2011 MLB Team Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

Kate Conroy@@ladylovespinsSenior Analyst IIFebruary 11, 2011

TORONTO - SEPTEMBER 23:   Jose Bautista #19 of the Toronto Blue Jays jogs around the bases after hitting his 50th home run of the season during the game against the Seattle Mariners on September 23, 2010 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Blue Jays defeated the Mariners 1-0. (Photo by Brad White/Getty Images)
Brad White/Getty Images

Just like the Baltimore Orioles, the Blue Jays suffer from AL East syndrome.

The Toronto Blue Jays haven’t seen the postseason since 1993.

The AL East Division was tough enough when it housed the two best teams in baseball, the Red Sox and Yankees. Then, in the last few seasons, the Tampa Bay Rays jumped onto the elite list, which made baseball life in Toronto only harder.

What is so frustrating is that the Blue Jays would have made the playoffs many times if they played in any other division.

In 2010, the Blue Jays won 85 games, and in four of the last five seasons prior, have won 80+ games. That amount of W’s has been enough to make the playoffs many times and even clinch a division title outside of the AL East.

For the Blue Jays, even with their major league-leading home run total of 257 from last season, heading into 2011 things look to be the same…

Anything is possible.

Blue Jays fans blamed missing the postseason on unfortunate circumstances for a darn good team, until the Rays proved that theory wrong. 

The Positives

With the sad departure of skipper Cito Gaston, the Jays hired Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell, which was a great move. The Jays have a young pitching staff with a lot of potential and could flourish under Farrell’s guidance.

Trading ace Roy Halladay prior to last season was not a popular move, but the starters finished with an ERA of 4.30, which topped the Yankees' 4.35 ERA.

Led by Rickey Romero, who looks to replace the traded Shaun Marcum, the starters have the potential to make Toronto a 2011 surprise story. Romero finished last season with a 14-9 record and an ERA of 3.73. Three other youngsters in Brandon Marrow, Brett Cecil and Kyle Drabek will follow Romero.

The Jays had the most home runs, including 46 more than the Red Sox. Jose Bautista led that charge, as he was accountable for 54 of the 257 total. He also had 124 RBIs last season.

Bautista should have a big year, as the 30-year-old is a free agent at the end of 2011, and players know the better the play, the bigger the contract.

Joining Bautista is rookie Travis Snider, who displayed power in the minors. Moving Bautista to third base frees up  the outfield for Snider to move in full-time.

Also, the Jays were the slowest team in baseball, finishing 2010 with a pathetic 58 steals. Signing Rajai Davis, who stole 92 bases for the Oakland A’s over the last two seasons, is a huge improvement. Look for Davis’ RBIs and total runs to jump because of the massive power bats behind him in the lineup.

The future of the Blue Jays looks very promising, as their outlook has changed under second-year GM Alex Anthopoulos. Instead of trying to compete with the "win now" attitude of their peers, Anthopoulos is putting the money into acquiring top young talent by adding scouts all over; in California alone, the team has five.

This attention to detail seems to be right on track so far.

If Anthopoulos’ reorganization of priorities keeps up at this pace, the Jays will get in the playoffs again, just not yet.

The idea is to get in not just for one season, but for many to come. 

The Negatives

Fact is, winning 85 games is meaningless when you play in the AL East.

After years of the Blue Jays being lead by false hope, they seem to finally have come to grips with this fact. It has lead to major frustrations for both fans and players.

The team with the most power couldn’t seem to do much else at the plate. The Jays' on-base-percentage was a pathetic .312, third lowest in the AL. Even with all the home runs, the Jays need to improve on their 732 RBIs, which was almost 100 less than the league-leading Yankees.

The Jays will have to make up for the 71 total home runs hit by Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay and John Buck, who will not be back in 2011. It’s a lot of pressure on Bautista to have another 54 home run season, an achievement that is hard to do in the first place, mind you repeat.

In reality, the Jays might look different heading into 2011, but it is doubtful to be the year when Toronto finally gets to see a postseason berth again.

My advice is to keep one eye on the Blue Jays, because it is a franchise going somewhere very soon.

Also, Blue Jays fans have to give the team something to play for; an empty Rogers Centre all season long is unacceptable.

The Jays had great fans in the 90’s, so time to come on back because in sports, you need fans to keep you going.

Players To Watch

Second baseman Aaron Hill and first baseman Adam Lind both had horrible 2010 numbers.

This duo has to get back to 2009 form in order for the team to avoid finishing last in the AL East. Hill and Lind both took home Silver Sluggers in 2009, combining for 71 home runs and 222 RBIs. Considering Lind is 27 and Hill is 28 years old, they can easily reproduce those numbers. It will soften the blow of losing Wells and Co. during the offseason.

The two infielders will make or break the Jays' season by either putting them in the mix, or turning it into just another average year for Toronto.

2011 AL East Prediction

If all goes accordingly, the Jays could take the Rays, but it will be tough to land in third place. Look for the Jays and the Orioles to battle for fourth place in the last two months of the season.


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