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TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Overall – 80 points (13th MLB, 7th AL)
Starting Rotation – 31 points (12th MLB, 7th AL)
Line-Up – 31 points (22nd MLB, 10th AL)
Bench/Bullpen/Defense – 18 points (2nd MLB, 2nd AL)
Offseason Additions – Scott Rolen, David Eckstein, Rod Barajas, Marco Scutaro
Offseason Subtractions – Troy Glaus, Josh Towers
Biggest Strength– Players you’ve never heard of
If the Blue Jays stay healthy, they are a real good team. If they are in the NL, they are a playoff team. But you would never know it because all of the media attention in their division goes to the Sox and the Yanks. When studying their roster, I found out a lot of players I just figured weren’t any good, were actually pretty decent. They have a pretty deep rotation, with a 3 pitchers any team would want at the bottom of their rotation in Dustin McGowan (25 years old, 4.08 ERA in 169.2 IP), Shaun Marcum (26, 4.13 ERA in 159 IP) and Jesse Litsch (22, 3.81 ERA in 111 IP). On the offensive side, Aaron Hill has become one of the best young 2B in the league, going for 78 RBI and 47 doubles at age 25.
Biggest Weakness– Health
If you told me that the 2 pitchers at the top of their rotation, Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett, as well as their dominant closer, B.J. Ryan, and their best hitter last year, Frank Thomas, would be healthy the entire year, I would pick this team to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, I just don’t see that happening. Burnett has only pitched 200 innings once since 2002, Ryan missed all but 4.1 innings in 2007, Frank Thomas can barely walk, and while Halladay has been healthy the last 2 seasons, his prior injury history leaves a lot to be desired. This team reminds of the Phillies of the last 5 years who have had the talent but just haven’t been able to put together an injury-free season.
Key Player in ’08 – Vernon Wells
After the Blue Jays rewarded Wells with a 7 year, 126 million dollar contract, he rewarded them with the worst season of his career (.245 BA, 16 HR, 80 RBI, .706 OPS). It is imperative for the Blue Jays that he comes back to form and proves to be a force in the middle of their line-up. I like their pitching, but they cannot rely on Frank Thomas to carry the offense again.
Player to Keep an Eye On – Scott Rolen
One of the strangest trades of the offseason had the Blue Jays and Cardinals swapping 3rd basement who seemed like they would never be healthy again. Personally, I think the Jays got the better of the deal because Glaus did PED’s and usually those players don’t make miraculous comebacks once they start downhill. Rolen, on the other hand, can be a top 3rd basemen, offensively and defensively, when healthy. He COULD be healthy this year, and if he is, he could help make this a very dangerous team.
Outlook/Prediction – 3rd Place, AL East. If there is a team in the AL that is going to come out and surprise, I believe it will be the Blue Jays. They have a deep rotation, good bullpen, and solid line-up (I didn’t even mention their best player, Alex Rios). However, they need a lot of things to go right – no injuries, young pitchers pitching well, and Thomas, Rolen and Wells having good years. If all this happens, they have the talent to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, as a Phillies fan, I know that regardless of how a team looks like on paper, things don’t always go right, and as long as the Red Sox and Yankees are around, this team seems doomed to have things go wrong.