Toronto Blue Jays: Predicting the Jays' 25-Man Roster
If change is always good, a quick glance up and down the Toronto Blue Jays' current roster is a beautiful thing.
After 2012's injury-hampered season, the Jays have plenty of new faces in the starting rotation, in the lineup and in the bullpen, making the 2013 roster a very different list compared to last year's.
Adding three new starters, a new middle infield, a new left fielder, a renovated bullpen and around $50 million in salary will do that.
The Jays even have a new manager.
But when the team hasn't made the playoffs in 20 years, change has got to be good.
With spring training underway, the battles for roster spots have already begun, with the usual mix of locks and spots up for grabs. While it would be easier to predict the Jays 25-man roster closer to April, it's easy to see where the competitions will take place during February and March.
Here's a look at how the roster will shake out come Opening Day.
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This one seems obvious.
After last year's injury-filled season where three Jays' starters were hurt over one turn of the rotation in June, Toronto has a much more stable group heading into 2013.
Some forget that the Jays did not have a definitive fifth starter to start 2012, and replacing a question mark with Ricky Romero shows how far this rotation has come over the offseason.
Injury Insurance: J.A. Happ, Brett Cecil, Chad Jenkins, Drew Hutchison (injured), Kyle Drabek (injured)
Should one of the top five go down with an injury, something that will most certainly happen at some point, Happ is the first choice to fill in. However, Alex Anthopoulos won't be afraid to call on the pitcher who is having the most success in the minors.
That means that any number of pitchers could get a shot in 2013.
For the time being, however, the rotation is concrete.
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C - J.P. Arencibia
1B - Edwin Encarnacion
2B - Emilio Bonifacio
3B - Brett Lawrie
SS - Jose Reyes
RF - Jose Bautista
CF - Colby Rasmus
LF - Melky Cabrera
DH - Adam Lind
INF - Maicer Izturis
C - Josh Thole
OF - Rajai Davis
INF - Mark DeRosa
The clear question marks with the lineup and bench are at second base, first base and the fourth bench spot.
John Gibbons has been back and forth on who his regular second baseman will be in 2013.
Gibbons has said the job is "up for grabs," but also stated that Izturis is the default front-runner due to the fact that he's a natural second baseman.
Bonifacio has played most of his games at third base but would be more than comfortable at second. It comes down to who has a better spring, but Bonifacio's speed seems to make him a slightly more attractive choice considering the two players' similar career OPS (Bonifacio - .671, Izturis - .718).
Gibbons will also have to determine who his starting first baseman will be. Encarnacion and Lind both can play the position, and they essentially split the starting job in 2012; Encarnacion played 68 games at first and Lind played 61.
Encarnacion has a better fielding percentage, but has Lind a better range factor. It will be interesting to see where Gibbons slots these two players.
Finally, Mark DeRosa will round out the bench as a sort of "Omar Vizquel" type of veteran leader. He's an experienced, respected player who will certainly be the voice of reason when the young, all-star roster faces adversity.
Injury Insurance: Moises Sierra, Anthony Gose, Ryan Goins, Henry Blanco
Sierra had a great year in Las Vegas in 2012 and played 49 games with the Jays. A strong spring would help his chances, but both he and Gose will likely be victims of the team's depth at outfield. If Rasmus struggles or is traded, whoever is playing the best of the two will be called up. Goins may be counted on should Reyes be bothered by the artificial turf at Rogers Centre; he had a solid rookie year in New Hampshire last season, hitting .289 with 61 RBI.
CL - Casey Janssen
RHP - Sergio Santos
LHP - Darren Oliver
RHP - Esmil Rogers
RHP - Steve Delabar
LHP - Aaron Loup
RHP - Brad Lincoln
The bullpen has been nicely overhauled by Anthopoulos since the middle of 2012. The Jays' bullpen was awful at times last year, and the 2013 group inspires more confidence.
Janssen filled in beautifully after Santos suffered a season-ending injury in April, posting a 2.54 ERA, a sparkling 0.864 WHIP and a brilliant 6.09 strikeout to walk ratio, perhaps the most important stat in determining a reliever's effectiveness.
The return of Darren Oliver is a huge addition for the Jays as a strong lefty is essential. Oliver is getting old, but he was phenomenal last year, and experience is never a bad thing in the AL East.
Santos is a major question mark and will be given a short leash considering his 2012 was short and ineffective.
The rest of the group looks strong.
Rogers, the yield of John Farrell's departure, throws hard and struggles with control at times. Last year, he seemed to hit his spots, knocking his walk ratio from 6.3 to 2.0. Delabar is a strikeout machine, Loup has great control, and Lincoln can be very effective.
The strikeout to walk ratios of the Jays' relievers is the most encouraging stat, as keeping the ball out of play while limiting free passes is a huge asset later in games.
Injury Insurance: Jeremy Jeffress, Chad Jenkins, Michael Schwimer, Luis Perez (injured), Evan Crawford (injured)
Jeffress is a bit of a project, but if he can find his control, he may see some time with the Jays. The recently acquired Schwimer may push someone out if he has a strong spring. Crawford injured his hamstring last week, and although it is a minor setback, he'll have to impress in March to crack the squad.