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MLB: 5 Toronto Blue Jays Who Need to Up Their Game

Paul OxenburyContributor IIIJune 2, 2011

MLB: 5 Toronto Blue Jays Who Need to Up Their Game

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    TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 28: Kyle Drabek #4 of the Toronto Blue Jays regroups after a run scores against the New York Yankees during an MLB game at the Rogers Centre September 28, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
    Abelimages/Getty Images

    We're two months into the 2011 season, and it’s been a mixed start for the Blue Jays. Toronto has been steadily orbiting the .500 mark while barely staying in contention in the competitive AL East. As things stand, Toronto is just four games behind the division leading Yankees.

    Some players have shined, including Jose Bautista, who is having an even better year than 2010, Yunel Escobar, who is delivering on the promise he showed in his early years with the Braves and Adam Lind, who has returned to his 2009 form.

    However, not every player has performed so well. If the Blue Jays want to stay in the playoff race, then these five players need to improve their performance.

1. Aaron Hill

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    SEATTLE - APRIL 11:  Aaron Hill #2 of the Toronto Blue Jays is called out on strikes in the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on April 11, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    For the second year in a row Hill is badly underperforming.

    The second baseman has started this year hitting just .239 and has only hit one home run this season. For a guy that does not walk a lot, Hill really needs a return to the heights of 2009 when he had an OPS of .829 and hit 36 homers.

    Given that he managed to hit 26 home runs despite batting .205 last year, Hill has the ability to get hot and lend some power to the Blue Jay offense.

2. Brandon Morrow

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    NEW YORK - AUGUST 02:  Brandon Morrow #23 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches against the New York Yankees  on August 2, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)
    Michael Heiman/Getty Images

    Morrow promised so much when he struck out 17 in his one hit domination of Tampa Bay, but after starting this season on the disabled list, Morrow has struggled. He currently has an ERA of 5.11, while averaging just over five innings per start.

    Other stats suggest that Morrow hasn't pitched as badly as his ERA suggests. He has a staggering 11.9 strikeouts per 9 innings and a K/BB of 3 to 1. If anything it would appear he has been very unlucky as Morrow's BABIP currently stands at .368. If that number goes down, then the former Seattle right hander should recreate his impressive second half of last season. 

3. Frank Francisco

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    TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 20: Chris Johnson #23 of the Houston Astros rounds the bases after a 2 run home run off of Frank Francisco #50 of the Toronto Blue Jays during MLB action at the Rogers Centre May 20, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelim
    Abelimages/Getty Images

    Another player who started on the DL, Francisco has already blown three saves in eight attempts. His 5.74 ERA and 1.60 WHIP haven’t helped either.

    Francisco was never intended to be a long term option at closer but his career numbers would suggest that he will recover from his poor start. As a closer with the Texas Rangers, Francisco posted a 25-save season with a decent WHIP of 1.11. A return to those kind of numbers should make the ninth innings more secure for Toronto.

4. Kyle Drabek

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    TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 10: Kyle Drabek #4 of the Toronto Blue Jays throws during MLB action against the Boston Red Sox at the Rogers Centre May 10, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
    Abelimages/Getty Images

    Touted as one of Toronto's best pitching prospects for a long time, Drabek has had a disappointing start to his Major League career. He currently leads the league with 45 walks, inflating his WHIP to 1.69.

    His temper has also boiled over a couple of times, directed at umpiring decisions which have gone against him. All of this was apparent in his latest start when he was pulled after just 0.2 innings against Cleveland.

    Drabek has shown he is talented. In his first start of the year he held Minnesota to one hit and he has shown a good array of pitches, a 95 mph fastball complemented with a hard slider, a curveball and changeup. He needs to learn how to pitch with control and better results will come.

5. Edwin Encarnación

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    SEATTLE, WA - APRIL 12:  Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays bats against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on April 12, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Encarnación, like Hill, has suffered from something of a power outage, hitting just one home run all season. Combine that with an OPS of just .619 and Brett Lawrie's highly anticipated arrival in the majors, it would seem Encarnación’s days in Toronto may be numbered.

    Originally re-signed as a DH because of his high error count at third base, Encarnación can put up decent power numbers. Last year he hit 21 home runs in just 332 at bats, most of which came in bunches. He may not be a regular in the Toronto lineup but could still provide some useful power later in the season.

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