2010 Toronto Blue Jays Preview

Ricky Romero, LHP
Shaun Marcum, RHP
Brandon Morrow, RHP
Marc Rzepczynski, LHP
David Purcey, LHP

Closers and Setup
Kevin Gregg, RHP
Scott Downs, LHP

Starting Lineup
Alex Gonzalez, SS
Aaron Hill, 2B
Adam Lind, LF
Vernon Wells, CF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
John Buck, C
Randy Ruiz, DH
Travis Snider, RF

Player in Decline

As mentioned in the Jays team review, Lyle Overbay could be motivated in 2010, as it is his walk year. But his strikeout rate has also increased each of the past three seasons and hit his highest mark in six years (22.5%).

Player on the Rise

Marc Rzepczynski doesn’t blow you away with his stuff but he has good command of his pitches (His control needs work, though) and induces an above-average number of ground-ball outs. Add in the fact that he throws left-handed with some deception, and you have a perfect breakout candidate.

Top 5 Fantasy Players
Adam Lind: Elite
Aaron Hill: Average
Ricky Romero: Average
Scott Downs: Average
Travis Snider: Average

Top 10 Prospects
1. Brett Wallace, 1B/3B
2. Kyle Drabek, RHP
3. Zach Stewart, RHP
4. J.P. Arencibia, C
5. Chad Jenkins, RHP
6. Moises Sierra, OF
7. Brad Mills, LHP
8. Travis d’Arnaud, C
9. Jake Marisnick, OF
10. Henderson Alvarez, RHP

Overall Team Outlook: Based on some projections circling around the Internet, it could be a very bad year in Toronto, with three very strong clubs in the division (Boston, New York, and Tampa Bay). The club is in rebuilding mode, so fans will just have to enjoy watching some talented young players learn the ropes with an eye to 2011 and beyond. It should be particularly fun to watch some of the hitters, including Adam Lind, Aaron Hill, and Travis Snider.

The Starting Rotation: No matter how you slice it, the rotation took a huge hit with the loss of ace Roy Halladay and his 220+ innings of work. Sophomore Ricky Romero is suddenly the No. 1 guy and he’s struggled with his confidence in the past, so it remains to be seen how well he’ll respond to the added pressure. Shaun Marcum, returning from Tommy John surgery, is earmarked for the No. 2 role, although he’s more of a No. 3 or 4 starter. He’s expected to be at full strength for spring training, but expecting 200 innings from him is probably foolish.

Brandon Morrow was acquired from Seattle during the offseason and the club is hoping that the former No. 1 draft pick can finally establish himself as a MLB starter, but his control needs to improve quite a bit. Marc Rzepczynski zoomed through the minor league system in ’09 and made 11 starts in the Majors. His heater is average, at best, in terms of velocity but he induces a crazy number of ground-ball outs, which increases his value. The fifth spot in the rotation will be highly contested between the likes of Brett Cecil, Scott Richmond, David Purcey, and (if healthy) Dustin McGowan. Purcey may get the nod if he shows improvement in his command in the spring. He’ll turn 28 in April and the former first-round pick has yet to establish himself at the MLB level. He’s almost out of chances.

The Bullpen: The closer’s role was split between Scott Downs and Jason Frasor in ’09 and both players had their moments. Downs will likely receive first crack at the gig since he only lost the role due to an injured toe. Frasor will be waiting in the wings as the eighth-inning guy. The club lost reliever Brandon League in the Morrow trade, but the club still has immense depth with the likes of Shawn Camp, Jeremy Accardo, Dirk Hayhurst, Jesse Carlson, Brian Tallet, Zech Zinicola, Josh Roenicke, Merkin Valdez, and Casey Janssen. Tallet has an outside shot at the No. 5 starter’s role, while Roenicke has the best chance at being the future closer on the club.

The Starting Lineup: There is not a lot of turnover in the lineup from ’09, although one particular change is sure to have a major impact. The loss of on-base machine Marco Scutaro to the rival Red Sox will definitely hurt the team’s ability to score runs. New shortstop Gonzalez does a much worse job of getting on base (.279 vs .379 OBP). Edwin Encarnacion, a former teammate of Gonzalez’, will look to rebound from a season filled with injuries and inconsistencies. He has the potential to be a very good offensive player, but his defense tarnishes his overall value. Aaron Hill is looking to build off of a breakout offensive season, but the reality is that he’s not likely to repeat his 36-home-run outburst.

Adam Lind, on the other hand, has a good chance of duplicating his .305-35-114 season and could be the club’s long-term No. 3 hitter. With another year of experience under his belt, Travis Snider will hopefully make the necessary adjustments to grow as a hitter and reach his immense talent level (which rivals or exceeds Lind’s). The club will likely look to deal Lyle Overbay at the first chance, and he should be extra motivated as he’s a free agent at year’s end. Now healthy, it remains to be seen what the club can expect from Vernon Wells. A rebound season from him, though, could have a profound effect on the entire lineup.

The Bench: The club retained John McDonald in the offseason even though his much-lauded glove took a step back in ’09, according to UZR. Jose Bautista will provide pop (but a poor batting average) at a variety of outfield and infield positions. Raul Chavez is currently earmarked for the back-up catcher’s gig, although the club is still looking at other options and could make a trade in the spring. The final spot on the bench will likely go to one of two non-roster candidates: Joey Gathright or Jeremy Reed. Gathright is the better bet to help fantasy owners thanks to his speed.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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“The club is in rebuilding mode . . . ”

I’ll believe that sentence when over half of the starting lineup doesn’t include the following players:

Alex Gonzalez, SS
Vernon Wells, CF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
John Buck, C
Randy Ruiz, DH

And what about that Gregg signing? Are they trying to encourage their young(ish) starting pitchers by signing a veteran closer? If so, it seems they could have signed someone who could actually protect a lead. Gregg has 22 career blown saves, 16 of which have come in the last 2 years. Yikes!

While I agree that they are not in any kind of “win now” mode, and they should be in rebuilding mode, I fully don’t understand their half measures.