How will the 2010 Toronto Blue Jays stack up this season? Will they put on a dismal performance and slump into last place in the division or surprise a few people, including perhaps the Yankees and Red Sox?
An integral part of a team is their offense, in lieu of this I present the first part of my 2010 Blue Jays preview - the offense.
Opening Day Lineup:
1. Jose Bautista - RF - Bautista is the lead off hitter by default seeing as very few other Blue Jays could hit in the lead off position. Bautista is a very good throwing right fielder, shown by numerous outfield assists in limited action last season, and he has the on base percentage to be the first hitter.
The only problem with Bautista is that he is a better third baseman than Encarnacion, although needed at right field, and he has a fair bit of power that may be relatively useless as he will have a lot of at bats with no one on base.
2. Aaron Hill - 2B - What more needs to be said about Aaron Hill, honestly. 36 HR last year, just over 100 RBI, and an all star. He should have another similar season and WILL become the next face of the Toronto Blue Jays as well as a repeat all star this season. He also won the silver slugger last year and will be in the contention for a gold glove this year, although there is stiff competition at the position.
3. Adam Lind - DH - Adam Lind is another AL silver slugger winner and should be another force for the Jays this year as he was one of only three players in the league to hit 30 HR, 100 RBI, and have over a .300 average joining Albert Pujols and Derrek Lee. Cito Gaston thought about making Hill and Lind the three and four hitters respectively but he said "why mess with a good thing." I agree.
4. Vernon Wells - CF - The player that will benefit most from Hill and Lind being left second and third is Vernon Wells. Wells WILL have a better year this year, his surgeries are finished and he is healthy, he is the leader of the team, and he will see more RBI opportunities with the other two ahead of him. He also will have more fun with a youthful team and not a lot of pressure, Vernon should hit 20 HR (he did have 16 last year) and look for a .285 average and lets say 80 RBI - hopefully.
5. Lyle Overbay - 1B - Lyle Overbay is perhaps the most interesting of any Blue Jay because he is on his way out. The question is when.
Randy Ruiz, the MVP of the Pacific Coast League is waiting to take the post at first and will take some time away from Overbay, not to mention Brett Wallace. Overbay is in the last year of his contract and will make excellent trade bait as he will not be re-signing with the Jays. But for the time being first base is his position and he will play everyday, perhaps a return to his 50 doubles campaign?
6. Edwin Encarnacion - 3B - Encarnacion showed what he could do with the bat at the end of last season having a terrific September with quite a few home runs. If that can carry over to this year that would be great as he is the last legitimate RBI man in the lineup. The problem is Encarnacion is not a very solid defender as he already committed several errors in Spring Training. Hopefully he leaves the errors in Florida.
7. John Buck - C - John Buck is an excellent addition for the Jays as he is great for the young staff and will work with them to win ball games. Buck may not be the best defensive catcher but he has some offensive upside and is excellent developmentally. For more on Buck check my past article http://bleacherreport.com/articles/356389-the-buck-stops-here-john-buck-or-rod-barajas .
8. Alex Gonzalez - SS - Alex Gonzalez is a massive improvement from John McDonald and he may even be a better defender as Gonzalez has won a gold glove at shortstop, McDonald can't even crack the starting lineup. The best part about Gonzalez is that he is a switch hitter, meaning he can face left and right handed pitchers and gives Cito Gaston no reason to sit him due to a lefty pitcher. Sorry Johnny.
9. Travis Snider - LF - Travis Snider is developing quite nicely. He lost 20 pounds, got faster, and improved his defence during the off season. He still has the left handed power at the plate but is turning into a pull hitter. If he can hit the ball to the opposite field a bit more he should be an all around good hitter. The job is his as the backup Mike McCoy is not an everyday player yet.
The offense all in all looks promising. I know I'm being rather hopeful with a team that is incredibly youthful and does not have the promise of offenses of years past, however, there are key pieces in place with Hill, Lind, and hopefully Wells.
The offense may live and die with Vernon but if the Blue Jays continue to run the bases, 23 steals in 25 Spring Training games, than perhaps Vernon Wells' offense, or lack thereof, can be offset.
If Vernon doesn't produce he may go to the two-hole with Hill and Lind becoming the three and four hitters respectively. This wouldn't happen until at least June but Gaston showed his willingness to move Wells in the lineup last season pushing him into the two hole late in the year.
The biggest loss for the offense is not the loss of Rod Barajas' power but rather the loss of Marco Scutaro. Without Scutaro's definitive lead off presence the team will lose speed on the base paths and a patient hitter.
Whether or not Jose Bautista can develop into a hitter who waits on pitches at the start of a ball game is key. Jumping on the first pitch as a lead off hitter is something Scutaro never did, Wells might do every time, and hopefully Bautista will learn to avoid.
The Blue Jays finished in the middle of the pack in the AL in terms of runs scored last season. If they want to win more ball games, which will be tough with such a young pitching staff, the run production must improve. This offense has the potential to do just that thereby increasing the likelihood of high scoring games on both sides of the ball for the Blue Jays.
The next segment will look at the bench and the starting rotation with the final segment looking at the bullpen and season predictions, stay tuned.