BY CLAYTON RICHER – FAN FUEL BLOGGER
Now that the Toronto Blue Jays injury plagued ship has sailed for the 2012 baseball season, I figured I would take a look at the positional needs moving forward into 2013.
It appears the biggest question mark and area for improvement is the Blue Jays starting rotation that was continually decimated by injuries. The Jays will need staff ace Ricky Romero to regain his confidence and regain his ability to throw strikes if the Jays are going to be beasts in the east.
Brandon Morrow was on pace to take over the helm as the staff ace when he suffered a nagging left oblique strain that left him shelved him for over two months. At the time of the injury, Morrow was 7-4 with a 3.01 era. He had started 13 contests before the injury with eight of those starts being deemed quality starts. Morrow has had a successful rehab stint and appears poised to rejoin the Jays starting five later this week. Hopefully he can use the next 6 weeks of the season as a platform to get a few starts under his belt moving forward to 2013.
After Romero and Morrow the starting five looks grim and this will be the main focus of Alex Anthopoulos during the off season. Question marks now surround the likes of Henderson Alvarez who appears to have worn down over the grind of the summer. Alvarez’s stat line looks anything but promising and appears to have been exposed to opposing hitters. The native of Venezuela has compiled a 7-11 record with an era of 4.84 allowing 22 home runs and 79 earned runs in 147 innings. Discussions have even arisen that Alvarez may be better suited for a role in the bullpen.
The four and five spots in the rotation once belonged to promising rookies Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek, but both suffered season ending injuries and do not appear in the picture for the 2013 season due their respective injuries.
Anthopoulos and company will have to decide whether the newly acquired J.A. Happ has a future in the rotation or if the Jays will dip into the free agent market and try to reel in a big name hurler like Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum or even the oft injured Brandon McCarthy to shore up the depleted staff.
Due to rash of injuries, the Blue Jays have deployed nine players who have made their Major League debut this season. The likes of Moses Sierra, Anthony Gose, Adeiny Hechavarria, Yan Gomes, Drew Hutchison, Chad Jenkins, Sam Dyson, Aaron Loup and Evan Crawford have all made their respective MLB debuts this season. The Jays have utilized a franchise record 32 pitchers to date and 51 different players have suited up for the Jays this season.
Stepping aside from the starting rotation, the bullpen appears to be in good standing order with the return of Sergio Santos, the emergence of Casey Janssen, and the acquisitions of Brad Lincoln and strike out machine Steve Delabar. If the Jays can convince Darren Oliver to lace up the spikes for one more year and resign Brandon Lyon the pen looks to have good depth and a proven track record.
Last off-season, the Jays failed to address their first base need by sticking with the inconsistent Adam Lind for one more season. It is now evident that Lind is a shell of his former self and will never regain that 30 home run form after being demoted to triple-A earlier in the season. Questions marks about his overall fitness level contributing to his back injury have no doubt soured the Jays management. David Cooper has looked adequate replacing Lind however does not possess the power bat required for first base in the AL East. It appears that Edwin Encarnacion will become the permanent first baseman and the Jays will look to add a power bat to be the designated hitter.
The second base position also needs to be resolved as Kelly Johnson is a free agent at season’s end. Johnson got off to a great start flashing signs of power the first six weeks of the season. However since then he has slumped and at times does appears disinterested. I personally can see Johnson walking at season’s end and Yunel Escobar and defensive whiz Hechavarria manning the middle of the infield.
The hot corner is locked down if the Canuck can stay healthy for an entire season and stop lunging, crashing, jumping, sliding, colliding, falling, and diving into anything solid or that leaves a mark. Brett Lawrie should be poised for a breakout season after a full season of professional baseball under his belt.
The outfield positions are locked down in right field and centre field with Jose Bautista hopefully returning to form after his freak wrist injury suffered after crushing a ball into the seats and the emergence of the Devon White-esque Colby Rasmus. The left field position still raises concern; however the Jays have the pieces in Rajai Davis, Anthony Gose and the offensively minded Moises Sierra to get the job done if Alex decides to stand pat.
The two-year extension for Jeff Mathis last week now solidifies one of the two catcher spots. Travis d’Arnaud is MLB ready and fan favourite JP Arencibia is still in the mix. Mathis looks to be the perfect mentor for d’Arnaud and it doesn’t appear the bat of Arencibia will play at any other position other than behind the dish. Perhaps J.P. gets dangled as trade bait for a starting pitcher during the winter.
As exciting and promising as the Toronto Blue Jays are, there are definitely still some question marks surrounding the Jays roster. One thing for sure is the Jays are close to contending and possess one of the most exciting lineups in baseball when healthy. The Jays saw an increase in attendance this season and the time has come to open up the purse strings now let’s just hope Rogers holds up their end of the deal come the offseason.
Clayton Richer is a baseball writer for Baseball Hot Corner, his interviews and blogs can be found daily at www.baseballhotcorner.com as well you can also follow him on twitter MLBHotCorner
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