The Blue Jays have many dynamic elements going into 2012 and one theme that should have become obvious is that the roster is loaded with high-risk, high-reward players.
Of course no one knows for sure what any player will do the following season, but a large number of players on the 2013 roster will be of the unpredictable variety–the type of players who could achieve their all-star potential or struggle mightily.
This theme is apparent across the board for the Blue Jays; from the lineup to the rotation to the bullpen to the manager, there is a lot of potential for success, but almost everyone has something to prove.
The Blue Jays franchise itself is emblematic of this theme. The bar has been set high by the oddsmakers in Las Vegas and will continue to be set high as writers' predictions start to roll in with the Blue Jays a popular candidate to make the playoffs in the American League.
There appears to be some chatter that Toronto may be the best team in the American League, and if they aren't the best, they aren't too far behind.
Yet on the flip side, we're talking about a team who has spent the last two decades in obscurity and without so much as a playoff appearance. The organization itself will have to live up the hype and finally breakthrough or they will be considered a bust after they mortgaged part of their future on 2013.
The team is getting more attention than it is used to, but will a roster full of players who have little-to-no postseason experience–with few exceptions–be able to handle that pressure?
There's plenty of "boom" in the rotation. A reigning Cy Young winner, one of the most consistent starters of the last decade, and a pitcher in Josh Johnson who has shown ace potential in the past will join a pair of young holdovers trending in opposite directions, but both who have the stuff to be aces in their own right.
However, there is also a large potential the rotation busts. R.A. Dickey pitching in the AL East worries some scouts. For the last few years, there has been talk that Mark Buehrle had lost a step and he–like Dickey–saw his numbers benefit from pitching in a weak NL East last season. Josh Johnson's name will always be synonymous with injury.
Then, there is a risk that the talented but inconsistent Brandon Morrow can't duplicate his career year, while Ricky Romero, who looked lost at times last season, may duplicate the worst year of his career.
I've already evaluated the bullpen and it should be clear that–just like every other bullpen–for every positive development, there is a risk it could implode.
Janssen pitched great in his first year as closer, but can he do it again coming off off-season shoulder surgery?
Can Darren Oliver duplicate last year's magic at 42 years old? Can Segrio Santos return to the type of pitcher he was in 2010 and 2011 with the White Sox or is he a bust?
Can young, power arms like Steve Delabar, Esmil Rogers, and Jeremy Jeffress strikeout hitters and be successful without making untimely pitching errors and losing their control?
Finally, can the rotation cast-offs such as J.A. Happ and Brett Cecil make an impact in the bullpen or will they just become glorified mop-up men?
Every bullpen is a gamble, but the Jays shouldn't be overly comfortable with their relief situation. Janssen, Santos, and Oliver all complement each other well and could make a great trio to close out tight games or they could end up being injured, inconsistent, and worn down. Like the rest of the team, it's boom or bust.
Finally, there's the lineup. Melky Cabrera went from a fourth outfielder to a budding superstar to a pariah universally castigated for testing positive for a banned substance and attempting to cover it up.
Which Melky will we see in 2013? The one who was barely a starter-quality player prior to 2011, the one who played like an all-star in 2012, or will we see a brand-new Melky–one somewhere in between, who has developed as a hitter but lacks the same edge of recent years without whatever banned substances he was using? He could be the perfect #2 hitter or he could find himself rounding out the bottom of the lineup.
Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion as previously discussed have each shown in their most recent full, healthy seasons that they are capable of being premiere power hitters. However, each has a risk going into 2013. Bautista will be recovering from an injury that cost him the final 70 games of the season while Encarnacion will have to prove last year's career was no fluke.
They could be the most prolific home run hitting duo in 2013 or they could both struggle with the injuries and inconsistencies that plagued them before their sudden breakouts.
The Blue Jays have plenty of talent–perhaps their most talented team since their World Series-winning squads of 1992 and 1993. They have players capable of dominating and being the best at what they do at every position and facet of the game. However, almost all of these players also have some major red flags and risks associated with them.
The biggest boom or bust candidate may be manager John Gibbons, and whether he has developed into a more seasoned and wiser team leader or is still the incendiary provocateur he was during his first stint as manager may be the determinative factor as to whether the Blue Jays are more boom or more bust in 2013.