Toronto Blue Jays: The Most Dominant Lineup in Major League Baseball
I honestly never thought I would see the day that the Blue Jays were projected to finish at the top of the league, the Yankees and Red Sox at the bottom, and the Orioles and Rays somewhere in the middle.
But that season is here Toronto fans and the Blue Jays look stacked and solid going into 2013.
Without getting into their dominant pitching staff, let's take a closer look at this lineup, one through nine, and predict just how well this group of hitters will produce.
1. Jose Reyes
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Jose Reyes is arguably one of the best leadoff hitters in the game today. And though he's never played a game in the American League, he's always been a consistent hitter and should create plenty of run-scoring opportunities for the Blue Jays this year.
Last year, playing in tumultuous Miami, Reyes hit .287, had 11 home runs, 12 triples, 37 doubles, 40 stolen bases and 184 hits in 642 at-bats.
And in a 10-year National League career, Reyes has led the league four times in triples, three times in stolen bases, won the batting title in 2011, a Silver Slugger in 2006 and was a four-time All-Star.
There is nothing holding Reyes back from repeating his leadoff dominance and I expect to see huge offensive production out of him playing in this hitter-friendly lineup.
Projected 2013 Stats: .305 average, 15 home runs, 15 triples, 42 doubles, 115 runs scored, 42 stolen bases
2. Melky Cabrera
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Even though he disqualified himself from the 2012 National League batting title after testing positive for PED usage, Melky Cabrera can produce and has recently come into his own as a hitter, performance enhanced or not.
Cabrera is the ideal No. 2 hitter in a lineup. Last season, he hit .346, had 11 home runs, 10 triples, 25 doubles, 13 stolen bases and 159 hits in 459 at-bats.
And since he was brought up by the New York Yankees, he's already familiar with American League play and pitching.
If he doesn't have any more stupid PED accusations, Cabrera should put up some great numbers in the two-spot this year.
Projected 2013 Stats: .308 average, nine home runs, 13 triples, 35 doubles, 15 stolen bases
3. Jose Bautista
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So what if Jose Bautista is coming off an "off-year." He's still one of the most feared sluggers in the game and will surely come back to crush balls this season.
In an injury-shortened 2012, Bautista hit .241 with 27 home runs, 65 RBI, 64 runs scored and 80 hits in 332 at-bats.
But expect to see the old Bautista in the lineup this year, especially with Reyes and Cabrera hitting in front of him and a list of solid hitters behind him starting with slugging first baseman Edwin Encarnacion.
Yes, mark my words, Jose Bautista will be at the top of the list for the American League Comeback Player of the Year, will hit a bunch of long balls and will drive in plenty of runs for the Blue Jays in 2013.
Projected 2013 Stats: .265 average, 45 home runs, 120 RBI, 105 runs scored
4. Edwin Encarnacion
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To say that Encarnacion had a breakout year last season is a total understatement. He absolutely crushed it and there's no reason he won't continue this trend in 2013.
With 42 home runs, 110 RBI, 93 runs scored and a .280 batting average, hitting in Toronto's heavily protected lineup will assure him every opportunity to repeat these numbers this season.
Projected 2013 stats: .270 average, 40 home runs, 120 RBI, 100 runs scored
5. Colby Rasmus
If Colby Rasmus could learn to hit for average, he would be one of the most productive hitters in baseball. And something tells me that 2013 could be a breakout year for Rasmus and his bat.
Rasmus batted a dismal .223 last season, but still managed to hit 23 home runs with 75 RBI and 75 runs scored.
And though he reached career highs in both home runs and RBI last year, I would expect to see these numbers go up with so many other sluggers surrounding him in the lineup.
Projected 2013 Stats: .260 average, 30 home runs, 95 RBI, 90 runs scored
6. Brett Lawrie
I know this list has been pretty optimistic with player expectations so far, but the trend continues with the expectations I have for Brett Lawrie going into the season.
In his first full year with the Blue Jays in 2012, Lawrie hit .273 with 11 home runs, 48 RBI with 73 runs scored and 135 hits in 494 at-bats.
He was a beast his last two seasons in the minor leagues and I think 2013 will be the year that those numbers translate to major league pitching.
I think we all know that Lawrie has the potential to be a stud, but I also feel that this season will be the year that he shows fans and major league baseball just what this 23-year-old kid can really do.
Projected 2013 Stats: .305 average, 20 home runs, 77 RBI, 70 runs scored
7. Adam Lind
Adam Lind is yet another player in the Toronto lineup that could put up big numbers in 2013.
In an injury-shortened 2012, Lind had a .255 average, 11 home runs, 45 RBI and 28 runs scored.
But in the three seasons prior to that, he averaged 28 home runs, 91 RBI, 69 runs scored and a .264 batting average. Not half bad for a guy batting in the seven-hole.
If Lind can re-learn how to hit for average the way that he did in 2008 and 2009, I would expect to see some very productive numbers out of his bat this year.
Projected 2013 Stats: .265 average, 25 home runs, 80 RBI, 75 runs scored
8. J.P. Arencibia
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Arencibia may never hit for a high average, but, I'm sure you've already guessed, he's yet another guy that can hit the long ball and drive in a ton of runs for the Blue Jays this year.
Projected to bat in the eight-hole, the 27-year-old hit .233 with 18 home runs, 56 RBI and 45 runs scored in 2012.
Going into his fourth season in the majors, I would expect to see some very similar numbers to what he put up last year, but with extra opportunities to drive in runners in 2013.
Projected 2013 Stats: .255 average, 25 home runs, 80 RBI, 60 runs scored
9. Emilio Bonifacio
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Bonifacio has wheels and is the perfect player to have hitting in the nine-spot.
He had an injury-shortened season last year, but still managed to hit .258 with 30 stolen bases in only 244 at-bats.
You probably won't see him batting .300, like he almost did in 2011, but when he gets on base, he wreaks havoc on the basepaths.
Projected 2013 Stats: .277 average, 80 runs scored, 40 stolen bases