The expectations couldn’t be any lower for the Toronto Blue Jays after an offseason much of the impatient fan base has deemed a huge disappointment. I can understand some frustration but are the Jays prospects for the 2012 season really that bleak?
Last season the Blue Jays finished .500 with an even 81-81 record to finish fourth in the toughest division in sports – again. The division sports three of the best operated and most talented teams in baseball (Tampa Bay, New York and Boston) and is likely to be the hardest division in the game for the foreseeable future.
There are talks that MLB will add a second wild card team to each league, which would obviously be a major boon for the Jays playoff chances on an annual basis going forward. The Jays offense averaged 4.6 runs per game last season (5th best in the major leagues) and I think they can again expect to hit given the presence of one Jose Bautista in the heart of the line-up.
One man isn’t enough and the real key to the offense will be resurgent rebound seasons from CF Colby Rasmus, 2B Kelly Johnson, 1B Adam Lind and a hopeful solid full season from the promising 3B Brett Lawrie. I don’t think anyone doubts the Jays will once again be an offensive force. The real question mark is on the mound and specifically the starting rotation.
The only pitcher to post an above average season was incumbent number one starter Ricky Romero as he posted a fine season – 15-11, 225 IPs, 2.92 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 54.7 GB%, 3.80 xFIP. His ERA might not be sub 3.00 again in 2012 but he is clearly a guy who can be counted to give us solid IPs.
Brandon Morrow’s actual results were a lot worse than the excellent peripherals he has put up in his career and if the ball bounces a bit better for him in 2012 I don’t think it is a reach to say he could be among the best pitchers in baseball. Morrow had mixed results (4.72 ERA, 36 GB%, 1.29 WHIP) but incredible rates (10.2 K/9 led all starting pitchers, 3.53 xFIP and a higher WAR than Romero at 3.4).
There is potential for greatness at the top of the rotation if both Romero and Morrow both put together fine seasons and could become one of the top 1-2 pitching combos in the game. After that there are some definite question marks that would leave any team nervous for a successful season. Brett Cecil was awful most of the season, Henderson Alvarez pitched well in 63 MLB IPs and Kyle Drabek was a nightmare.
The team should be improved slightly if for nothing else Jo-Jo Reyes won’t be anywhere near a mound and although the Jays boast an impressive collection of SP prospects on the way most of them are still a season or two away.
If the Jays are going to have any chance at surprising the AL East it is imperative the Jays get more consistent outing from their #3-5 starters. Let’s look at some Bill James projections for the 2012 season:
*Fangraphs fans projection
I am actually fairly bullish on a return to form for Brett Cecil, I like his make-up and moxie and I think he is a clever pitcher who should contribute some quality IPs in a team desperate for them. Henderson Alvarez was more of an afterthought than a top rated prospect but he did pitch very well for the team in his cameo last season. He is a guy who will keep the ball on the ground (53.5 GB%) and not hand out free passes (he has never had a BB/9 over 2.16 in professional career) and should be a solid #4 or 5 option for the team going forward.
Kyle Drabek was a mess and a guy I have never been as high on as the prospect guru’s who have consistently raved about his future. I like the fastball but I just haven’t seen the results to become a huge believe, his minor league stats have just never matched the scouting reports and hype. I don’t expect him to be a difference maker in 2012 and some playing time in the minors might not be out of the question.
So the Jays have four fairly quality starting pitchers in the rotation (Romero/Morrow/Cecil/Alvarez) and although some expect Dustin McGowan to make a push, that has to be considered a long shot at best. Which brings me to the point of this article, why not attempt to sign Roy Oswalt?
Oswalt, who will turn 35 in August is coming off an injury plagued season but still put up quality numbers and would be a welcome addition as a #3 starter for the Jays. In 139 IPs last season Oswalt put up a quality 3.95 xFIP, 6.0 K/9, 0.65 HR/9 and a decent 45.1 GB%. Bill James projects another strong season – 171 IPs, 3.52 FIP and 7.00 K/9. There is talk Oswalt would accept a one year deal with most teams so that might mean the Jays would have to pony up a two year deal to get this done.
Moving to the AL East would definitely make those projections tough to match but he would definitely be a proven commodity if the Jays feel they have a shot at contending this season. I know a lot of fans think that might be delusional but I do not feel they are as bad as many are making them out to be, even for the 2012 season where expectations are low.
Jon Heyman reports that the Detroit Tigers offered Oswalt a 1 year/10 million dollar deal but were told no.