Toronto Blue Jays 2014 Predictions
As the Jays play through the Spring Training roller coaster, I can’t help but wonder what the 2014 season has in store for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Last season, a slew of injuries changed the outcome of what was expected of the Blue Birds. So now with a healthy roster, does the team stand a chance to see October baseball? Of course they do; the question is whether or not they can “get ‘er done”.
For the 2013 season, GM Alex Anthopoulos ensured he switched up the team and brought in some big names including R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Melky Cabrera and Jose Reyes. While Johnson has gone to the Padres, the remaining acquisitions appear to be healthy and are raring to go.
Catcher: Dioner Navarro. The Jays picked up Navarro from the Cubs in the off-season who is comparable to Arencibia defensively, however, with a batting average of .300 and on base percentage of .365, this puts them in a better place than last year catching-wise. Expect him to take the primary catcher role. Josh Thole will likely remain as the backup catcher and will get starts when knuckleballer, R.A. Dickey, takes the hill.
First Base: Adam Lind. Lind ended up being a relatively strong Jay for us last year, especially mid-season. It’s nice to see that after the ups and downs he faced in the 2012 season, he bounced back and finished the 2013 season with a .288 batting average and 23 dingers.
Second Base: Munenori Kawasaki, Ryan Goins, Maicer Izturis, Emilio Bonifacio – there’s no doubt the Jays saw their fair share of second basemen last season and it’s tough to say who will be our second baseman come April. I’m leaning towards Ryan Goins, although Izturis gets a fair shot at second base. While I don’t think Kawasaki will be the starting second baseman, he did deliver some clutch plays in 2013 which could give him a better chance to start since many teams are willing to sacrifice offence for defense at second base. He is also a fan favourite and that can certainly hold its weight in Toronto. Further to that, to throw a wrench in my predictions, Moises Sierra is playing in the infield in Dunedin. Knowing that we have too many outfielders and that Sierra is a strong hitter, I wonder if the coaching staff is trying to see if he will be a viable option in a different position so that he can make the roster and leverage him as a designated hitter if necessary. Probably not, but it would be interesting to see his versatility.
Third Base: The other Captain Canada. It is without question Brett Lawrie will be the Jays third baseman for the 2014 season. Lawrie’s defensive play is uncontested in the club; what is lacking is his ability to make the play after the ball lands in his glove. His patience needs to improve after the fact. In 2013, the biggest flaw in his game was throwing balls in the dirt or off target. A close second was his temper, which had a tendency to erupt when times get rough. If he has been able to improve these traits, he could possibly make a push to make an all-star game.
Shortstop: Jose “Superman” Reyes, without a doubt, will be at shortstop. Personally, I’m excited to watch him play. If anyone else follows @lamelaza_7 on Instagram and/or Twitter, you know that he is an incredibly passionate Blue Jay and has been training like a beast in the off-season. I truly believe that he is excited to show this city what he is made of. I hope he brings the house down.
Left Field: The Melkman. Now that the tumor found in Melky Cabrera’s spine has been taken care of, Toronto can hope and maybe even expect him to be dominant both at bat and in the field which historically, he has been known to do.
Center Field: While there were rumors that Colby Rasmus may be traded in the off-season, it looks like he will be around for another season. Rasmus has made some amazing plays in center field and can really hold his own. As long as his hitting remains consistently powerful, Colby has the potential to be one of the strongest Blue Jays this season.
Right Field: Another player rumored to be traded in the off-season was Jose Bautista, who will irrefutably be our right fielder. After the Jays’ disappointing 2013 season, Toronto’s fans would have been devastated to lose Bautista. He is definitely the all-star and ultimately, the captain of this team. As long as Bautista comes in, stays healthy and delivers the way all expect him to, the club will be in good shape.
Designated Hitter (DH): Edwin Encarnacion. He has progressively become better with each passing season. While he can be a solid first baseman, he’s probably better suited to be the power house designated hitter with 36 home runs last season and better on base percentage than our other potential DH, Adam Lind. Lind also has a better fielding percentage than Edwin.
Pitching: Do we ever know what is happening with Jays pitching? Who will make the cut for the starting rotation? R.A. Dickey had a bit of a disappointing season last year; will he maintain the #1 spot? Will Mark Buerhle keep the #3 spot? Maybe he’ll move into the #1 spot as he was arguably our most consistent pitcher last season. Other potentials include Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison, Brandon Morrow, Dustin McGowan, Esmil Rogers, J.A. Happ and even Marcus Stroman. If I had to place a bet, I would guess that the top 5 starting pitchers will be (and not necessarily in this order): Mark Buerhle, Brandon Morrow, Dustin McGowan, R.A. Dickey and J.A. Happ. But to be honest, Drabek, Hutchison and Rogers are a close second. We’ll have to see who has the best spring training (could Ricky Romero be making a comeback?).
Bullpen: Steve Delabar, Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup and Luis Perez are expected to be in the bullpen; Neil Wagner and Jeremy Jeffress may be there too. Sergio Santos will likely come in for the 8th and Casey Janssen will be closing out games.
Utility Players: They will be whoever doesn’t make second base, likely Maicer Izturis and Munenori Kawasaki. Which also brings in a new question, if the experiment with Sierra works at second base, does he become a new utility player? Time will tell.
Extra Outfielders: We”ll probably see Anthony Gose on the 25 man roster at the beginning of the season now that Rajai Davis has joined the Tigers. Luckily, he brings speed like Davis and has the potential to have the stealing ability that Davis did with a bit more practice. If Sierra doesn’t become an infielder, he will be our other extra outfielder. It would be a real shame to not have Sierra on the team come April.
So what does this mean for the Jays for the post-season?
The New York Yankees appear to have rebuilt their team having added a few more big names to their already impressive roster such as Brian McCann, Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. Let’s not forget that they also lost Robison Cano and Curtis Granderson who are two of the best position players in the game. This season could go either way for the Yankees.
The Tampa Bay Rays should remain consistent; they also kept their ace, David Price.
The Boston Red Sox signed A.J. Pierzynski, retained many of clutch free agents and are the 2013 World Series champions. And let’s face it; they have John Farrell, who proved to Jays fans that he did have the abilities to bring a team all the way (we’re just bitter). The larger question is, does John Gibbons?
There is no argument that the AL East is currently the most competitive division, so do the Blue Jays have enough to get to the top of it? I sure hope so. In the past, it was almost a guarantee that the AL East team would garner the Wild Card spot. Last year, the MLB added a second Wild Card spot and surprisingly, it didn’t go to an AL East team. With teams like the Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals in the AL Central and the Oakland A’s, Texas Rangers and even the LA Angels in the AL West, the Jays really need to bring their A game to every game they play.
Can the Blue Jays do it? Yes, but everything needs to go in the right direction. A healthy team. Strong pitching, strong defense and they need to drive in runs, over and over again. And of course, the fans. The City of Toronto has been losing a bit of faith in this team but I think it’s a big contributing factor, and essential, to the success of the Jays.
So while I don’t foresee a whole lot of changes in the starting line-up from the 2013 season, let’s see if Anthopoulos and Gibbons are right in thinking that this is the line-up that will get the Toronto Blue Jays into the post-season.
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