Jays will be as the setup man for closer Sergio Santos.
Cordero had a strong 2011 season with Cincinnati, recording 37 saves in 43 opportunities, along with a 2.45 ERA.
In 13 seasons pitching in both the AL and the NL, he had a win-loss record of 44-45, 765 strikeouts, 327 saves and a 3.17 ERA.
Many may be concerned about his age, which has led to a small drop in velocity in his fastball. He has compensated well by adding extra pitches to his arsenal, which have proved to be successful.
The Blue Jays acquired a solid pitcher in Cordero. He is an excellent addition to the team and a great, experienced option coming out of the bullpen for this upcoming season.
Travis d'Arnaud, ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Toronto organization by Baseball America, completed a huge 2011 season catching for the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
With a batting average of .311, he had 132 hits, 33 doubles, one triple, 21 home runs and 78 RBI in 424 at-bats.
He was also the MVP of the 2011 Eastern League Championship team, NH Fisher Cats.
He earned promotions throughout the minor leagues, showing solid improvements each season with hitting and catching.
In 2007, during the first-year player draft, the Philadelphia Phillies selected him with the 37th overall pick. The Phillies traded him at the end of the 2009 season to Toronto in a deal that brought Roy Halladay to Philadelphia.
Giving up Halladay may not have been easy, but the move helped Toronto to build a strong farm system to secure a promising future.
D'Arnaud will prove to be a Blue Jays superstar after some more development time.
Right-handed pitching prospect Deck McGuire was drafted 11th in the first round of the 2010 MLB June amateur draft.
The Blue Jays have strong pitching on their major league team, and they added pitching depth in their minor leagues with McGuire.
He was quickly promoted from Single-A Dunedin to Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
McGuire's fastball averages about 93 MPH, which will likely pick up some velocity as he further develops in the minors with some coaching and conditioning.
He throws a powerful slider up to 86 MPH and could become an above-average to plus pitch. He has shown impressive command on the mound, and he will further improve as he develops and progresses through the minor leagues.
Standing at 6'6'' and 220 pounds on the mound, McGuire has an intimidating presence with strong, solid command of his pitches. He is known as a strike-throwing, all-around athlete.
Reports indicate that he is expected to become a No. 3-type starting pitcher.
McGuire has pitched in the minors for two seasons with a win-loss record of 9-5, 124 strikeouts and an ERA of 3.02 in 125.1 innings pitched. He will become a powerful pitcher for the Blue Jays with a little more time in the minors to refine and develop,
Right-handed pitcher Sergio Santos was acquired by the Blue Jays on Dec. 6, 2011 from the Chicago White Sox.
He will fill the role of Toronto's full-time closer.
His high-velocity fastball reaches the high 90s, and he's known to throw a nasty slider. His changeup and curveball are highly effective, as well.
In his two season pitching, in 2010 and 2011, he had a win-loss record of 6-7, 31 saves and 148 strikeouts with an ERA of 3.29 in 115 innings pitched.
In his breakout season with Chicago in 2011, he had a 4-5 win-loss record with a 3.55 ERA, and in 35 opportunities, he had 30 saves and struck out 92 batters in 63.1 innings.
Santos is young and solid. Toronto may very well have picked up its own version of a future Mariano Rivera.
Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie was traded to the Jays on Dec. 5, 2010 from the Brewers for pitcher Shaun Marcum.
His explosive enthusiasm has energized his fellow players and has had the same effect on the fans.
Lawrie had 44 hits, eight doubles, four triples, nine home runs and 25 RBI with a batting average of .293 in 150 at-bats in 2011.
Blue Jays manager John Farrell was quoted as saying that Lawrie is a dangerous hitter, and probably the most dangerous in the AL, according to The Canadian Press.
He is strong both offensively and defensively, attacks grounders and throws with that same burst of energy.
Lawrie also demonstrates a strong sense of work ethic, consistently working hard knowing that he can continue to improve. He plays intelligently, and he works to remain healthy.
Lawrie is on his way toward a monster future with Toronto.
Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos has spent the last couple of years making moves that have set a solid foundation upon which the team can continue to build.
He has a strong starting pitching rotation, talented defensive players, powerful offensive hitting and has developed a deep farm system that will strengthen the future for the Blue Jays organization for years to come.
He has made brilliant moves, and he has done it quietly, for the most part.
The Blue Jays may surprise the AL East when they come out swinging from the beginning of the 2012 season.
The toughest division in Major League Baseball just got tougher.