Saturday, April 4, 2009

2009 Toronto Blue Jays Preview

Do the Blue Jays have enough to compete in the ultra tough AL East? For a team that arguably has the best starting pitcher in all of baseball in Roy Halladay, and big veteran bats in Vernon Wells and Alex Rios, there may not be enough for the Blue Jays to push the Yankees, Red Sox or Rays for the division title.

It's a shame, because the Blue Jays do indeed have some nice talent on this ball club.

Halladay is a throw back pitcher. The guy had nine complete games in 2008, and seven complete games in 2007. Complete games are unheard of in today's game of the bullpen. Last year, Halladay went 20-11 with a 2.78 ERA, 206 strikeouts and only 39 walks. He is the best in the game, and it is a shame that he has never pitched in a pennant race nor in the postseason. If the Blue Jays are out of it by July, expect someone to get very lucky and land Halladay in a trade. If Halladay moves to an National League team, you can only imagine the damage that he can do. His 2.78 ERA could drop under two - now that's scary.

The problem with the Blue Jays pitching staff is that other than Halladay, the Jays do not have any pitching depth. They lost A.J. Burnett to free agency, and now have to rely on Dustin McGowen, Jesse Litsch and Shaun Marcum to pick up the slack. McGowen is the de facto number two starter, but he went 6-7 last year with a 4.37 ERA. Not exactly what one wants from the number two guy.

As for the Jays' bullpen, there have been rumors that the Jays will no longer let B.J. Ryan close. He has struggled this spring, and they are looking to make Scott Downs the new closer. Downs went 0-3 in 2008 with a 1.78 ERA and five saves. Downs in very good, but it takes a different kind of mentality to be a closer in the majors; one must be focused like a laser beam. We shall see if Downs can handle the pressure.

Offensively, the Jays will hit. Vernon Wells is coming off of two straight down years. He hit .245 with 16 homers and 80 RBI in 2007 and hit only .300 with 20 homers and 78 RBI in 2008. That is a far cry from Wells' 2006 season when he batted .303 with 32 home runs and 106 RBI. If Wells can stay healthy and get anywhere near his 2006 form, then the Jays can think about competing.

Another guy in need of a bounce back year is Alex Rios. Rios had a dreadful 2008. Even though he hit .291, Rios had only 15 homers and 79 RBI in 2008, and that is not good enough for a guy who has the potential to be a lethal middle-of-the-order threat.

Scott Rolen, Marco Scutaro and Lyle Overbay complete what is a pretty talented lineup. Scutaro is a feisty hitter, who finds a way to get big hits when needed; i.e., he has had game winning hits against the Yankees a few times in his career. Overbay provides balance as a left handed power hitter. He had 15 homers and 69 RBI last season. He's a decent bat, and that quality can't kill a team. As for Rolen, he is getting old. He had only 11 homers and 50 RBI last year, which is a far cry from his prime years in Philadelphia.

Look for Toronto to hover around .500 all season long. By July, they will be too far behind the Yankees and Red Sox and will finally be in position to trade Halladay to some lucky NL team. PREDICTION: BLUE JAYS 4th place AL East, 79-83.

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