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The Toronto Blue Jays State Of The Union: 2014 Preview

The SkyDome was opened in May of 1989.  For the championship ERA, the club drew 4 Million fans each per year.  In recent years, it was tough for the club to draw 2 Million fans.  In 2013, with the promise of a new club mantra, based on Free Agent signings, the team held the best year to year attendance boost in 2013.  I doubt they will be able to do this again in 2014.

The SkyDome was opened in May of 1989. For the championship ERA, the club drew 4 Million fans each per year. In recent years, it was tough for the club to draw 2 Million fans. In 2013, with the promise of a new club mantra, based on Free Agent signings, the team held the best year to year attendance boost in 2013.  If the Jays can’t spring out of the gate fast in 2014, I think the Walkup single game tickets will be tremendously affected negatively.  Toronto has not made the playoffs since winning back to back World Series in 1992 and 1993, and only them and Kansas City hold that dubious honor since the Player Strike/Lockout ensuing seasons of 1994 – 1995.

By ‘Baseball Writer’ Steve Cheeseman 

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The Toronto Blue Jays have been a franchise in question for over 20 years.  This floundering franchise has gone through 11 manager changes since winning the World Series in 1993 vs. the Philadelphia Phillies. 

2 of those managers in Cito Gaston and John Gibbons have been hired twice! The 2013 season was supposed to be the year the Jays went all the way. 

GM Alex Anthopolous numerous moves acquiring major pieces to what was supposed to be a contending team.

R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio, Maicer Izturis, Mark Buehrle, and Melky Cabrera.  Despite these additions via trade or signing….same story, different season!.

The Blue Jays were the odds on favorite to win the World Series in 2013 among oddsmakers.  The Blue Jays finished last in the AL East with a 74-88 record.  So what are we in for this season?  Let’s take a look. One thing that will not change for this upcoming 2014 season is the fact that they will continue to play out of the AL East division.  This means contending with the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, and the recently Nelson Cruz bolstered Baltimore Orioles.  Toronto’s payroll will never compete with New York or Boston, but they do have some key elements to consider.

The Blue Jays were the odds on favorite to win the World Series in 2013 among oddsmakers. The Blue Jays finished last in the AL East with a 74-88 record. So what are we in for this season? Let’s take a look. One thing that will not change for this upcoming 2014 season is the fact that they will continue to play out of the AL East Division. This means contending with the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, and the recently Nelson Cruz bolstered Baltimore Orioles. TO’s payroll will never compete with New York or Boston, but they do have some key elements to consider.  The average record for all teams in the AL East (when not playing within the division was .565.  The Strength of Schedule is working against them.

Offense

Let’s start with the obvious, RF Jose Bautista.  The heart and soul of this club is healthy and ready to cause fear in the eyes of all pitchers to stare him down when he enters the batter’s box. 

Last season even through injured during the past couple seasons is reportedly in the best shape of his career and “chomping at the bit” to get going. 

Joey Bats along with Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind, Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera, provide plenty of offense in this line-up.

The big question marks will be centered on Brett Lawrie, and Colby Rasmus. Lawrie is a Canadian boy playing in Toronto with a whole country watching him. 

He has good potential, however hasn’t been able to piece together a solid season.  If he is going to break out this upcoming year, he’ll need a lot of patience at the plate to cut down his strikeouts, and wait for his pitch.

Colby Rasmus is a talented outfielder that appeared to finally make that breakout season late season.  After hitting .276 with 22 HR last season. 

We’ll have to wait and see if he can follow up with more of the same.

Jose Bautista must stay on the field the entire season if the Canadian franchise has any hopes of playoffs.  Joey Bats should be capable of clubbing between 35 - 40 HRs in 2014.  Whether the skipper bats him 2nd, 3rd or 4th in the lineup still remains to be seen.  Bautista  features a 3 Slash of .261/.381/.542 during his 5+ seasons tenure with Toronto.

Jose Bautista must stay on the field the entire season if the Canadian franchise has any hopes of playoffs. Joey Bats should be capable of clubbing between 35 – 40 HRs in 2014. Whether the skipper bats him 2nd, 3rd or 4th in the lineup still remains to be seen. Bautista features a 3 Slash of .261/.381/.542 during his 5+ seasons tenure with Toronto.

Defense

A difference between the starting line-up this season than last season is behind the plate.  Gone is J.P. Arencibia, and in comes Dioner Navarro

Although not the best defensive catcher in the business, he is a definite improvement from last season.

