Toronto Blue Jays: 2011 MLB Season Preview

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Toronto Blue Jays: 2011 MLB Season Preview
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Last Year

 

85-77, 4th in AL East 

Manager: John Farrell 

 

PROJECTED LINEUP

 

C - JP Arencibia (R)

1B - Adam Lind (L)

2B - Aaron Hill (R)

3B - Jose Bautista (R)

SS - Yunel Escobar (R)

LF - Travis Snider (L)

CF - Rajai Davis (R)

RF - Juan Rivera (R)

DH - Edwin Encarnacion (R)

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Blue Jays led baseball in home runs in 2010, but were inconsistent due to a lack of speed and ability to get on base. The team was in the bottom five of both OBP and stolen bases and will lose some of that power with the exits of Vernon Wells and John Buck.

Jose Bautista shouldn't be expected to hit 54 home runs again. His 2010 was special, but its hard to believe he will repeat any of those numbers in 2011. I expect him to hit approximately 35 home runs and post an OBP of .350 and .365.

Aaron Hill and Adam Lind had very poor seasons, both with OBP under .300, after breakout years in 2009. I think they will play better than last season, but don't expect years like 2009.

Yunel Escobar was acquired during the deadline last year during his worst season in the majors. A change of scenery will help him this year.

JP Arencibia will replace John Buck at catcher. He had a rough 36 at-bats last year, but he has tremendous power and will benefit playing at the Rogers Centre. 

Travis Snider is set to have a big season. I was impressed by his power and at bats when I watched him play later in the season against the Yankees. Many predicted that he would break out last year, but 2011 should be the year he puts it all together. Expect more than 20 home runs with a .350 OBP.

Rajai Davis will man CF. He should bring over 40 stolen bases to this lineup, a dimension Toronto was lacking in 2010.

Juan Rivera will play the other corner outfield position, and bring marginal value with 15 home runs and a .325 OBP.

Edwin Encarnacion will get most of the at-bats at DH, but expect Farrell to shuffle some of the regulars around. Encarnacion does have good power and presents a threat at the bottom of the lineup. 

Defensively, the Blue Jays have some question marks.

The word is still out on whether Arencibia can handle the duties of catching full time.

Lind is taking over the starting 1B, a position he has only played 11 times during his major league career. His defensive metrics were strong in that small sample, but we will need to see more during this season.

The middle of the infield will be fine. Hill and Escobar are both above average at their positions. While Bautista is versatile, he doesn't play any of the corner positions particularly well and 3B might arguably be his worst position.

Rivera is an inconsistent corner outfielder with poor range. According to the metrics, Snider is a much better in LF than RF, but it remains to be seen in which corner he will anchor. Rajai Davis is very speedy and will cover a lot of ground in CF.

 

BENCH

 

C - Jose Molina (R)

IF - John McDonald (R)

OF - Corey Patterson (L)

IF - Mike McCoy (R)

 

STARTING ROTATION

 

LHP - Ricky Romero 

RHP - Brandon Morrow (Will start season on DL with strained forearm) 

LHP - Brett Cecil 

RHP - Kyle Drabek 

RHP - Jesse Litsch 

LHP - Jo Jo Reyes 

The rotation will not be as strong with the departure of Shaun Marcum.

Ricky Romero has become the ace of the staff with his low 90s fastball and great change-up, complimented with a good curveball and serviceable slider. He induces a lot of groundballs and if he can cut get his walk total down to three per nine innings, he can be one of the top pitchers in the AL.

Brandon Morrow has all the tools to become a great starter, but I worry about the consistency in his stuff from between innings and starts. Sometimes his fastball will register at 89 compared to 95. He needs to work on his control to become an elite starter, and I don't know if this is the year where that happen.

Brett Cecil is a solid No. 3 starter who should have an ERA in the low 4.00s.

Kyle Drabek, acquired in the Roy Halladay deal, has the potential to be great. His fastball registers in the mid-90's, he has a good cutter, sharp curve and a serviceable change-up. I say he needs a year or two in the majors, before he has All-Star type years.

Jesse Litsch throws a lot of cutters, curveballs and change-ups, with his 89.7 mph fastball to keep hitters off balance. He will only strike out four per nine innings, but he should have an ERA in the 4.25 range.

Jo Jo Reyes will take over in the fifth spot until Morrow comes back from the DL. 

BULLPEN

RHP - Frank Francisco (Closer) (On DL)

RHP - Octavio Dotel (On DL) 

RHP - Jon Rauch 

LHP - David Purcey

RHP - Shawn Camp

RHP - Casey Janssen 

RHP - Jason Frasor 

LHP - Marc Rzepczynski

RHP - Carlos Villanueva 

I like the depth the Blue Jays have put together in the bullpen after losing some of last year's components, and is the strongest part of the club.

They will miss Scott Downs more than Kevin Gregg.

Francisco got the early hook last year as the Ranger's closer, but pitched well until he was injured in August. He has great stuff, and averages more than a K per inning. 

Dotel is a veteran reliever who has closed and set-up. His fastball may be losing a little velocity, but he still averages more than a K per inning. One of Dotel's weakness is his control. (4.5 BB/9 in 2010)

Rauch also has closer experience and will start the season with Francisco and Dotel on the DL. While he doesn't have the strikeout numbers of Francisco and Dotel, he has better control. He is a flyball pitcher who I could see have some problems in the home run park that is the Rogers Centre.

I've been impressed throughout the years with Shawn Camp considering his below-average stuff. He only averages 88 mph on his fastball, and there isn't much separation between that and his change-up (83.5 mph). He can log multiple innings and somehow has been one of the more consistent middle relievers for the Blue Jays.

Jason Frasor is another power arm with strikeout ability and closing experience.

The Blue Jays are a little weaker on the left side of the rubber with the departure of Gregg. Purcey looks more suited to come out of the pen, and could fill the nicely if his command doesn't get in the way. Rzepczynski will be the primary long man with both Dotel and Francisco injured.  

 

NOTABLE NON ROSTER INVITEES 

 

RHP - Chad Cordero

RHP - Brian Stokes 

OF - Scott Podsednik (L)

OF - Corey Patterson (L)

 

BREAKOUT PLAYER

 

Travis Snider 

See Projected Lineup  

 

PROSPECT TO WATCH

 

JP Arencibia 

Arencibia is still a prospect with only 36 at-bats under his belt. Offensively, Arencibia has tremendous upside but the jury is still out on his defensive abilities. He might have a rough patch this year, but he has a great mentor in Jose Molina. 

 

PROJECTED FINISH

 

5th in AL East 

Over the last few years, the Jays have benefited from great offensive years from surprising players. I don't think this will be the case, even with Snider.

I don't think the offense is good enough to keep up with the other contenders in the division. While I like some members of the rotation, I don't think this  is the year pitchers like Morrow and Drabek put it together.

They also don't have any depth, especially in the rotation. One injury to a key player will put them out of contention quickly. Overall,I think the Jays take a step back this year, but the future is bright with new-found financial flexibility and young pitching. 

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