Toronto Blue Jays Predictions: 10 Reasons They Can Make the Playoffs This Year

Brent NaultCorrespondent IJanuary 25, 2011

Toronto Blue Jays Predictions: 10 Reasons They Can Make the Playoffs This Year

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    The Toronto Blue Jays have been going in the right direction ever since Alex Anthopolous took over as General Manager.  Alex Anthopolous has put great emphasis on developing young talent and has invested time and money into ensuring that the future is bright.  At the same time, AA has managed to put a fantastic product on the field that has remained competitive even in the toughest division in baseball.  

    The Toronto Blue Jays have had a phenomenal offseason as they have made a ton of wonderful signings and acquisitions that have significantly improved the team.  Players like Rajai Davis and Octavio Dotel come to mind.  

    The Blue Jays have a very bright future and the present isn't too bleak either.  The Jays have a good team and have strong and talented youth ready to make the Jays a contender for years to come. 

    In my mind, I believe the Jays can make the playoffs this year.  The following is ten reasons why I believe that to be true.

The Home Run Power

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    TORONTO - SEPTEMBER 23:   Jose Bautista #19 of the Toronto Blue Jays bats 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
    Brad White/Getty Images

    The Toronto Blue Jays dominated the MLB last season with a blasphemous 257 home runs.  In comparison, the Boston Red Sox came second in total home runs with 211 home runs.

    Lead by Jose Bautista's 54 home runs, the Blue Jays quickly became known as the most powerful team in baseball and this year should be no different.

    I may be going out on a limb, but I believe the Jays could surpass their home run total from last year. I say that because last year, Adam Lind and Aaron Hill both had off years and yet the Jays still managed to put up monster power numbers.  If those two can stay healthy, there is no telling what the Jays could do.  Add in the potential home runs of Edwin Encarnacion as well as the power of young talents Travis Snider and J.P. Arencibia.  Then throw in the recently acquired Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli who will more than likely make up for the absence of Vernon, and you my friends, have a very powerful ball club.

    Home Run Projection:  280

The Defense

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    ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 13:  The Rawling's Gold Glove Award presented to Bengie Molina #1 of the Anaheim Angels before the game against the Seattle Mariners on April 13, 2004 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California.  The Angels, playing in their first home ga
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    The Toronto Blue Jays have been one of the most consistent teams in terms of defense for the last few years. 

    Granted, the Blue Jays traded away three-time Gold Glove winner Vernon Wells and lost defensive specialist Lyle Overbay in the offseason, but they will be fine without them.

    Last season, the Jays made the eighth fewest errors of any team in the major leagues and this year should be about the same.

    Around the infield, the Jays will most likely have Jose Bautista at the hot corner (third base) who was sensational last year in his time as third baseman.  Yunel Escobar will man short for the Jays and if he puts effort in, should be fine.  Aaron Hill is an excellent second baseman, but was less so last year as his struggles at the plate seemed to affect his defensive prowess.  One position that may be a tad spotty, is first base as Adam Lind is a question mark when it comes to whether or not he can play good defense.  At catcher, J.P. Arencibia should see the bulk of time there and in limited time last year behind the plate looked solid.  Backing up Arencibia will most likely be the defensive master Jose Molina (occasionally Mike Napoli) who makes very few errors.  And of course, we cannot forget John MacDonald who is by far one of the best defensive players in baseball.

    Around the outfield, right field will be manned by Travis Snider who has shown that he has a very nice glove.  Center field will be played by the incredibly speedy Rajai Davis who has been known to make nice plays from time to time.  Left field is a bit of a mystery though, but it looks as if the "able" Juan Rivera will man that post, barring a trade.

A More Balanced Lineup

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    OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Rajai Davis #11 of the Oakland Athletics in action against the Chicago White Sox at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 22, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The Toronto Blue Jays lived and died by the home run last season.  When the Jays were swatting home runs, they were virtually unstoppable.  When they weren't, the Jays lineup was easily taken care of and looked absolutely helpless.  This year, things will look a lot different as the Jays will have a lot more balance in their lineup than in previous years. 

    I truly believe that the Blue Jays will still hit 200+ home runs, but I also believe that they will be more than a one-trick pony.  The main factor in my mind, is Rajai Davis, who is essentially replacing the recently departed Vernon Wells in center.  Davis gives the Jays something they have been needing for years, and that is the speed element.  Davis has stolen a combined 91 bases in his last two years with the Oakland Athletics even though he hasn't played as much as some would have liked.  Rajai will most certainly be the Jays new lead-off man and will really improve the balance of the lineup.  Another factor that will balance out the Jays lineup will be having Yunel Escobar for a full year.  Escobar and last years shortstop, Alex Gonzalez, are two totally different players as Yunel provides the prototypical shortstop stats with consistency and can get on base.

