The Blue Jays enter the season in a quite different light than they have entered any season for the past decade-plus: They are in the spotlight. No team garnered as many headlines as the Blue Jays in the offseason, as they went out and added Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Melky Cabrera, R.A. Dickey and more. Will this be enough to make a 73-89 team into a contender? Absolutely, because we must consider how much injuries ravaged the Jays last season. They used 12 different starting pitchers, Jose Bautista was held to 92 games and Brett Lawrie was held to 125. Also, there is expected improvement from some younger players like Lawrie and Colby Rasmus, in addition to a bounce-back season from former ace Ricky Romero.
Remember when the Blue Jays signed Maicer Izturis? Maybe not, since they have made two blockbuster trades since then, but Izturis could serve as a backup at second base, shortstop and third base while being fully capable of starting several times a week. He has a career .337 on-base percentage, good speed (17 steals in 19 attempts last season) and is a capable defender. That's a pretty good player to have around as an insurance policy at three different positions, especially since the Blue Jays had such major injury woes last season.
Fantasy sleeper: Casey Janssen
"A limited number of saves caused Janssen's breakthrough to go by the wayside last year. But while Craig Kimbrel, Fernando Rodney and Aroldis Chapman made history with the kind WHIPs they were putting up, Janssen's 0.86 mark ranked fifth among closers with at least 50 innings. And it's not like his 2.54 ERA or 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings were anything to sneeze at. So then ... about those saves. Beginning 2013 as the team's closer will help. He didn't claim ninth-inning duties from an injured Sergio Santos until May last year, and by then, the Blue Jays starting rotation was so decimated by injuries that a closer was hardly necessary. They either outslugged the competition, or they lost. Obviously, that formula is destined to change this year with all the upgrades they made this offseason, particularly to their starting rotation. Add, say, 15 to last year's save total, and you'll see why Janssen is a bargain after the top 20 closers go off the board." -- Scott White [Full Blue Jays fantasy preview]
I think it's how well-rounded the offense is. There are speedy table-setter types in Reyes, Bonifacio and Izturis. There are two potential 40-homer power hitters in Encarnacion and Bautista. There's the power-speed combo in Lawrie and a possible hit-machine in Cabrera. As long as the Jays stay healthy -- which is a huge question after last season -- they will be able to beat teams offensively in a number of ways. Teams this well-rounded are great bets to stave off extended team-wide slumps.
The back end of the bullpen. Janssen has never been a full-time closer, Santos is coming off surgery and Delabar has had control issues at times. Overall, I don't think this is a huge issue and the trio is more than capable enough to have a productive season, but I had to name something here, and there really isn't a glaring weakness on this ballclub.
For the first time since 1993, the Blue Jays win the World Series. They definitely have enough talent, and this should be the ultimate goal for this club in 2013.
There are obvious areas where the wheels could totally fall off here. Reyes, Johnson and Morrow are injury risks, to various degrees. Which Melky are the Jays gonna get? What if Encarnacion's power surge last year was a fluke? What if Janssen spits the bit as closer and Santos can't regain pre-injury form? What if Romero is just as bad as he was last season? What if Lawrie's all-out style recklessy injures him? Rasmus and Lind are enigmas offensively as well. Dickey's old and last season's numbers are an outlier compared to the rest of his career. In the tough AL East, if everything that could possibly go wrong does, I could see the Blue Jays ending up in last place.
Honestly, though, what are the odds that every single bad thing listed above happens and nothing good happens? Very, very low. There will be injuries, but every team deals with those. Dickey's 2012 season came from out of nowhere because he started throwing his knuckler harder, not because he just started to get lucky out of the blue, and Encarnacion has always shown the ability to hit for big-time power when he's in the lineup.
It's tough to predict how Cabrera, Rasmus and Lind will fare, but overall there is so much talent here that I don't see a realistic scenario where they miss the playoffs. In fact, I predict they win the AL East for the first time since ...
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