Tao of Stieb: Fearless predictions for 2016 Blue Jays

Aaron Sanchez's workload figures to be a story all season long for the Blue Jays. (Chris O'Meara/AP)

When it comes to baseball, predictions are a sucker’s game.

It’s a sport whose defining characteristics are perpetual failure and stupid luck, so it takes a brave and crazy soul to assume the role of soothsayer and attempt to predict outcomes for the season. And yet, as sports fans, we can’t help ourselves from making predictions, or poring over those of others.

It’s like the impulse that makes you skip to the end of a novel and read the last page. Except that when you read that last page without working through the rest of the story, the words seem random and meaningless.

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But since we’ve got hope and enthusiasm spilling out of our ears at this point, why fight the desire to speculate on how the season will roll out? We’ve seen enough seasons roll out to know that there will be some happy times, some angst and some things that could never have been foreseen.

Empowered with that knowledge, here are a few bold, goofy and possibly obvious predictions for the 2016 edition of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Aaron Sanchez will be a starter all year and it will be a big, hairy deal

Sure, the conventional wisdom says that Sanchez ends up in the pen at some point to head off workload growth concerns. Manager John Gibbons even said so rather matter-of-factly. So we’ll be sweating his innings and workload all season. But with more bulk and strength and a delivery that drives to the plate more consistently, Sanchez will be too valuable as a starter to banish to the bullpen.

There will be a significant injury to a key player … and it won’t matter

Injuries are a fact of life in baseball, and if you’ve been fortunate enough to evade them for any amount of time, you know that something’s going to get someone sooner or later. But such is the depth of this year’s roster that the Jays can lose any player – yeah, even that guy who you’re dreading losing – and still manage to press on and be a viable contender for the American League East crown.

The new dirt infield will be a thing

By the time next weekend arrives, our social media feeds will be filled with oohing and aahing at the new piles of dirt and clay at which we’ll stare with love and admiration, and the feeling of relief at not being the last stadium without it. But as with every turf installation, or any other change to the playing surface, there will inevitably be something that happens, or something said that will get repeated ad nauseam and become the defining aspect of this new feature for obvious and sarcastic snarksters.

A sneaky trade will pay big dividends

At some point this season, the Jays will make a trade. It only stands to reason. Given the depth and strength of the current roster, it would seem unlikely that a major deal would shake up the roster. But given some of the underappreciated astute moves made by the new brain trust to fill in around the edges over the winter, here’s guessing that a small move in-season will be underlined at the end of the campaign as contributing to the team’s ultimate success.

The Blue Jays will have four all-stars

And one of them will surprise you.

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Darrell Ceciliani will have a big moment

You can’t keep a good player down (in Buffalo) forever. And at some point, in some game, Ceciliani will come through and make a play or get a hit that saves or wins a game.

There will be an unexpected starter

Today, you could easily count on seven or eight pitchers getting the chance to start a game this season, and not be surprised by their appearance. But at some point this season, someone will take the hill in the first inning for the Jays, and it’s not someone who you’d guess in advance would have the chance. (And no, it’s not Todd Redmond. Again. Although that would be unexpected.)

There will be big crowds … and not everyone will like it

The rush of positivity and warm bodies that filled every seat in the Rogers Centre from August onward was new and novel and thrilling last season. But large crowds from the outset might not have the affirmative enthusiasm, and might begin to cramp the style of the diehards who luxuriated in the half-empty stadium in the fallow years. Longer lines and higher ticket prices through variable pricing and the secondary market will also make some fans grumble, regardless of the success on the field.

It’s gonna be a long season

Because it always is. And it’s going to be glorious.

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