Friday, March 2, 2012

The “Ifs”

Well the 2012 season is about to start and there is much ado from all quarters from the grapefruit league. The Jays have put up a brave face for this up coming season. The talk is very upbeat, positive and sometimes over the top. For a solid .500 team, changes needed to be made in the off-season that would improve the chances. Alex Anthopoulos has made some changes and kept some things the same. But as the spring season starts, it seems to be full of “ifs”. Who will have a break out year, will finally be what is expected, who will be a surprise? There are many questions with answers only to be found between the base lines.

So some of the “ifs”:

Colby Rasmus: If he lives up to the hype and the Jays win, he will not be traded. If not, he too will be gone. He has not proven yet that he can be the leader in centre field or that his bat is worth the hassle. He reportedly did not get along with LaRussa at the Cardinals. Over three seasons he has posted only a .251 BA, .322 OBP and 53 home runs. If and when are my questions. When will he get the major league numbers that justify 2.7 mil salary? Will the Jays culture influence him in the right direction? According to Rasmus himself, last year “was not a good one”. I think there may be a positive chance he will live up to his rookie year’s great expectations. He is only 23 years old and in his third year. Chances are good that with his new, calmer attitude and focus on work, he will live up to his potential.

Kelly Johnson: He has plenty of defensive skills but has lost all confidence at the plate. Not at all unlike Aaron Hill before the trade. Only his home runs were on par last season, everything else was way below average. Fielding was good but we need lumber too. Last year his split was better when he came to the Jays. His BA went from .209 to .270 and the SO to BB ratio improved from 3:1 to 2:1. However, he is a career .260 hitter with a SO to BB ratio of 2:1. So, he is in his career range. I think we can do better. If he can be more than he has so far, he might stay on the team. For Kelly, I don’t think he is and AA will have to find some other piece to fill this position.

Travis Snider: “Lost in transition” is the way Snider plays. In the minors he smashes it up pretty good and in the majors he falters. His starts have been disappointing at best and he’s had a few chances. He is young and apparently, so far, unable to adjust at the MLB level. Things are easy in the minors but not that much. His numbers are literally out of the park. But the major league level adjustments Snider needs to make have not worked out. This is it for Snider. He played only 49 games last year with a .225 average and OPS of .616. Since his spectacular 2008 late-season call-up he has tailed off in a similar spectacular way. It’s now or never. I think it will be never. Thames will carry the team and Snider may remain as a utility outfielder or be traded off.

Eric Thames: He seems to have the bull by the tail. He performed beyond expectations last season. If he continues his athletic ways with the bat and in the field he will definitely find a spot. He had 95 hits over 95 games and a projected 20 HRs if he played all year. Not a bad intro to big league ball. (It seems the Jays have already decided he will make the team as his face is in most of the advertising and on the Jays’ web site.)

Kyle Drabek: After the melt downs of last season, is he ready? Mabe the Jays brought him up too early. Whatever the excuse, it is hard to imagine a worse introduction to the Jays’ then Drabek has had. Last year he had 18 starts and nine decisions at 4/5 for a .444 record and an ERA of 6.06. Also, he had 51 SO and gave up 55 BB. If he can manage his head, he will stay. He has the potential.

Adam Lind: Lind should not be on this list, but… These last two years he has underperformed his own career record. Last year he made an offensive comeback, but still not up to 2009 stats, when he and Aaron Hill were in competition. Lind has, I think, shown he can play first. His defense really has improved. It is his position in the line-up that could put him out. How could he cover Bautista or anyone with a BA of under .200? The Jays have not covered this position or the DH. Lind hit 26 home runs and drove in 87 runs but had an OPS of only .734, almost 200 points lower than his 2009 OPS. The real question comes when he hit only .197 for the second half of the season while his paired teammate Encarnacion was strong only in the first half. Encarnacion is not the answer if Lind does not pan out.

For the Jays, there is much potential and as yet, little realization. If the playoffs are to be a reality, an 11 to 14 game improvement is required. Don’t forget the Angels, Rays, Tigers and Rangers. All have made improvements to their teams and big ones at that. I am hoping against hope that all the Jays come thru from “ifs” to “sure things”. The wild wild card may be our only chance.

1 comment:

Rick Blechta said...

That’s pretty succinct, John, and I think you’ve nailed it with every one of the players profiled. Where the Jays are now, they need the people who performed well last do the same this year. They need at least half the people you listed live up to their expectations.

Since you really didn't cover starting pitching all that much, that’s another obvious spot, the most obvious spot, really, where the team needs steady improvement. Romero has to do as well as he did last year, Morrow has to match him, and the remaining three have to put together 35-40 quality starts with the bullpen being solid behind them. Can they do that? I really think they can. I would not count out Dustin McGowan. This is a player with true grit. If his body doesn’t (again) betray him, he will be right in the hunt. He has quality stuff, experience, and he’s really smart.