With no upgrade at 2B, the job appears to be Ryan Goins to lose.  Last season, he did a pretty good job filling in the middle infield; however he has yet to be tested for a full season. 

One thing I hope he has done in the off season is made improvement to his arm strength and range in the field. The rest of the field looks the same as the start to last season. 

Edwin Encarnacion, and Adam Lind will most certainly split time between DH and 1B.   Jose Reyes will anchor the infield at SS with Brett Lawrie at 3B. 

In the outfield will be Melky Cabrera in LF, the soft hands of Colby Rasmus in CF, and Jose Bautista with the cannon of an arm in RF.

Dickey is not the same pitcher he was with the Mets a season ago. He had a 2.73 ERA in 233.7 innings pitched with 230 strike outs and a 1.05 WHIP. He was third in WAR for pitchers, with it at 5.8. Last  year for Toronto he had a 4.23 ERA in 224.2 IP with a WHIP of 1.237.  Dickey was still a workhorse, manning an AL Leading 34 Game Starts.  As an aging knuckleballer, you hope for a little bit over a .500 Record, a nice Innings total, and an ERA near the 4 mark this year

Dickey is not the same pitcher he was with the Mets a season ago. He had a 2.73 ERA in 233.7 innings pitched with 230 strike outs and a 1.05 WHIP. He was third in WAR for pitchers, with it at 5.8. Last year for Toronto he had a 4.23 ERA in 224.2 IP with a WHIP of 1.237. Dickey was still a workhorse, manning an AL Leading 34 Game Starts. As an aging knuckleballer, you hope for a little bit over a .500 Record, a nice Innings total, and an ERA near the 4 mark this year.  Dickey can really mess up an opposing teams lineup for the next few games in the series, so will be important for guys to throw well after him.

Pitching

The starting pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays will continue to be the question for the season. 

R.A. Dickey will once again be the opening day starter come opening day, followed by Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow, J.A. Happ, and a fifth starter which could be anyone. 

From Ricky Romero, and Kyle Drabek, to Drew Hutchinson, or Dustin McGowan, it’s there for the taking.  However, I am predicting Hutchinson will get the call for this spot.   

One up and coming pitcher to watch will be prospect Marcus Stroman, however will likely start the season in AAA Buffalo.

With the injuries last season, only Dickey and Buehrle made 20+ starts.  That number among the rest will certainly have to improve.

Casey Janssen had a great year in 2012 when he assumed the closers role.  He had a 2.54 ERA, 25 Saves, SO 67 in 63.2 IP and had a WHIP of 0.864.  2013 produced a career high in Saves with 34, an ERA of 2.56 and another great WHIP of .987.  At 32, Janssen is in the last year of his deal.   Look for another solid season.  If Toronto is not in contention near the Trade Deadline, look for the 7 Year Veteran to be traded.

Casey Janssen had a great year in 2012 when he assumed the closers role. He had a 2.54 ERA, 25 Saves, SO 67 in 63.2 IP and had a WHIP of 0.864. 2013 produced a career high in Saves with 34, an ERA of 2.56 and another great WHIP of .987. At 32, Janssen is in the last year of his deal. Look for another solid season. If Toronto is not in contention near the Trade Deadline, look for the 7 Year Veteran to be traded.

The relievers for the Toronto Blue Jays did a good job last season.  Especially from All-Stars Steve Delabar, and Brett Cecil.  Closer Casey Janssen will once again be depended on to close out games. 

With Aaron Loup, Neil Wagner, and a healthy Sergio Santos should provide a pretty dependable bullpen. 

Also, keep a watch for veteran Todd Richmond, who would provide solid inning eating pitching when required.  But then again, how about Esmil Rogers or Luis Perez?

Bench Players

Guys typically riding pine are more important than the average fan give credit for. 

Whether it’s filling in for an injured or resting player, or a little extra speed needed on the bases, keep an eye out for speedsters coming into the game for Toronto in 2014.

Outfield

Anthony Gose, Kevin Pillar, or Moises Sierra.  Seeing that Sierra is out of minor league options and Gose is not, look for Moises to start the season with the big club.

Infield

Maicer Izturis, Chris Getz, Munenori Kawasaki will be the players on the bubble to start the season in Toronto. 

Seeing as Getz and Kawasaki are signed to minor league deals, I predict Izturis will get the job.

