The Toronto Blue Jays came into the season not really looking to contend for the AL East title as much as continuing to build towards that goal. Their 81-81 record left them well out of the race, but there’s still a fair amount of talent on the roster.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Jose Bautista had another amazing season, hitting .302/.447/.608 with a major league leading 43 home runs. Having one of the best players in baseball – arguably the best – seems good. Yunel Escobar, acquired (and then signed) fairly cheaply, did well in his first full year in Toronto (.290/.363/.413). Rookie Brett Lawrie only played in 43 games in the majors, but he crushed the ball in his short time (.293/.373/.580). On the other side of the ball, Brandon Morrow had the highest strike-out rate in the AL at 10.2 K/9 and probably pitched better than his 4.72 ERA would suggest. Ricky Romero wasn’t half bad himself, putting up his second straight 200+ IP season and getting his ERA under 3.
WHAT WENT WRONG
The pitching staff beyond Morrow/Romero wasn’t great with, for example, youngster Kyle Drabek posting a 6.06 ERA and getting sent back down to the minors without even getting to the 100 IP mark. Aaron Hill’s power-outage continued, as he hit just 6 home runs in 429 plate appearances (.225/.270/.313 overall) before getting traded. Adam Lind didn’t bounce back as much as would have been hoped, hitting .251/.295/.439. Travis Snider still hasn’t established himself as a major league regular, playing in 49 games and hitting .225/.269/.348.
Lawrie was a top prospect, but I don’t think anyone expected him to come out of the gates raking quite like he did; 9 home runs projects out to 32-24 over a full season. Bautista not regressing was probably a surprise to many people, though at least he didn’t hit 50+ home runs again.
Having a couple guys like Hill and Lind not rediscovering their past success wasn’t good, and I’d think the Jays would have wanted to see Romero take a step forward instead of simply having a good season. Colby Rasmus’ struggles after coming over in a mid-season trade – he hit just .173/.201/.361 – were not exactly according to Alex Anthopoulos’ plan, but he’s still a talented player (and that still looks like a good trade for the Jays).
Some infield spots are in flux, depending on whether or not Kelly Johnson and Edwin Encarnacion are going to be brought back and if Brett Lawrie is staying at third. The pitching staff has some openings, with some likely being filled with younger hurlers – though I’d imagine AA would be on the look-out to add undervalued arms (plus position players, of course) from outside the organization.
There will probably be fights for the back of the rotation spots, and left-field could be open depending on if Travis Snider is going to finally break out. JP Arencibia (.219/.282/.438 in ’11) should have the initial edge at the catcher position, but it’s not inconceivable that the Jays go with someone else given his struggles with things that didn’t involve him hitting the ball over the fence.