Toronto Blue Jays- Prediction 91-71
The 2012 edition of the Toronto Blue Jays did not impress. They finished the year with a 73-89 record and were looking up at New York and Tampa but now Baltimore had jumped them as well. What to do? Toronto had one of the busiest winters in recent memory that has completely altered the team. They let go or traded players like Kelly Johnson, Carlos Villanueva and Mike Aviles who were serviceable but not great. They traded for or signed a who’s who among baseball players. They signed the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, R.A. Dickey. In one trade they brought Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and Emilio Bonifacio across the border. They also signed the previously suspended Melky Cabrera to a two-year deal. The signing of Henry Blanco to fill a backup catcher role is helpful as well. This is a new Toronto team filled with expectations.
Let’s just say the 2012 Blue Jays pitching staff was not the best. They managed to be 26th in team ERA, 25th in WHIP, 23rd in opposing team batting average, 25th in team strikeouts and only managed 29 saves, good for 29th in baseball. In their defense every starter and many guys out of the bullpen all spent time of the disabled list in 2012. To say the Blue Jays addressed a need is an understatement. Consider this, when is the last time that you can remember a team signing or trading for a new 1-2-3 in the rotation in one off season. That is exactly what Toronto did.
The addition of R.A Dickey (20-6, 2.73 ERA in 2012) to the Toronto rotation is a huge upgrade for the team. While there should not be a major change there are a few things to consider when it comes to Dickey. He has never won more than 11 games in a season prior to last year, and he is returning to the American League where he has never had an ERA below 4.60.Like it or not the American League, especially the American League East, is different animal than the National League. With all that in mind he should still be able to manage 15-17 wins in 2013 with an ERA just south of 4.00. Mark Buehrle (13-13, 3.74 ERA in 2012) is a stable presence in the rotation. Since 2001 he has double digit wins in every year, pitched over 200 innings each season and carried an ERA under 4.00 nine times while doing most of this in the American League. Around 13 wins and an ERA of 4.00 is reasonable for Mark in 2013.
Josh Johnson (8-14, 3.81 ERA in 2012) has been a solid pitcher in Florida for the past five years. While he was hurt in 2011 he has pitched at least 180 innings in three of the last four years and never had an ERA over 3.81 (of course his career high ERA came in 2012). I would not expect a Cy Young season from Johnson but factoring in an American League adjustment I could see him winning 12 games with an ERA around 4.00 in 2013. One of the biggest changes in my opinion is the psychological effect these three will have on Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow. They are the two holdovers from last year’s rotation.
Romero and Morrow both carry front end of the rotation stuff but struggled given the chance to lead a team. Now they will be the back end of the rotation guys in Toronto and are arguably the best 4-5 in baseball. Ricky Romero (9-14, 5.77 ERA in 2012) took a step back in his development last year posting an ERA 1.40 higher than his career worst. He was struggling a bit through tendinitis in both knees and had arthroscopic surgery performed on his left elbow this offseason so the Blue Jays will have to watch him closely this spring. He should bounce back and rack up in the neighborhood of 11 wins in 2013. Brandon Morrow (10-7, 2.96 ERA in 2012) took a step forward in a limited 2012 season making only 21 starts. He lowered his WHIP by .18 from his 2011 number (which was .11 lower than 2010) taking him to 1.11 while pitching in the American League East. Morrow has all the talent required to be successful and should be able to win 15 games in 2013 with an ERA around 3.50.
Offensively the Blue Jays had a decent 2012 finishing 13th in runs, sixth in home runs, eighth in stolen bases, 23rd in team average and 14th in slugging. So did they rest on their 2012 laurels? Not exactly. Enter Jose Reyes in a trade with the Marlins. Despite the bad year for the Marlins it was not Reyes fault. He had a typical season for the superstar hitting .287 and stealing 40 bases. to say he is an upgrade at short is a bit of an understatement. There is no reason to suspect anything but a .290, 35 stolen base, and 100 run season. They also took a flier on Melky Cabrera right off his suspension by MLB for using performance enhancing drugs. He had back to back career years in Kansas City and San Francisco but how much was “enhanced”? We will never know but even if he only hits .275 and 15 home runs while playing quality defense then he is still a great pickup. I am betting even better as he will be out to prove it was not the assist that made him so good. I love a guy with a lot to play for.
Jose Bautista will be back to form after a hampered 92 game 2012. He has found himself the last three years in Toronto and that should continue. If fully healed there is no reason he won’t hit 40 home runs and drive in 100 in 2013. He battery mate in Toronto, Edwin Encarnacion, will be back to prove that 2012 was no fluke as he set career highs in HR (42), runs (93) and RBI (110). While I would not expect a repeat of 2012 since history doesn’t back that up I still think he is more than capable of 25-30 home runs, a .280 batting average and 90 RBIs.
Colby Rasmus will start the season in center field for the Blue Jays but he does not carry the stolen base potential that usually comes with a speedy center fielder. However, he will play quality defense, hit 20+ home runs, score around 85 runs and gather about 80 RBIs. Adam Lind had a shortened season in 2012 only playing in 93 games but when healthy he is a pretty reliable. He should be able to manage near 27 home runs and 90 RBI in 2013. (in case you haven’t caught on this team has power) JP Arencibia is a solid young catcher with plenty of upside and the Blue Jays will be counting the days until young third baseman Brett Lawrie is back in the lineup.
The top end of talent in the Blue Jays farm system is probably covered by Aaron Sanchez. If it wasn’t for the Trout’s and Harper’s of the world you would be hearing more about him in the media. He carries 3 plus pitches including a top end fastball. He is still a couple of years away but if he stays on track everyone should look out. Some other guys to keep an eye on are pitcher Roberto Osuna, Anthony Alford, DJ Davis, and Mathew Smoral. All have a chance to be with the big club in the not too distant future. When you think of the farm system as a whole they are probably in the 20th range in MLB. Overall the Jays made some pretty bold moves this offseason in hopes of winning now, probably propelled by the Red Sox issues and Yankees flaws. On paper they are the favorite to win the AL East but it is curious to see if they gel. Overall I can see the Blue Jays winning 91 games in 2013.
Up Next: Baltimore Orioles