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March 16, 2010

One-Hoppers

Any 'O' In Toronto?

by Eric Seidman

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The Toronto Blue Jays have been known for a few things over the last several seasons: A great starting rotation anchored by Roy Halladay, a poor track record of those starting pitchers staying healthy, and the ability to field a competitive team capable of winning other divisions while struggling to finish in fourth place in their own. One aspect rarely synonymous with the Jays is offense, not necessarily because their lineups in the recent past have been historically poor, but rather because their pitching has been so good. But with Halladay gone, the Jays' hitters now have a chance to shine. Do they have enough thunder to keep Toronto competitive?

Last season, despite a 75-87 finish, Toronto scored more runs than it allowed and managed a Pythagorean record of 85-77. No team fell short of its Pythagorean record by as many games (eight) as Toronto. Their 4.9 runs per game ranked sixth in the junior circuit, and without Halladay the Jays will really need to rely on their offense to have a fighting shot at remaining relevant. As it currently stands, here are their expected position players and their PECOTA projections for 2010.

NAME POS BA OBP SLG
Lyle Overbay 1B .258 .354 .431
Aaron Hill 2B .288 .341 .482
Alex Gonzalez SS .250 .306 .383
Edwin Encarnacion 3B .268 .357 .473
Jose Bautista RF .247 .344 .420
Vernon Wells CF .269 .328 .434
Travis Snider LF .260 .339 .462
Adam Lind DH .287 .355 .497
John Buck C .228 .303 .404

There is very little to get excited about here. Alex Gonzalez doesn’t get on base. John Buck is essentially a replacement-level catcher. Jose Bautista is best suited for utility duties. Lyle Overbay’s numbers are mediocre for the first base position. And Vernon Wells … well, I think his story has been beaten to death. Put this all together and the Jays' offense is going to rely on:

1. Aaron Hill coming as close as he can to repeating last year’s breakout performance.
2. Adam Lind continuing to establish himself as a dynamic young hitter.
3. Edwin Encarnacion finally performing and not relying on perceived potential.
4. Travis Snider showing massive improvements in his age-22 season.

Even if all four of those players live up to their promise, this team still won't score a lot of runs because of all the holes elsewhere. The Jays haven't finished in last place since 2004, but considering the strength of its division, and regardless of how strong their pitching may remain, don't be surprised if Toronto finds itself at the bottom of the pile come October.

Eric Seidman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Eric's other articles. You can contact Eric by clicking here

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