5 Blue Jays Hitters Primed to Have Bounce-Back Years in 2013

Brad LeClair@beerad87Correspondent IDecember 18, 2012

5 Blue Jays Hitters Primed to Have Bounce-Back Years in 2013

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    Alex Anthopoulos, Paul Beeston and Rogers Media this offseason have decided now is the time to go all-out and spend the necessary cash to compete in a tough AL East division.

    Adding nearly $50 million in payroll this season, the Blue Jays are not only in the discussion for a playoff spot, but some are even pegging the Jays as American League favourites and a possible World Series team.

    Needless to say, after years and years of mediocrity, the Jays look like they are primed to compete in 2013 and for a few years after that.

    Anthopoulos built up the Jays farm system for this day—the day he has to trade some of the higher-level talents for MLB ready talent in order for the Jays to compete.

    By adding the likes of R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis, Anthopoulos is well on his way toward making the Jays relevant.

    For the Jays to compete, though, they will need a few players to play to their potential. Here's the top five players who should have bounce-back seasons in 2013.

5. Shortstop Jose Reyes

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    Jose Reyes was once thought of as a top fantasy draft pick a few years ago. His combination of 15 home run power, coupled with 35 doubles, 15 triples, over 50 stolen bases and a .290-plus batting average made him one of the best fantasy options in the game.

    Last season, in many leagues, you saw him go in the third or fourth round because of a small injury history.

    His year with Florida was good, but not up to Reyes' standards. He managed to hit .287, steal only 40 bases and hit only 11 home runs and 12 triples. However, he played the whole year without any major or minor injuries keeping him out for an extended period of time.

    He was thought to be one of the missing pieces in the Miami Marlins attack; however, as last season showed, he along with Giancarlo Stanton, were the only viable pieces in a pretty anemic Marlins offense.

    This season, he will have plenty of power behind him with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, as well as solid hitters in Brett Lawrie and Melky Cabrera—so look for Reyes to run a lot and also score a lot of runs.

    Reyes is primed for a breakout year, one in which he could very well be a starting shortstop at the MLB All-Star Game come the middle of July 2013.

    Projected 2013 Stats

    .295 AVG/112 Runs/192 H/35 2B/15 3B/17 HR/63 RBI/55 SB/.345 OBP /.486 SLG/.831 OPS

4. Right Fielder Jose Bautista

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    The Toronto Blue Jays MVP a season prior to last, Jose Bautista was going to be relied heavily upon to lead the Blue Jays during the 2012 season. However, a wrist injury plagued him for most of the second half of the season, and Bautista's season came to end before it really even began.

    Two seasons ago (2010), Bautista hit a league-leading 54 home runs, and even bettered himself the next year (2011), as he hit only 43 home runs, but hit .302 compared to .260 and got on-base at a .447 clip instead of .378.

    Statistically, he had a better season despite hitting less home runs. Pitchers and coaches were gunning for him that season: They were pitching around him.

    In 2012, he started out his season slowly, but started to pick things up toward the middle of May. Hitting coach Dwayne Murphy at the time believed he was trying to go opposite field far too much and needed to get back to his usual sit-on-a-pitch-and-give-it-a-good-wallop approach.

    That's all well and good, but despite that, he only averaged .241 in 332 at-bats, and he actually had some protection in Edwin Encarnacion. Pitchers were being careful with Bautista, but they weren't outright walking him or giving him nothing to hit.

    For 2013, the lineup has vastly improved. He's got two great on-base guys at the top of the order, one of which (Reyes) is one of the best pure basestealers in the game. He'll have plenty of protection behind him in Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind, Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus and J.P. Arencibia, who can all hit a home run at any point.

    If healthy, Bautista should bounce back to his 35-plus home run potential and easily get 100 RBI.

    2013 Projected Stats

    .265 AVG/102 Runs/143 Hits/31 2B/2 3B/42 HR/116 RBI/7 SB/.396 OBP/.604 SLG/1.000 OPS

3. Third Baseman Brett Lawrie

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    Brett Lawrie is another player who struggled with nagging injuries last season.

    When Lawrie burst onto the scene with the Jays two seasons ago, he hit the baseball world by surprise.

    Hitting over .290 with nine home runs as a rookie, and having an OPS of .953 in 150 at-bats, is nothing to discount. However, injuries and pitchers having a better game plan gave Lawrie fits at the plate last season.

    He hit a respectable .273 with the Jays last season, but only hit 11 home runs in over triple the at-bats he had in his so-called rookie season.

    Lawrie this season will be hitting in a more run-producing spot in the lineup, likely hitting sixth behind Adam Lind and ahead of center fielder Colby Rasmus, as well as hopefully keeping the injuries to a minimum.

    I don't expect huge power numbers, but I do see Lawrie hitting close to .300 with plenty of excitement on the bases.

    2013 Projected Stats

    .294 AVG/89 runs/174 hits/32 2B/5 3B/17 HR/75 RBI/.334 OBP/.454 SLG/.788 OPS

2. Center Fielder Colby Rasmus

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    Colby Rasmus was one of Alex Anthopoulos' biggest acquisitions in his tenure prior to this offseason. Trading a lot of talent (such as Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel and Jason Frasor) in two separate deals in order to acquire Rasmus.

    He was brought into the fold mainly because he was a top-shelf talented outfielder who may have been acquired cheaply because of his feud with then-Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.

    However, since he was acquired, he's never really showed the potential he had in his sophomore season in which he belted a career high 23 home runs and hit over .275. He probably won't hit for that high of an average, but I could easily see him hitting over .250 if he put his mind to it.

    With new hitting coach Chad Mottola in the fold, I expect a bounce-back season out of Rasmus.

    After Edwin Encarnacion was sent to Vegas, he returned to the Jays and hasn't looked back since. I don't expect such a turnaround like Encarnacion's, but I do see a marked improvement this year.

    After all, he only has two years of control left, and if he doesn't show his worth soon, he could be on the first plane out of Toronto; also, Anthony Gose will take over in center field if Rasmus can't put it all together soon.

    2013 Projected Stats

    .248 AVG/82 Runs/142 Hits/25 2B/4 3B/25 HR/84 RBI/.321 OBP/.435 SLG/.756 OPS

1. First Baseman/Designated Hitter Adam Lind

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    If he remains with the Blue Jays, Adam Lind is a man poised for a bounce-back season. After returning from injury and a demotion to Las Vegas, Lind's ability to drive the ball returned as he hit nearly .290 to finish out August and September.

    The power wasn't there, but the fact he was driving the ball to all fields is a very encouraging sign.

    For the Blue Jays to really be a potent offensive club, they will need the bottom half of the order to produce. That all starts with Adam Lind, who should be hitting fifth in this very versatile and potent lineup.

    Again, I'll repeat this time and time again this offseason, and probably throughout the season, the Jays new hitting coach Chad Mottola worked wonders with Lind in Las Vegas last year, and now he'll have an eye on him throughout the season in Toronto.

    Mottola is probably more famously known for being the player picked right before Derek Jeter in the 1992 MLB draft. Thanks to the Reds already having Barry Larkin at short, they opted to draft Mottola over Jeter.

    Mottola will more than likely still have first base coach Dwayne Murphy keeping an eye as well on the hitters, which could negatively impact some players. The Jays hitters need to learn what to swing at and what not to swing at, at the Jays last season, Lind especially, seemed to take too many good pitches.

    Hopefully things change for every hitter in the lineup this upcoming season.

    2013 Projected Stats

    .284 AVG/82 Runs/157 hits/35 Doubles/26 HR/105 RBI/.335 OBP/.455 SLG/.790 OPS