Catcher

When last season ended , the backup catcher role seemed to be locked up for Josh Thole, however since the trade for Eric Kratz for Brad Lincoln, people are starting to lean toward Kratz, which is fine but, can he catch a knuckleball?

Overall for this season, I am extremely surprised in the lack of progress in gaining another solid pitcher for the starting rotation, however, maybe it’s like they say,  these things happen for a reason.

Predictions are easy to make, however getting them right is what’s difficult.  As a sports writer I have to take a crack at it.  So as of now, here is how I see the opening day line-up for the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays:

Brett Lawrie looked like he was finally maturing during the latter portion of the 2013 campaign.  This guy has immense talent on offense and defense.  If he could harness his arsenal of intensity. the Jays will add another key component to a good offense.

Brett Lawrie looked like he was finally maturing during the latter portion of the 2013 campaign. This guy has immense talent on offense and defense. If he could harness his arsenal of intensity. the Jays will add another key component to a good offense.

Line-up Predictions

SS     Jose Reyes  .290/.350/.435, with 30 SB and 95 Runs
RF     Jose Bautista .260/.360/.525, with 41 HRs 101 RBI
DH     Edwin Encarnacion .275/.375/.520, with 35 HRs and 99 RBI

1B     Adam Lind .270/.340/.450, with 25 HRs 83 RBI

3B     Brett Lawrie .290./340/.445, with 20 HRs 77 RBI
CF     Colby Rasmus  .252/.325/.450, with 24 HRs, 70 RBI

LF     Melky Cabrera .285/.320/.390, with 175 Hits
C      Dioner Navarro .255/.310/.390, with 15 HRs 55 RBI
2B    Ryan Goins .240/.270/.340

The team should club well over the 200 HR barrier, which should help keep them win some games.

Rotation Prediction

R.A. Dickey: 14 – 10, 4.05 ERA
Mark Buerhle:  13 – 11. 4.20 ERA
Brandon Morrow: 11 – 9, 4.25 ERA
J.A. Happ: 9 – 12, 4.67 ERA
Drew Hutchinson: 7 – 7, 4.55 ERA

All in all, if the Toronto Blue Jays remain healthy, they should be able to complete in the American League, and more specifically the AL East, which is by far the toughest division in all on baseball. 

Last season with the numerous injuries to Jose Bautista, R.A. Dickey, and Jose Reyes to name a few definitely crushed a potentially glorious season. 

However, should everything remain intact for 2014, who knows, maybe they can reach the promised land after all.
Are Blue Jay fans in for a season to remember, or another season to once again try to forget?

Toronto will win between 80 – 85 games this year, likely not enough for a Post Season Berth, yet much better than 2013.

Alex Anthopoulos can't afford to have another season like the 2013 campaign.  The Blue Jays must improve from what they did last season.  Would a mid 80's win team save his job.  Maybe not, but it might be all of the club is capable of.  You have several guys who could have breakout years with Rasmus and Lind, while Encarnacion, Reyes, and Bautista could be making trips to the ALL - Star Game this year.  John Gibbons will need to work his Bullpen magic for this year to go down smooth.

Alex Anthopoulos can’t afford to have another season like the 2013 campaign. The Blue Jays must improve from what they did last season. Would a mid 80’s win team save his job. Maybe not, but it might be all of the club is capable of. You have several guys who could have breakout years with Rasmus and Lind, while Encarnacion, Reyes, and Bautista could be making trips to the ALL – Star Game this year. John Gibbons will once again need to work his Bullpen magic for this year to go down smooth.

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com and their partners***

For all of the Rosters, Depth Charts, State of the Unions and Salaries Posts that we do, please visit our dedicated page link here.

A big thank-you goes out to our ‘Special Guest Writer’ Steve Cheeseman for preparing today’s featured article.

Steve was born and raised in Marystown, Newfoundland  – and has been an avid sports enthusiast his entire life.  He loves hockey, baseball, and soccer, and continues to play in local leagues where he lives.   

However baseball will always be Steve’s favorite sport.   He moved to Ontario, Canada in 2001, and currently lives in the nation’s capital of Ottawa with his wife and daughter.

Steve currently writes, blogs, and freelances for several sporting sites.  Contact him at any time (365southpaw@gmail.com).  

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Posted on March 7, 2014, in MLB Teams State Of the Unions and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on The Toronto Blue Jays State Of The Union: 2014 Preview.

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