Everyone knows the key players on the Toronto Blue Jays: Reyes, Bautista, Encarnacion, Dickey, Cabrera, and so on and so forth. But after the stars that everyone knows, there's a dropoff to the lesser players: guys like Arencibia, Lind, and Rasmus, who have tons of potential, but have generally underperformed during their careers with the Blue Jays. Picking a player from either of those tiers to be an x-factor seems like a fool's errand.
My x-factor for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013 is Emilio Bonifacio.
Bonifacio is a guy who really came into his own in 2011 with the Marlins. He got a full-time role with Miami that year, playing six different positions across the diamond for the Marlins, and turned himself into a competent player. In 152 games, Bonifacio stole 40 bases, walked at a 9% clip, and had a .753 OPS, somehow putting together a three win season out of nowhere. In 2012, Bonifacio only played 64 games. But in those 64 games, he stole 30 bases (at a 91% clip, nonetheless), continued to walk at a 9% rate, but his power and average dropped off, resulting in a .646 OPS.
Unlike last year with Miami, Bonifacio won't be counted on to set the table for the Blue Jays in 2013. He's penciled into the ninth spot in the order, and will be serving as a complement to leadoff hitter Jose Reyes. With less pressure on him, Bonifacio can thrive in Toronto…or, he could revert to the all speed, no bat player he was prior to 2011. But with Reyes following him in the order, teams need to be careful with Bonifacio at the plate, because all of that speed on the bases can absolutely wreak havoc on a team.
I'm sure an ideal scenario for the Blue Jays in 2013 would be this: Bonifacio leads the third inning off with a walk. He proceeds to steal second, and Reyes singles him home. Reyes then steals second, and Melky Cabrera singles him home. Then. Jose Bautista doubles in Cabrera, and Edwin Encarnacion homers to give Toronto a five run inning. That's just beautiful poetry, and while most teams in the American League generally have their worst hitter in the ninth spot, the Blue Jays will essentially be employing a second leadoff hitter that can make a lot of magic happen for the team. He's not going to have a critical role on the team going into Opening Day,but Bonifacio could really have a huge impact on the Blue Jays in 2013.