The 2012 Toronto Blue Jays: Need a Big Bat to Contend in the A.L. East

Tuesday May 2nd, 2012

Rob Bland:  Much has been said about the quiet offseason that Toronto Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos underwent.  After the uproar that was caused by the media in the Yu Darvis bidding process, and the Prince Fielder free agency, fans became upset that Anthopoulos was just sitting on his hands.  The fact that Anthopoulos stated numerous times that they would not be major players in free agency seemed to fall on deaf ears.  Anthopoulos has been adamant about building this team with young and athleticism, the latter of which is something that Prince Fielder doesn’t necessarily embody.  That’s no knock against Prince, because he is paid to mash, not steal bases. 

The question is asked, do the Jays need a big bat or another arm to take that final leap into contention in the American League East?  Now, I could answer this a few different ways. 

First, I could tell you that the Jays do need a big bat.  They needed Prince Fielder and his career .927 OPS and 230 home runs in just over 6 seasons.  The Jays also needed Yu Darvish and the dominance he has displayed thus far.  Darvish has looked very good, especially in dominating this young Blue Jays team just the other night in his first career start in Toronto.  After a rough first outing, Darvish has thrown 27 1/3 innings and given up just 22 hits and 3 earned runs.  The Blue Jays could certainly use that kind of stuff in their rotation right now.  But any team could use that.  Sure, the Blue Jays could have spent over $300 million for Prince and Yu, but Rogers Communications (Blue Jays owner) isn’t ready to pony up the big bucks just yet.  Are there avenues that could be looked at to bolster their lineup or rotation? Yes.

What GM Alex Anthopoulos was banking on was adding a bat from within the organization.  In 2009, Adam Lind won the Silver Slugger for designated hitters.  He hit .305 and had an OPS of .932. Lind had 35 home runs and a career high 8.9% walk rate.  In 2010 and 2011, Lind’s OBP was under .300, and was walking at an all time low.  Lind was the worst 1st baseman in 2010-2011 in terms of fWAR.  He was also the only 1B to have a negative value.  Sure, he hit 49 home runs over that time, but he was unable to find a consistent approach at the plate that locked him up as one of the premier young, left-handed bats in the game.  The only reason I can muster is that the front office truly believes he can turn his career back around. (2012 OPS .609). 

Brett Lawrie burst onto the scene last year with an OPS of .953 in 43 games.  As a 21-year-old.  So far, the hype that was laid upon him by Blue Jays fans hasn’t been justified.  He is hitting .287 with only 3 home runs and 1 double.  This is still a pretty small sample size, so it could go either way. 

So far this year, Edwin Encarnacion is making a case that he can be the big impact the Blue Jays need.  He currently has 8 home runs, and a 1.048 OPS.  But that was expected by the Jays front office.  Anthopoulos has been on record as saying Encarnacion could be a 30-40 home run hitter year in and year out. 

The Blue Jays farm system is littered with some high quality prospects, namely top catcher Travis d’Arnaud, speedy center fielder Anthony Gose and glove-first shortstop Adeiny Hechevarria. None of those three projects to be a middle of the order impact type bat.  So, do the Jays need an impact bat? My answer is yes.

The rotation is an entirely different story.  Ricky Romero has proven himself for three years that he can succeed in the AL East.  Brandon Morrow has struggled as a starter, but has the stuff that scouts and GMs drool over.  He could be a potential ace, and so far this year, has taken a big step towards reaching that goal.  Kyle Drabek was the highly touted pitcher the Blue Jays received in trading the best pitcher in Blue Jays history, Roy Halladay (along with Travis d’Arnaud, and indirectly, Anthony Gose).  Last year, Drabek battled control and maturity issues, and was thought of as a bust.  This year, as a 24-year-old he will be counted on to give big innings to the ball club.  So far, he has been pretty good, going 2-2 with a 2.40 ERA over 30 innings in his first 5 starts. 

Behind Drabek is Henderson Alvarez, who just turned 22.  He boasts a fastball that can get up to 97 mph, but his best pitch is a devastating sinker at 93 mph. Alvarez’s problem is that he doesn’t seem to be able to miss bats.  In 95 innings in his MLB career, he has only 49 strikeouts.  This season he has 9 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings pitched. This is due to the lack of a breaking ball. He gets a ton of ground balls, and has a career 3.56 ERA, so as his slider develops, you could see him blossom into a solid pitcher. 

Behind him as another baby, Drew Hutchison, who has been much hyped by Anthopoulos for the last 5 months.  He is 21 years old, and while he has good fastball command, his secondary stuff lacks at this point in his career.  Hutchison looks like a future #3 starter who can eat a lot of innings. 

The Blue Jays also have prospects Deck McGuire, Chad Jenkins, Noah Syndergard, Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris and Justin Nicolino waiting in the wings.  Do they need an arm to complement their rotation as it stands? My answer is no.

***Today’s feature was prepared by Rob Bland, MLB reports Baseball Writer.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Blandy on Twitter***


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About lorimartinibelieves

Songwriter/Screenwriter/Actor/Mets fan for life. Writer of BELIEVE that was NY Mets 2B Justin Turner's Walkup Song of 2011.

Posted on May 2, 2012, in MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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