2014 MLB PREVIEW: TORONTO BLUE JAYS
March 3, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
I have to admit, I really felt the Blue Jays were going to win the American League East last season after they acquired Jose Reyes, R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson. But the Jays saw their bubble burst quickly when the pitching didn’t perform well and Reyes got hurt. Toronto went from the favorites to last place in the AL East.
If the Blue Jays are going to challenge Boston in the division, several things will have to happen in 2014 including Reyes, Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera and Brett Lawrie staying healthy and the pitching will have to live up to 2013 expectations.
STARTING PITCHING: Toronto’s veteran pitchers will have to do better than they did in 2013…4.81 ERA (14th in AL), 698 K’s (13th in AL) and opponents BA .272 (13th in AL). R.A Dickey won the NL Cy Young Award with the Mets in 2012 but fell big time in 2013. Dickey went 14-13 with an ERA of 4.21 and gave up 35 HR balls, 23 at home. In his defense, Dickey pitched better in the second half of the season. Joining Dickey will be Mark Buehrle. Buehrle went 12-10 with an ERA of 4.15 in his first season as a Blue Jay. Buehrle will throw 200 plus innings with his cutter, change-up and curve. Buehrle is a quick worker who can work each side of the plate. Joining Dickey and Buehrle will be Brandon Morrow if he comes back from a forearm injury in July. If Morrow can stay healthy, he has excellent stuff. J.A. Happ will go into camp as the #4 starter after suffering a skull fracture in May. Happ still went 5-7 in 18 starts in 2013. Toronto will look at prospects Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, Sean Nolin. Drew Hutchinson and Kyle Drabeck will get a look during spring training. Sanchez needs more work on his control before he can make a contribution. Stroman may be more of a closer than a starter when he is ready.
RELIEF PITCHING: Casey Janssen isn’t overpowering but he gets hitters out. He has great control and throws five different pitches. Janssen’s ability to get the first hitter out is one of the key’s to hit success (he held first hitters to a .179 BA). Joining Janssen will be hard throwing Sergio Santos. Santo throws in the mid-to-upper 90’s and has struck out 180 hitters in 145.2 big league innings. Left hander Brett Cecil and Right hander Steve Delabar were AL All-Stars in 2013. Cecil had a 10.38 strikeout per nine innings rating while Delabar struck out 12.58 per nine innings.
INFIELD: SS Jose Reyes came to Toronto with a great resume’ but never lived up to expectations after suffering a sprained ankle just 10 days into the season. When Reyes is healthy, he is one of the top lead-off men in baseball. 3B Brett Lawrie played in only 102 games for the Jay’s in 2013 because of various injuries. Scouts feel Lawrie can be a great player if he can stay in the line-up. 2B Ryan Goins is one of the best defensive players in baseball but his bat needs work (.252 BA, .264 OB%, 28 K’s and 2 BB’s). 1B Adam Lind and 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion will split time between the field and DH. Lind hit 23 HR’s with a .497 SLG% and Encarnacion finished with 36 HR’s and 104 RBI. Encarnacion also finished with an OPS of .987 against fastball pitchers. Toronto will count on former Chicago Cubs Catcher Dioner Navarro who hit .300 with 13 HR’s in only 240 AB’s in 2013. Erik Kratz was acquired from Philadelphia and Josh Thole will look for playing time.
OUTFIELD: Jose Bautista is declining and his health has become a big concern for the Blue Jays. He has played in only 210 games in the past two seasons because of wrist and hip injuries. Bautista still hit 28 HR’s in 482 AB’s. Colby Rasmus is another key for the Blue Jays, if he stays healthy. Rasmus hit 22 HR’s and a .501 SLG% before being injured in September. Melky Cabrera was signed to a two-year deal after being suspended for PED use in 2012 with San Francisco and played in only 88 games last season because of injuries. If Bautista and Cabrera can’t stay in the line-up, look for Moises Sierra and Anthony Gose to get on the field. Gose would give the Jays the speed they need while Sierra hit .301 in 107 AB’s in 2013.
PREDICTION: The Jays can be a good baseball team “if” they can stay healthy. That’s a BIG if! Toronto wasn’t active in the free-agent market and that may not be a bad thing. A lot will depend on Bautista, Reyes and Cabrera and if they can produce the numbers Toronto’s fans expect. If not, it will be a long summer north of the border.
5th AL East