After an off-season of aggressive moves by general manager Alex Anthopoulos, the Toronto Blue Jays look like a much different team. With newcomers R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera on the roster, most expect the Blue Jays to contend for a postseason berth in the American League.
Many are even predicting a return to the playoffs for the first time since 1993.
The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees aren’t the powerhouse teams they once were, but the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles each won 90-plus games in 2012. They can’t be dismissed entering the 2013 season. With opening day approaching quickly, experts across the continent are issuing predictions and projections for the upcoming season.
Here’s what they’re saying about the Blue Jays. A warning — if you’re a Blue Jays fan who believes in the power of jinxes, you should probably stop reading now…
A total of 43 experts weighed in from ESPN.com and 20 of them predict the Blue Jays will win the AL East. Another 12 expect a Wild Card berth for Toronto, which means approximately three quarters of those surveyed expect the team’s playoff drought to end. Four ESPN writers predict a World Series appearance for the Blue Jays, but just one expects a championship for Toronto.
ESPN Insider Dan Szymborski projects the Blue Jays as the top team in the division. The projections guru suggests the team even has a shot at 98 wins, if "Jose Reyes thrives in a triple-happy park and logs a career-best 130 runs, Jose Bautista returns from wrist surgery to hit 50 homers and win the MVP, new ace R.A. Dickey again wins 20, and fellow newcomer Mark Buehrle produces a double-digit win total for the 13th straight season." Okay, that's a lot of 'ifs.'
Szymborski’s colleague Keith Law isn’t completely sold on the Blue Jays. Law, a former member of Toronto’s front office, writes that the Blue Jays rank second in the division behind the Rays. “The Toronto Blue Jays made headlines this winter, mostly for the right reasons, but their lack of depth behind the shiny front line of recognizable stars has already been slightly exposed with the demotion of Ricky Romero.”
Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports believes Toronto can contend in 2013. "The Blue Jays will be as good as advertised — or very close to it — as long as they resolve their lingering bullpen questions," Morosi writes. He goes on to suggest that the lineup will overwhelm the opposition and that Josh Johnson will be the staff ace.
Six CBS Sports analysts weighed in on the upcoming season, and none of them expect the Blue Jays to finish worse than second. Four of the CBS writers expect the Blue Jays to claim the division title and the two others view Toronto as a Wild Card team. No one from CBS predicted a World Series appearance for the Jays, however.
Six of seven Sports Illustrated writers predict the Blue Jays will make the playoffs, with Jay Jaffe, Cliff Corcoran and Joe Sheehan predicting an AL East title for Toronto and Tom Verducci, Joe Lemire and Ben Reiter predicting Wild Card berths.
Richard Justice of MLB.com explains why he views the Blue Jays as pre-season favourites in the AL East:
“Yes, they're back. First-rate rotation. Powerful lineup. Popular manager back in the saddle. About the only question is the bullpen, but the Blue Jays are so good in every other area that the pieces seem likely to fit together.”
Jonathan Bernhardt of Sports on Earth picks the Blue Jays to win the AL East, and it's not just because of their new-look rotation. "Following the two blockbuster trades this offseason with the Marlins and the Mets, however, the Jays have the most potent offense in the division," Bernhardt writes.
Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports predicts a first place finish in the AL East, because they need fewer things to break right than their division rivals: “The Blue Jays can win this division because they got a lot better over the winter. But they can also win this division because no one else did, and because anyone can win this division.”