A brief look at an out of division opponent we'll be playing this weekend.
Dates we play them: 4/24-4/26 at home, 5/15-5/18 @ Toronto
Offense: A potential lineup: Marco Scutaro-SS, Aaron Hill-2B, Alex Rios-RF, Vernon Wells-CF, Adam Lind-DH, Scott Rolen-3B, Lyle Overbay-1B, Rod Barajas-C, Travis Snider-LF Bench Players: Jose Bautista-UTIL, Kevin Millar-UTIL, John McDonald-SS
By some feat of magic, the Blue Jays are actually producing runs this year. After ranking 11th in runs scored in the AL last season, the Jays sit second after this first month. A huge part of that is Marco Scutaro. Scutaro will continue to bat leadoff until he begins to remember he is Marco Scutaro and reverts to his career 88 OPS+. Regardless, the fans seem to love him as fans in adjacent sections at the Rogers Centre will shout MARCO and SCUTARO back and forth. I wish we had something like that. Aaron Hill has made Toronto fans forget all about White Sox lifer Orlando Hudson and is reminding some Canadians of former Sox two-time-trade-target Roberto "I Spit on You" Alomar, all while sharing a name with my Math 234 tutor from freshman year. Hill plays a solid-but-unspectacular second and hits about league average. He won't maintain his torrid current pace, but he should be better than he was last year. Alex Rios is the Jays current franchise player. He'll be 28 this season, so don't expect to see him be very much more than he currently is. But seeing as he is currently pretty good. The only knock on Alex is his maddening inability to use all of his tools in tandem. In 2007 he seemed to cashing in his speed for more power (24 HR, 17 SB), only to reverse that in 2008 (15 HR, 32 SB). Injuries and age are seemingly starting to catch up with Vernon Wells, who is slowly fading away from the amazing centerfielder I used to imagine KW would find a way to steal from our neighbors to the North. Wells hitting hasn't fallen off that much, but his defense and speed are quickly leaving him, slashing his value drastically.
Adam Lind has made the jump from highly-touted outfield prospect to solid-hitting DH. He's pretty bad in the field, but his bat should play well-enough to keep him in the lineup. Continuing the common theme of this piece though, don't expect him to maintain his hot start, but don't expect him to fall nearly as far as Scutaro is going to. Scott Rolen will most likely continue his downward trek towards inevitable retirement. His power seems to have left him and his glove will most likely be next. Anything over 100 games from him should be viewed as a positive by the Jays. Lyle Overbay is another Jays hitter who is quickly becoming a spectre of his past self, only his cieling was never as high as the others. While Lyle probably has a few more useful seasons out of the sun left in him, he's more of a player that should be on a contender with few flaws, which the Blue Jays simply aren't. Rod Barajas is keeping home plate warm for J.P. Arencibia. Travis Snider rounds out the lineup. Snider was named the Blue Jays top prospect and the number six overall by Baseball America this pre-season. Snider represents the best-hitting prospect in terms of power and average that the Blue Jays have to offer. At age 21, Snider gives Toronto a legitimate RotY candidate and should quickly become a cornerstone of the team's linup for years to come.
Pitching: A potential rotation and closer: Roy Halladay-RHP, David Purcey-LHP, Ricky Romero-LHP, Scott Richmond-RHP, Brian Tallet-RHP, B.J. Ryan-LHP
Roy Halladay is, in my humble opinion, the best right-handed starter in baseball. I give him the nod over Lincecum because I know Roy isn't going to fall apart. I honestly hate it when the Sox face Doc, because he is merciless on the mound. Doc is the closest thing we have to the pitchers of Wu and Chi's glory days when it comes to innings pitched and complete games. David Purcey was the Jay's first pick in 2004 and is in his first full major league season in the rotation. I don't know much about him other than he is left-handed and thrives on his fastball and slider (93.% of his pitches are these two). Ricky Romero has been pretty well-known despite the fact that this is his rookie season. Romero has the bad fortune of being the man J.P. Ricciardi passed on Troy Tulowitzki for in the 2005 draft. Romero has pitched well so far, but was just place on the disabled list. He could single-handedly save J.P., who may be on the way out soon after years of mediocrity. I really wish I had heard of the other guys in this rotation. Richmond projects as a solid-but-unspectacular starter. Everything I've read pointed to Tallet being a relief pitcher, but with all the starters seeming to head for the DL, the Jays site's depth chart argues otherwise. He's a tall lefty with a slow fastball who just learned the cutter. In other words, he will destroy us. B.J. Ryan is the oft-injured closer, who is on the DL yet again. His frequent injuries have made him the most over-priced B.J. in the history of Canada. I couldn't not use that. Scott Downs will most likely be replacing him.
Outlook: Honestly, I have no idea what to expect from Toronto this year. I figured they'd pretty much be the same as always, merely existing, but they've come out of the gates looking like they might actually be able to do something if every pitcher on their staff could stop dropping like characters in an Agatha Christie novel. Since I feel semi-obligated to take a stab at it, I say we take four of the seven we play against them this season. Here's to mediocrity.