    I guess what I am trying to say, is that the Jays will still hit a ton of home runs, but this year, there will be more people on-base when the ball leaves the yard.

The Depth

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    DUNEDIN, FL - FEBRUARY 23:  Jesse Litsch #51 of the Toronto Blue Jays poses during photo day at the Bobby Mattick Training Center at Englebert Complex on February 23, 2009 in Dunedin, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    The Toronto Blue Jays have always had the misfortune of having a ton of players get injured and miss significant periods of time.  Lately though, the Jays have really worked on their depth and their ability to recover when significant players are lost due to injuries.  

    One of the first things you look at when you think of injuries to a team, is the starting rotation.  You ask, can the team hold down the fort if one of their starters go down?  And in the case of the Blue Jays, the answer will most likely be yes.  If one of the Jays starters were to go down, the Jays would have an abundance of starters to pick from like Jesse Litsch, Scott Richmond, Jo-Jo Reyes, and Brad Mills, all of whom have had big league experience and some degree of success.  The Jays are also fortunate to have heaps of depth in the bullpen as players like Robert Ray, Josh Roenicke, Chad Cordero (maybe), and Wil Ledezma who can add to the pen.

    The Blue Jays are also fortunate to have a ton of young players in the minors who are itching to come up should need be and prove their stuff.  Players like Brian Jeroloman and Adeiny Hechavarria come to mind as well as veterans like Corey Patterson, who could replace an injured Blue Jay. 

A Weaker AL East

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    NEW YORK - OCTOBER 20:  CC Sabathia #52 of the New York Yankees reacts after he struck out Mitch Moreland #18 of the Texas Rangers to end the top of the sixth inning of Game Five of the ALCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Yankee Stadium on October 20, 20
    Andrew Burton/Getty Images

    I imagine that certain people will take issue with what I am about to say.

    I truly believe that the American League East will be significantly weaker than in previous years.  The Boston Red Sox are the only exception that statement as I believe that they will win the AL East.  I should also say that the Baltimore Orioles aren't worse, but they still are far away from being a significant threat to contend in the East.

    The New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays will be worse than they were last year.  The Yankees have an all-star caliber lineup, but have a pitching staff that pales in comparison to some of the more elite teams' rotations.  In my opinion, if you don't have good starting pitching, you don't have a chance to win the World Series or even make it there.  The Yankees also made little to no upgrades last year and should have a very interesting season.  The Tampa Bay Rays are going to have the most significant drop off of any team.  Unfortunately, the Rays lost several key players in Rafael Soriano, Carl Crawford, Jason Bartlett, Carlos Pena, Matt Garza, Grant Balfour, and other less important pieces.  With little offense and a shaky bullpen, the Rays will have a disappointing season.

    Basically, the Jays have a realistic chance this year to make some noise.  If the Yankees and Rays struggle which is not out of the realm of possibility, the Jays could maybe win the Wild Card.

Exciting Young Players

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    TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 28: Kyle Drabek #4 of the Toronto Blue Jays throws agianst 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

    As I have said numerous times, the Toronto Blue Jays have a group of wonderfully talented young players who have the potential to be great.  Many of these young players are going to have the chance to prove themselves and contribute.

    Some of these players are-

    Kyle Drabek, who was the centerpiece of the blockbuster deal that saw Roy Halladay shipped to the Philadelphia Phillies.  Drabek is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball and is going to be given a spot in the rotation this year.  Kyle was up with the big club in 2010 during September and showed that he had major league stuff.

    Travis Snider, is obviously well known to most Blue Jay fans, but not to the rest of baseball.  Snider has loads of potential with a very powerful bat, but has yet to have the monster season we have been waiting for.  Now that Cito Gaston is gone, Snider will get ample playing time and every opportunity to prove the he belongs in the bigs.

    J.P. Arencibia, came up last season and had a monster debut that created a ton of buzz.  Arencibia will get his chance behind the plate and once again, with no Gaston around, will be given every opportunity to perform.  J.P. has a power bat and is decent behind the plate.

    Several other young players could make an impact this year like Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez, Brian Jeroloman, and others.

