Spring training is just around the corner, and the Toronto Blue Jays are hoping a lot of questions will be answered before the 2009 season begins. I am writing this to break down the top five questions surrounding the Jays heading in to Spring Training:
1. What will the pitching rotation look like once opening day comes around?
As of right now, only one spot is guaranteed, as Roy Halladay is most obviously the ace of this depleted staff. Jesse Litsch and David Purcey are likely No. 2 and 3, but nothing is guaranteed with these two youngsters.
Unfortunately, after the first three slots, things get really tricky.
If everything was going well, Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan would be number tow and three, but Shaun Marcum is out for the entire season after Tommy John surgery and Dustin McGowan will not be ready to pitch until mid-May.
Casey Janssen, Matt Clement, Mike Maroth, Brett Cecil, Brad Mills, Scott Downs and Ricky Romero are all in contention for the last two spots, meaning that training camp should be very interesting. I would bet on Matt Clement and Scott Richmond, but Brett Cecil and Casey Janssen should put up a good fight.
2. Can the infield produce more then last year?
Last year was a bad year for the Jays infield. Aaron Hill missed most of the season due to a bad concussion, Scott Rolen`s shoulder gave him trouble all year, Lyle Overbay continued to struggle after the surgeries on his hand and a shortstop that could produce with regularity was not found.
Marco Scutaro and Joe Inglett proved to be decent replacements, but they cannot be expected to shoulder the load. Scutaro will likely be a starter this year, with Inglett coming off the bench in all situations. The biggest question concerning the infield is definitely Aaron Hill.
How will he perform after being out for so long? Is his concussion really behind him? I am expecting a good season from him; he will definitely be heavily leaned on by the Jay`s this year. Scott Rolen is also a huge question mark, many question whether he has another good year in him or not.
Overall, the infield should put up bigger numbers then last year.
3. Can Alex Rios find his power stroke again?
If you take a look at the stats from last year, Rios was not that bad. 292 average, 15 homers and 32 stolen bases is pretty good, but Jays fans expected more from Rios last season.
Rios has the potential to hit .310-.320 and 30 or more homers. He struggled mightily early on last year, but showed Jays fans some glimpses of what could be in store with a strong finish. I think he can hit 30 homers and reach 90 RBI this season.
4. Can Travis Snider and Adam Lind produce with regularity despite their age and lack of experience?
Jays fans got a glimpse into the future last year when Travis Snider was called up to get some experience in the later part of 2008. Snider did not look out of place at all and projects to be the starting left fielder when the Jays open the 2009 season.
Some people think that the Jays are rushing Snider, but what is the use of having him continue to tear up every minor league level?
I think he should have a very good year and he is one of the preseason candidates for rookie of the year. Meanwhile, Adam Lind finally secured a roster spot after Cito Gaston took over as manager. Lind finished the year on a little bit of a slide, but finished with a very respectable .282 batting average and nine homers in just half a season.
He is slotted in as the regular DH for this season and is projected to have a even better season then Snider.
5. Will the bullpen be as good as last year?
Lets face it, for the Jay's to have any chance this year, the bullpen will have to be at least as good as last year. Their will likely be a lot of one run games this year and this is where the bullpen shined last season.
I think they can be as good as last year, as long as Scott Downs is kept out of the starting rotation. With Jesse Carlson, B.J. Ryan, Brian Tallet, Brian Wolfe and Brandon League all returning, the Jay's have plenty of talent to choose from with the game on the line.
There are a lot of huge question marks surrounding the Toronto Blue Jays this season, which should make for an interesting year. I don't think we will have as good of a record as last year, but hopefully all of the young players we have can gain some valuable experience and produce at high levels. One thing is for sure, the 2009 season will not be boring.