Key Additions–Frank Francisco, Rajai Davis, Juan Rivera
Key Losses—Shawn Marcum, Vernon Wells
Lineup—The emergence of Jose Bautista last year provided this lineup with some much needed pop, however I don’t think anyone expects him to reach 54 home runs again. And although trading Vernon Wells helps in the long term by getting out of that contract, he is flat out a better player than Juan Rivera. With that being said, I still think Yunel Escobar can be a solid hitter, and I have always liked Edwin Encarnocion’s bat. If Travis Snider can perform at a good level, that will be a big help to this lineup, but I just don’t see this lineup as having much punch. Bautista will regress to being Jose Bautista, and the addition of Rajai Davis will only prove to be an average acquisition. Aaron Hill and Adam Lind are good at their positions, but they don’t strike fear into any opposing pitchers. For a team that is expecting to build off of a solid 2010, this lineup definitely leaves something to be desired in the AL East.
Rotation—I know trading Shawn Marcum was done for what the Jays thought was a position of strength, but losing a guy like Marcum is going to hurt. Ricky Romero is a solid starter at the front end of the rotation, but he doesn’t compare to the other aces in this division. Although Brandon Morrow and Bret Cecil had a solid 2010, they will need to repeat that effort if the Jays are going to duplicate what they accomplished record wise. Youngster Kyle Drabek should get the chance to show why he was the center piece of the deal that sent Roy Halladay packing.
Bullpen—This bullpen was pretty much remade with the addition of Frank Francisco, Octavio Dotel, and Jon Rauch. The problem is none of these guys are good back of the bullpen type of relievers, as none of them have proven that they can handle the closers spot. However, I give the Jays credit for adding power arms, but I’m concerned that they will not be able to get the job done even when their starting pitching gives them a lead.
Impact Rookie—Kyle Drabek, RHP. Drabek is rated as the #23 best prospect in baseball and has a chance to make the opening rotation out of spring training. The 6’1 righty possesses a plus change up and fastball life that is a tick above average.
Outlook—I have a hard time looking at this team and believing that they have the capability to contend in 2011. There are way too many question marks with all 3 phases that I broke down above. While many people believe their rotation could be a strong suit, I still have a hard time understanding the trade that shipped out Marcum. Maybe Brett Lawrie will turn into a big time player (he was dealt for Marcum) but I still don’t understand dealing a young pitcher. The offense was carried by Bautista last year, who before last year had 59 home runs in over 2000 ABs. I hope the Maple Leafs have a strong run to the Stanley Cup, cause it is going to be a long year north of the border for the Blue Jays.
Brad Koesters, MLB Correspondent.
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