The Toronto Blue Jays appear to be on their way to another fourth place finish in the American League East, but that doesn't mean Jays fans have nothing to look forward to in the second half of 2011.
Young players will shine, a long-time Blue Jay will be dealt and a sacred record will be broken.
Here are four bold predictions for the Jays second half.
Travis Snider always gets hot at the worst time. He hit .323/.356/.485 with five doubles, two home runs and 13 RBI in 20 September starts in 2008. In 2009, he hit .317/.408/.512 with three doubles, a home run and six RBI in 12 games to end the season. Then in 2010, he hit .385/.418/.769 with eight doubles and four home runs in 14 games before injuring his wrist on a home run swing May 14th 2010.
After a slow start to 2011 (.184/.276.264 with four doubles, a home run and 12 RBI in 25 games), the Jays sent Snider down to work on his swing. It just hadn't been the same since the wrist injury.
Now, the wrist is healthy, the swing is fixed and he's gotten hot with half a season to go. In ten games since being recalled from AAA, Snider is hitting .381/.386/.643 with eight doubles, a home run and 11 RBI.
While he won't hit .381 the rest of the way, he should continue to be a very productive hitter. A .290 average with 13 home runs, 26 doubles and 45 RBI in the second half is not out of the question.
Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays have a tendency to call-up pitchers directly from AA (see: Kyle Drabek and Zach Stewart). Joel Carreno should be the next to make the jump.
Carreno, 24, is 7-6 with a 3.32 ERA in 18 games (17 starts) with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats of the Eastern League. While those numbers may not be overwhelmingly impressive his strikeout numbers are through the roof. With 115 K's in 97.2 innings, his 10.6 K's per nine innings would rank him first in the majors.
After a horrendous start to the season (giving up eight home runs in his first four starts), Carreno played himself into the Eastern League All-Star game. The Jays like him enough to have him on the 40-man roster and he has the power stuff to pitch effectively as starter or out of the bullpen.
Kyle Drabek and Zach Stewart might get most of the attention, but Carreno has quietly been the organization's best starter not in the majors.
After declining his 2012-2014 option, the Blue Jays showed a lack of faith in Aaron Hill to have a bounce back season. A breakout year in 2009 (.286/.330/.499 with 36 home runs and 108 RBI) was followed by a terrible one in 2010 (.205/.271/.394 with 26 home runs and 68 RBI). Although the power numbers remained strong, Hill's production dipped drastically in every other offensive category.
His struggles have continued deep into the 2011 season (.232/.277/.321 with four home runs and 36 RBI in 77 games) and he is just not good enough to be taking up a roster spot anymore.
Hill has been a model citizen as a member of the Jays but it's time to say goodbye. Hill is likley to be a type-B free agent come season's end, but it's unlikely Toronto wants to risk arbitration for a sandwich pick.
There are a number of contending teams who could use his services, starting with the Phillies who need a right-handed bat off the bench and some insurance for the oft-injured Chase Utley. The Giants could also be interested since they'll likely need a replacement for Freddy Sanchez who is at risk of season-ending shoulder surgery.
After a record-breaking first half, many would expect Jose Bautista to cool off but this is a guy who defies expectations. Since he got hot in September 2009, he's jacked 95 home runs in 276 games.
Already with 31 in 2011, Bautista needs to match his first-half totals to break Roger Maris' American League single-season home run record. Maris famously hit 61 home runs in 1961, however Joey Bats is looking to top that in 2011.
Last season in 73 second-half games, Bautista hit 30 home runs. The Blue Jays 2011 second half is shorter by three games (70) but Bautista is a hotter hitter than he was a year ago. Not only has he hit more first half home runs (31 in 2011 to 24 in 2010) despite playing less (84 games to 88 games) and walking more (74 BB to BB 54), but his batting average is up over 100 points (.237 to .334).
That, along with a healthy and productive Adam Lind (16 HR and 52 RBI in 67 first half games) providing protection behind him, should be more than enough to cover the three game difference and then some.
Bautista's current ankle injury doesn't appear serious and shouldn't stand in the way of him breaking the record. He missed a three-game set over the weekend against the Yankees but is not expected to miss any more time. After a day off Monday, the Jays start a three game series against the Seattle Mariners.