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The Baseball Notebook


February 28, 2010 11:00 AM

Toronto Blue Jays Preview

Yesterday we looked at the San Diego Padres, a team who’s enjoyed some recent success and is on the verge of trading its signature player. Toronto’s already gone to the path San Diego is toying with. The Blue Jays have had a decent run in recent years, if it not for being buried under the weight of the no-budget Yankees and the big-budget Red Sox, they might have made the postseason. But they best they could was scrape into a non-wild card second-place finish in 2006. And having traded Cy Young-caliber pitcher Roy Halladay over the winter, the signature player in their organization is gone. What’s left to build on?

Aaron Hill has emerged as one of the best power-hitting second baseman in baseball, but this does have to be qualified. For 36 home runs, a .484 slugging percentage isn’t high, suggesting his offensive impact comes in short bursts that lack consistency. Admittedly, that’s somewhat harsh for a guy who hit 36 bombs. Lyle Overbay is a steady hitter for both average and to the alleys at first base. Breakout years came last season from catcher John Buck, who finally fulfilled the potential the Royals thought he had, as I did I when I picked him for my keeper-league Fantasy team in 2005. Looks we both gave up too quickly. Another breakout year was from leftfield Adam Lind. Now the Jays need a former star to find his All-Star form again. In 2006, Vernon Wells was one of the game’s best centerfielders, but his bat disappeared after he signed a long-term contract. That looks to be more bad luck than lack of effort, because Wells is still one of the AL’s premier defenders as he patrols center. But he’s got to find his bat to help an offense that will have more pressure on it this year with Halladay gone.

Toronto made some nice acquisitions on the left side of the infield. Alex Gonzalez has been brought in to play shortstop and from the defensive standpoint, nobody does it better. Watching Red Sox games on the MLB package, I was in awe of his range and he remains the only player I ever looked forward to watching, just because of his defense. At third base will be Edwin Encarcion. His numbers weren’t great last year, as injuries have slowed him. But he has hit the ball well in Cincinnati previously and could come back in Toronto.

The starting rotation has problems, as you can imagine would be the case when you trade the best pitcher in the game. But the problems go deeper than that. Toronto has been racked with injuries to otherwise promising starters, from Shawn Marcum to Scott Richmond to Dustin McGowan. Only Marcum has hopes of being back this year anytime before the All-Star break. The bullpen has added Kevin Gregg, who failed as closer with the Cubs, and hopes for a rejuvenation north of the border as a setup men. He’s joined by Scott Downs who’s been one of the more unheralded setup guys in the league. This area should be okay, and if Jason Frasor can catch fire as the closer, Toronto will be able to finish games. It’s just the starting pitching that leaves in question how many there will be to finish.

Up Next: Houston Astros on Tuesday
Final AL East Picks & Preview: April 1

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