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We've been had: a Toronto Blue Jays preview

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A quick brush up on our neighbors to the north that you don't even need a passport to read.

First they steal Frank, now Mark. So I guess they'll have Paulie in a few years.
First they steal Frank, now Mark. So I guess they'll have Paulie in a few years.

Offense: Emilio Bonifacio-2B, Melky Cabrera-LF, Jose Bautista-RF, Edwin Encarnacion-1B, Adam Lind-DH, J.P. Arencibia-C, Colby Rasmus-CF, Mark DeRosa-3B, Maicer Izturis-SS. Bench: Henry Blanco-C, Munenori Kawasaki-INF, Rajai Davis-OF, Casper Wells-OF.

TOR R/G: 4.09. CHW R/G: 3.55.

So losing Jose Reyes and Brett Lawrie to start the season off isn't exactly what the Blue Jays were hoping for, but here they are. This has resulted in some interesting roster moves, as backups have been thrust into starting roles, my favorite of which is Emilio Bonifacio. Mr. Goodface came over in the big trade with the Marlins this winter. He's more of a utility man than a true second baseman, so his defense at the keystone is somewhat lacking. His main tool is his speed and he is quite the demon on the basepaths. You'd expect him to hit for a bit higher of an average, but nope! Melky Cabrera's suspension allowed the Jays to sign him at a discounted rate. The Melkman should be more like his 2011 self than last year's model, partially due to no more supplements and the impossibility of maintaining a .379 BABIP. He'll hit near .300 with a 15-15 season and hopefully no more brush ins with the disciplinary department.

Jose Bautista was busy being Jose Bautista last summer until his wrist betrayed him, as wrists are wont to do. They're the least trustworthy of all body joints, the anti-ankle if you will. He's still a masher with a good eye and it seems like he's finally gotten the hang of playing right field. His fellow reformed journeyman Edwin Encarnacion finally put together a great season last year, hitting 42 homeruns. He was never exactly a bad hitter, but something finally just clicked and now the Jays have two of the premier power hitters in the league. He's not a very good first baseman, but he's better at it than Adam Lind is, so Lind has to DH. And it just kind of feels unfair to give Lind a job that has the word "hitter" in the title. The last time he was actually a hitter of anything worth talking about was 2009. Think back to the person you were back then. Have you grown and changed? Adam Lind has. For the worse. Now that I've said that, he'll go off for like half a dozen homeruns agains. You are welcome, Mr. Lind.

J.P. Arencibia was given the vote of confidence this winter when Alex Anthopoulos shipped Travis d'Arnaud off to the Mets for R.A. Dickey. This team has too many players with initials for first names. J.P. does one thing well and that thing is hit dingers. He strikes out five times for every walk he takes, which is borderline astonishing to me. He's okay at throwing out thieves, but not much else. You can read more about him here. So it looks like Colby Rasmus is never going to develop into the player everyone other than Tony La Russa thought he would. So that's one thing Tony was right about. We will give him no more credit. He's currently hitting like it's 2010 again, but it's only been two weeks so be wary. He's all but abandoned the base-stealing aspect of his game, but having a center fielder with 20+ homerun power is always nice. That being said, he could stand to improve defensively.

Mark DeRosa is still in the majors. This isn't nearly as surprising as Oliver Perez still being around, but still kind of weird. Once Lawrie comes off the DL, DeRosa will go back to just kind of hanging out on the bench, but until that day oh boy! Did you know he only played for the Cubs for two seasons? Felt like longer than that. Am I struggling to fill this space with more words about Mark DeRosa? You bet your ass I am. Which brings us to Maicer Izturis, a man I hate for reasons I no longer entirely remember. I think it had something to do with his weird name. Back to the point: there's nothing wrong with having a Maicer Izturis on your roster. He's quick, he can play multiple positions well, and won't embarrass you at the plate.

Pitching: R.A. Dickey-RHP, Brandon Morrow-RHP, Mark Buehrle-LHP, Josh Johnson-RHP, J.A. Happ-LHP, Casey Janssen-CL.

TOR RA/G: 5.82. CHW RA/G: 4.45.

While they offense could have used some improvement from last year, the main thing Toronto needed to improve upon was their rotation. And that is exactly what they did via two trades. I miss the good old days when one could call R.A. Dickey by his given name of "Runs Allowed", but he had to go and learn how to do this and spoil all our fun. Kunckleballers are good for baseball and I'm pretty excited we get to watch him pitch Thursday. Despite throwing a pitch that is notoriously hard to locate or control, Dickey only walked 2.08 hitters per nine last season while striking out 8.86. He's had a couple rough outings since rejoining the American League but should turn things around before too long. When not throwing his mid-70s knuckler, Dickey tosses a low-80s fastball to keep hitters confused. I think I like Brandon Morrow because he's who the (at the time) infallible Seattle Mariners traded to Toronto for Brandon League. If it feels to you like there were a few years when the Mariners were only making trades they wound up losing, then you're a pretty smart fellow (or lady, not being sexist). The M's were worried his diabetes would be too hard to manage as a starting pitcher because modern medicine apparently has yet to reach the Pacific Northwest. Though last year may have marked a change in the trend, Morrow's calling card has been high strikeout and walk rates due to electric stuff without much control, much like someone trying to play as Blanka without knowing what they're doing. Morrow throws a four-seamer in the mid-90s, a cutter, a splitter and a slider. He's the starting pitcher we miss this week.

I never wrote much about Mark Buehrle because I'm the opponent previews guy, but I'll admit it's kind of odd writing about him in here when his visage adorns my walls and I own multiple jerseys of his. But time moves us forward and when you chase the almighty dollar you ultimately wind up in Canada less happy than you would have been if you just stayed home. And that will be my only jab at Canada. Mark had a typical season for him last year, being worth 3.5 bWAR and winning a Gold Glove. Ho hum, just being Mark Buehrle. As Jim mentioned, the injuries to the starting infielders is going to make life a little more miserable for Mark because no one should rely on ancient Mark DeRosa to play behind them. Much like Dickey, he's off to a rough start that should fix itself soon enough. His fastball still sits in the mid-80s and he mixes it up with a cutter, a changeup, and a curveball. Josh Johnson was the staff ace of the Marlins. He's the fourth starter in Toronto. When he stays healthy, he's a monster but he's only managed to crack the 200 innings barrier once. Johnson is a groundballer who gets more than his share of strikeouts without giving up many homeruns though it will be interesting to see how that changes now that he's out of the cavernous Miami ballparks. Bad news for Josh is that his fastball's velocity continues to trend in the wrong direction. It now sits in the low-90s, down from the mid-90s. He also uses a slider, a curveball, and a changeup.

J.A. Happ pronounces his name as "Jay", which makes absolutely no sense. Then again, when you're the Joe Blanton of your team's rotation, I guess you get to do whatever you want to get some attention. Happ's a good enough fifth starter, but his ceiling is no higher than fourth. He struggles with his control and tends to give up a good amount of homeruns. The lefty's fastball sits in the low-90s and sinks. He also has a changeup a cutter and a curveball. Casey Janssen is quietly becoming one of the better underrated closers in baseball. His fastball only tops out in the low-90s, but his curveball is fantastic and his cutter is fairly solid as well.

Outlook: Until last season, the Blue Jays had been to us what we are to the Mariners. It had been most unpleasant. Toronto improved upon last season with an interesting winter, though the injury bug still remains. Blue Jays take the season series 4-3.