Tuesday, February 26, 2008

MLB Previews: Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays Last season: 83-79, 3rd place, AL East, 13 games behind Red Sox, 11 behind Yankees. 2008 Outlook: The Blue Jays confront the same outlook they seem to have every season: how to catch the Yankees and Red Sox. This season looks to be another exercise in futility for the top spot though catching the Yankees and earning a wild card is a possibility. Both the Sox and Yanks kept almost everything from 2007 intact, which means New York will still have pitching problems. The Jays will enter the season with four quality starters - Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett, Dustin McGowan and Shaun Marcum. If Gustavo Chacin isn't fully recovered from shoulder problems, the fifth starter spot will fall to Jesse Litsch, who had an unexpectedly nice season as rookie in 2007. The lineup could be imposing or flatline, depending on the health of center fielder Vernon Wells and 3rd baseman Scott Rolen. If both of them produce, this offense will be powerful, especially having Frank Thomas as an every day DH. He can still mash. Biggest Changes: Left side. Third baseman Troy Glaus was traded for Scott Rolen and the Cardinals also let go of scrappy shortstop David Eckstein. He fits in nicely for the Blue Jays. Left field will be a competition - and possibly a platoon situation - between Reed Johnson and Shannon Stewart, recently acquired from Oakland. Rookie/Free Agent Prospects: Adam Lind may end up being the regular left fielder, and Casey Janssen should get plenty of chances as a middle reliever/set-up man for Jeremy Accardo or B.J. Ryan, if his rehabbing is complete by opening day. Best fantasy bets: Alex Rios (.297, 24 HR, 85 RBI in 2007) has improved his HR and RBI totals in each of his four seasons. He could be a real steal in fantasy drafts. Most managers will opt for Vernon Wells, though he had a down year in 2007, but off-season shoulder surgery is supposed to have fixed that. Spring training stats may offer some indication of whether he's ready for a big year. Scott Rolen is another player to watch. He battled injuries for most of the past 3 seasons, and entering his 14th year in the majors, he may not be able to bounce back to previous form. A sure bet is #1 starter Roy Halladay, always among the leaders in wins, ERA and WHIP. 16-21 wins an ERA around 3.50 and a WHIP under 1.25 are likely numbers for the perennial All-Star. Three Excellent Links: Tornoto Star baseball page SportSpyder aggregated Blue Jays news Baseball-Almanac Toronto Team Page: Stats, Records, more Next: Baltimore Orioles

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