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Know (And Criticize) Thine Enemy, Pt. 5: Toronto Blue Jays.

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The Jays. They moved up to 2nd place last season. May I be the probably-not-first to say: Congratulations, don't get used to it.

Unless we're playing them, I don't usually have a problem with the Jays. I mean, they're the very picture of clubhouse tranquility. Billy Beane, I have all the respect in the world for you. But there are bad clubhouse guys. Moving on.

The Jays finished last season in 2nd place, as I said, which is the highest they've placed since they won the World Series in 1993. They're a team with defined strengths and weaknesses (which one isn't, I know). They've got a young GM in J.P. Riccardi, and a manager who certainly isn't afraid to challenge his players in John Gibbons(good thing or bad thing?).

Starting Pitching.

This rotation rests on the shoulders of Roy Halladay. When he's healthy he's one of the best non-Santana pitchers in the game (THE best?). He has had health problems: before last season, he hadn't had more than 21 starts in a season since 2003. Jays fans shouldn't think about that too much: This guy is a legitimate ace and horse.

A.J. Burnett. Pitchers with health problems, did you say? While we know Wins and Losses aren't the best way to judge a starter, Burnett is still a pitcher with a record (59-58) barely above .500. But again, not the best way to judge a starter. The gushing in this scouting report is easy-to-see. And Burnett certainly has the ability to dominate games. Good-great #2. Keep him in bubble-wrap when not on the mound.

Gustavo Chacin. What a disappointing year he had in 2006. He was 5th in RoY balloting in 2005, and then turned in that performance. And imagine this, a Blue Jays starter who had issues staying healthy last season. This guy could replace the innings and wins of Lilly for them next season. Cross your fingers for his left elbow.

There's this acquisition. John Thomson was pretty good for the Braves in 2004, and was the epitome of league-average innings-eater in Texas the year before that. I could see him rebounding to the tune of 30 starts and 170-190 IP. Good pickup.

5th starter, open competition. Good candidates will show ability to work with others and a pulse or an arm. Team can be flexible on first requirement.

  • Shaun Marcum What can I say about Marcum? He didn't attack his manager physically, and he's not the next guy. Marcum showed an ability to strike out hitters in the minors, and was pretty good with control.
  • Josh Towers. Really Blue Jays? Okay. 2 and 10. 8.42 ERA. I've got nothin.
  • There'll surely be others. On the Jays 40-man, Scott Downs or Casey Janssen could be candiates as well. Remember Geremi/Jeremi Gonzalez? He got an NRI, so he could be a candidate as well.
Bullpen.

Does it get much better than B.J. Ryan? Answer: It doesn't. Jays fans shouldn't expect another season with a WHIP at 0.857, but he probably won't disappoint.

The Jays setup corps took a hit with the departure of Justin Speier. They hope they won't miss a beat with youngster Brandon League. League was excellent in the minors at keeping the ball in the park: which is good, because he's not primarily a strikeout pitcher. Jason Frasor and Brian Tallet could share 7th inning duties, though Tallet's WHIP of 1.40 should be cautioning. I would guess that Jeremy Accardo gets his shot as well, though his numbers from Toronto-only last season were pretty bad. The aforementioned Scott Downs was a pretty good LHRP for the Jays last season, so I'm guessing he would have to blow the competition away in order to not find himself back in that slot.

Infield/Catcher/DH.

Troy Glaus mans the hot corner for the Jays. Glaus ended up exactly the kind of bat the Jays wanted, and is a better defender than you'd think. This scouting report would have you believe he's destined for Gold Gloves. Not with the crew of defenders in the AL (Chavez, Beltre, Crede, Lowell, ever-improving Brandon Inge), but he's better-than-solid over there.

Royce Clayton. Yikes. Really? Are you sure Clayton deserved $1.5M to potentially be worse than Russ Adams? Well...okay. If you're sure.

2B is Aaron Hill's job. Hill has an acceptable bat for a MI, though he should find a way to raise his OBP a bit. This is just my own speculation, but I think he could become a 40 double hitter. He's versatile enough to play 3B and SS as well.

Lyle Overbay. What does Lyle Overbay add to the Blue Jays? Nothing. He was there last season. Overbay is a hitter with the gap-power to close in on 50 doubles every season. His OBP is good and he's an above-average defender at 1B.

The catching situation in Toronto was decent last season, but it was never quite settled. Gregg Zaun though that he should be the starter. So did Bengie Molina. Neither of them was. But Gregg Zaun will be this season. He's a pretty good hitter, but I think he's slipping a bit defensively. Jason Phillips is second on the depth-chart. In 2003, as the third catcher with Vance Wilson and Mike Piazza, he wasn't able to push Piazza for more playing time behind the plate. Read into that whatever you will.

The Blue Jays should get good production from the DH slot this season. Frank Thomas enjoyed a rebound year in Oakland, and should come close to it if he's healthy. His eye at the plate and ability to hit the ball out of the park haven't left him.

Outfield.

Beyond the first and second starter slots, THIS is the strength of the Jays. Reed Johnson is a good defensive LF who has the ability to run, if not to steal bases. His OBP of .390 last year kind of screams outlier: his previous high was .353. Nevertheless, he will probably see the bulk of playing time in LF.

Vernon Wells broke out AGAIN in 2006. Two breakout seasons. This man is incredible. He's a great CF, and should build upon a successful 2006 at the plate. He's got 126 million reasons to.

I felt pretty bad for Alex Rios when he lost that time due to leg infection last season. He was having a breakout season himself. He was also involved in this play, in case you don't remember it or watch the video daily. That blunder aside, Rios can cover RF: he played mostly CF in the minors, I believe. Backing up these three, so to speak, will be themselves. Adam Lind is on the Jays depth chart, but he's probably limited to LF. When he sees time, it will be to rest the other three on a rotating basis.

Overall.

This is a team that may be relying on its OF repeating big seasons. Catalanatto was a loss, if only because he could be counted on for an OBP above .350 almost every season. Their lineup does have plenty of power (Wells, Glaus, Thomas, with doses from Overbay and Rios) and some speed (Wells, Rios, Johnson). OF defense is a definite plus, but their MI defense could stand to improve. I really can't get over the Royce Clayton signing. Low-risk? Sure. Here comes a bad analogy. Buying the frame of a car for $50 probably isn't a high risk. But it's not going to get me anywhere I need to go.

If their starting pitchers are healthy, they could win plenty of ballgames. The front four range from great-okay, and Marcum could surprise. Bullpen looks good, until you realize that B.J. Ryan and Brandon League can't pitch every relief inning for the Jays. My guess is that they finish in third place, with their 3-4-5 hitters keeping the team close to contention.