New Coaching Regime

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    FORT MYERS,FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 22:  John Farrell #52 of the Boston Red Sox poses during photo day at the Red Sox spring training complex on February 22, 2009 in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    I believe that the Toronto Blue Jays will be significantly better this year under the leadership of John Farrell.  No offense to Cito Gaston, but Cito did a lot of things as a manager that both fans and experts had issues with it. Cito stayed "loyal" to his players regardless of how badly said player was playing, often depriving younger players of opportunities to shine.  He annoyed me personally with his terrible judgement when it came to knowing when to go to the bullpen.  But alas, he was a players coach and I respect him.

    But now, it is a new era in Toronto as new coach John Farrell looks like he can take the Jays in a good direction.  Farrell is a nice fit for Toronto as he was a pitching coach and quite obviously knows how to manage his pitchers and relate to them.  He has also put emphasis on using more of the running game and small-ball.  With the added leadership of Don Wakamatsu, the young ones should thrive under an impressive coaching staff.

Aaron Hill & Adam Lind Rebound

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    TORONTO - MAY 31: Adam Lind #26 and Aaron Hill #2 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrate a two-run home run by Lind against the Tampa Bay Rays at the Rogers Centre during an MLB game May 31, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
    Abelimages/Getty Images

    In 2009, Adam Lind hit .305, with a spectacular 35 home runs and drove in 114 runs.  Those numbers were good enough to earn Lind the silver slugger award as well as respect around the league.  Meanwhile, Aaron Hill also had a stellar season as he hit .286, with 36 home runs and drove in 108 runs.  Hill's numbers were also good enough to earn him a silver slugger award.

    Needless to say, expectations for the two going into the 2010 regular season were quite high. Unfortunately, neither performed adequately and were burdens at times in the Blue Jays lineup.  Lind hit a very poor .237, had 23 home runs and drove in a very disappointing 72 runs.  Hill was even worse than Lind as he hit a treacherous .205, had 26 home runs and drove in 68 runs.

    There is not a doubt in my mind that both Aaron Hill and Adam Lind are extremely great hitters and it is unlikely that they will struggle for much longer.  Both are still relatively young and this is most likely just a bump in the road of what should be solid careers.  Hopefully, the arrival of John Farrell who perhaps has some new ideas for the two, will signal the end of their struggles.  

The Starting Rotation

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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

    The Toronto Blue Jays have always had phenomenal starting pitching and this year should be no different.

    The rotation will most likely feature:

    -Ricky Romero

    -Brandon Morrow

    -Brett Cecil

    -Kyle Drabek

    -Mark Rzepczynski/Jesse Litsch

    Even though the Blue Jays traded away one of their best pitchers in Shaun Marcum, they have the resources and depth to fill the void he has left.  Ricky Romero will be the number one and has proven that he has the skills to be a phenomenal pitcher.  Brandon Morrow is an exceptional talent who struggles with consistency, but when he is on, he is not hittable.  Brett Cecil is coming off a nice season and will look to continue his success.  Drabek was the centerpiece of the Roy Halladay deal and has big expectations to live up to.  Kyle showed his talent last year in limited starts with the big club and will have every opportunity to prove himself this year.  The end of the rotation is unclear as either Mark or Jesse could take the spot in spring training.  Overall, the Jays should have a fantastic rotation this year.

The Bullpen

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    CHICAGO - JUNE 30: Octavio Dotel #29 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in the 9th inning on his way to a save against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on June 30, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Pirates defeated the Cubs 2-0. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Get
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The Toronto Blue Jays have always had the fortune of having excellent relief pitching.  

    Last season was no different as the Jays had a great group of pitchers down in the pen.  Unfortunately, the Jays have lost key pieces Kevin Gregg and Scott Downs to the Orioles and Angels respectively.

    But, Anthopolous has really taken the offseason to improve the bullpen as he made several acquisitions and signings that bolstered the pen.  Alex signed free-agents Jon Rauch and Octavio Dotel who both have closer experience and are both very experienced.  AA also acquired Carlos Villanueva from the Milwaukee Brewers and also made a minor addition of Wil Ledezma.  

    The Jays pen will most likely feature Jesse Carlson, David Purcey, Shawn Camp, Jon Rauch, Octavio Dotel, and Jason Frasor.  The Jays will most likely go with either Jon Rauch or Octavio Dotel as their closer this season.

    Overall, the Jays will have a fantastic pen with tremendous potential and depth should injuries occur.

The End

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    Thank you so very much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed it.

    I always appreciate feedback whether it is positive or negative.

    I would also like to hear if you think the Jays have a realistic chance at making the playoffs or even competing at all.

    Thanks once again and GO Jays GO!

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