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The CN Tower Belongs to the Dead: A Toronto Blue Jays Preview

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A brief look at an opponent we play this week.

Dates we play them: 4/12-4/15 @ Toronto, 5/6-5/9 at home

Offense: A potential lineup: Jose Bautista-RF, Aaron Hill-2B, Adam Lind-DH, Vernon Wells-CF, Lyle Overbay-1B, John Buck-C, Edwin Encarnacion-3B, Alex Gonzalez-SS, Travis Snider-LF.  Bench: Mike McCoy-INF, John McDonald-INF, Jose Molina-C.

This lineup feels like a mixture of some young guys with promise and a bunch of guys you may not have realized are still in baseball.  Alex Anthopoulos has a lot of work ahead of him and has already been aggressive, shipping out Roy Halladay and Michael Taylor.  Good luck Alex, I would love to see Toronto be relevant again.  And go back to the awesome jerseys.  Having Jose Bautista as your starting right fielder is never a good thing.  I can't imagine how having him bat leadoff for your team must feel.  His bat is mediocre at best and he has average wheels, so I have no clue what Cito Gaston is thinking.  He should be batting ninth.  His defense is slightly above-average however, so he's not a complete waste.  Aaron Hill is currently listed as day-to-day with a bum hamstring, but I expect him to come back and play us because pessimism rules.  Hill is coming off a monster year (36 homers) that he most likely won't match.  I do think he'll be a 20 homerun guy, but combined with his average on-base percentage (.336 career) and downward trending defense, his ceiling seems to be 4 WAR with a floor of 2.5.  Still pretty productive.  Adam Lind is awesome.  The kid can absolutely mash as evidenced by his .932 OPS and 35 homers in his first full season.  He has double sun power (don't expect me to stop referencing these ads any time soon).  He cannot play defense so he's already been relegated to DH duty, but he could wind up being the most productive DH in the majors this season.  And he'll be a Northerner for quite some time at a very team-friendly price.  Vernon Wells is off to one hell of a start this year.  The man with one of the worst contracts in baseball (I maintain that Alfonso Soriano's is worse) is trying to reestablish his worth.  He won't completely.  His once amazing defense has crapped out and he's never been able to get on-base at too hot of a rate (.330 career).  If he can maintain the hot streak, maybe Toronto can get rid of him at the deadline but they will be paying almost all of his contract for whatever team takes him.  Plus his website isn't nearly as much fun as Gregg Zaun's.

Lyle Overbay very quietly had a nice season last year (122 OPS+).  The lefty will never top 20 homers again, but gets on base and hits enough doubles for it to not really matter.  When the Jays are out of it by the trade deadline, don't be shocked to see Overbay shipped out.  There really is no reason for the Jays to keep him (or Aaron Hill for that matter, but whatever).  John Buck is finally free from Kansas City, where he was never going to be able to live up to the pressure that came with being part of the Carlos Beltran trade.  Man, that was an unimpressive haul for the Royals.  How depressing must it have been to lose the best non-Mike Sweeney hitter for John Buck, Mike Wood, and Mark Teahen?  Buck doesn't throw runners out anymore or get on base, but he does have enough pop in his bat to net a double digit homerun total.  Edwin Encarnacion is another disappointment.  His .807 OPS in 2008 showed some promise, but it's beginning to look like an apparition.   He came to the Jays last year in the Scott Rolen trade and then promptly tried to blow his own face up this off-season.  And he's horrible defensively.  Alex Gonzalez?  Really?  I keep waiting for the day when I can stop writing about this guy, but it never comes.  Somehow he already has four homeruns this year, which is exactly half of his output from last season.  An OPS past .720 would be a miracle.  He still plays above-average defense though and as long as he does that he'll keep finding work, especially with the new focus on defense that teams are taking.  He's another candidate for a mid-season trade to a contender. Travis Snider is the future of the Blue Jays.  He's only 22 and could easily hit over 20 homeruns this year.  His main problem is that he currently strike out entirely too much (32.5% of the time).  This should change as he ages, but until it does he will be stuck at the bottom of this otherwise mediocre batting order.

Pitching: A potential rotation and closer: Shaun Marcum-RHP, Brian Tallet-LHP, Ricky Romero-LHP, Brandon Morrow-RHP, Dana Eveland-LHP, and Jason Frasor-RHP.

Meet Shaun Marcum, the first opening pitcher not named Roy Halladay for Toronto since 2002.  Marcum was good in his 151.1 innings in 2008 (125 ERA+) before needing Tommy John surgery.  He has slightly above-average control and gets his fair share of strikeouts.  This is his first season back from the injury.  He is a soft-tossing righty with five pitches, the best of which is his changeup.  If he can stay healthy, he could be a good pitcher.  When I wrote about Brian Tallet last year, there wasn't much to go on but he seemed like the type of pitcher who just owns us.  I was right.  He walks far too many guys to be truly successful.  He throws a fastball, slider, changeup, and cutter.  The slider and changeup are his best, and he is wisely throwing his fastball less so far this year.  Ricky Romero is the unlucky man to have been drafted in between Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki in the vaunted 2005 draft.  He made his major league debut and posted an average season over 178 innings.  The projection systems don't predict much improvement, and unless he cuts back on the walks they're probably right.  He throws He throws a low-90s fastball, cutter, curveball, changeup, and slider.  Last year only the curve and change were good, but he also didn't have the cutter so this season could be different.  Brandon Morrow is no longer in Seattle and is no longer a relief pitcher, diabetes be damned!  As long as this doesn't result in extreme health issues for him, I like it.  I prefer him as a starter than a closer.  Just like the rest of the rotation not sharing a first name with my favorite detective, he has control issues.  Unlike the rest of them however, he actually has a mid-90s fastball.  He also has a slider, curveball, and changeup that have all been plus pitches in the past.  His future is hard to predict, but with a little bit of seasoning and some luck he could become the best pitcher in this rotation.  Dana Eveland is a pretty "meh" pitcher, so here's a picture of him in a dress.  Eveland was originally a part of the Dan Haren trade between Oakland and Arizona, but was sent to Toronto after being wholly ineffective by the bay last season.  He's an innings eater at best, so there really isn't much to hope for.  He throws five pitches, and none impressively.  Jason Frasor, like some closers, comes into nu metal (wikipedia's term for Nickelback).  But if what the internet is true and that he occasionally comes out of the bullpen to this, I may have a new favorite closer.  Jason mainly uses a low-90s fastball, complemented by a slider and a splitter.  The Chicago native has had great success with the fastball in the past, and I don't really expect that to change.  Scott Downs and Kevin Gregg are waiting in the wings should Frasor collapse though.

Outlook: While the Blue Jays are likely to finish last in the AL East this season, we can't overlook them.  This is partly because we suck in the Rogers Centre and partly because they seem to have hit the ground running this year.  I'm thinking 1-3 in Canada, followed by a split series when they come back to the U.S.A.  For those with bad math skills, that adds up to a 3-5 record against the bluebirds.  Be sure to check out Bluebird Banter, as I've always enjoyed Tom and Hugo's work.  The next four games may not be fun to watch for us, so I leave you with this.