Toronto is definitely a favorite heading into the season. It would be difficult to not put them on a pedestal after undergoing such a historic make-over this past winter. Still, this team is not without its holes or question marks. For the Blue Jays to be more than just lofty expectations, certain players are going to be forced into stepping up and being significant contributors this season.
If those players cannot, then they may find themselves in a new location in 2014.
Let’s start with Adam Lind. The first baseman/DH has been living off of his 2009 campaign in which he hit 3.05 with 35 home runs, 114 RBI, and a .932 OPS. Since then, he has struggled to be a shadow of that man, capping it off with a 2012 season where he hit just .255 with 11 home runs and 45 RBI’s in a season that included a demotion to Triple-A. The Blue Jays are counting on Lind building off of a strong second half performance, where he improved to .304 with a .784 OPS. Toronto holds a reasonable $7 million option on Lind for 2014, but they are going to make him earn it this season.
Then there is Sergio Santos, last winter’s big acquisition. Santos appeared in all of 6 games for the Blue Jays in 2012 before a shoulder injury derailed his entire season. In the meantime, Casey Janssen stepped up and took the closer role by the reins and has been named the opening day closer for the team. Santos will not only have to prove he is healthy this spring, but he’ll have to be lights out when he gets the ball and then hope that Janssen stumbles if he wants the role back. He’s guaranteed a contract in 2014 and the team holds options on Santos for the next 3 seasons after that.
What about Colby Rasmus? The center fielder has yet to capitalize on his massive potential, which is one of the reasons the Cardinals traded him to Toronto in the first place. Rasmus has shown flashes of brilliance (.291, 8 home runs, 25 RBI in June 2012) but has struggled to maintain that momentum. He is under team control through 2014, but patience only runs so far. If he struggles again in 2013, the Blue Jays can just turn to Anthony Gose and then non-tender Rasmus next winter.
Finally we have Melky Cabrera. One would think that a guy coming off of a season where he authored a batting line of .346/.906/11 HR/60 RBI/4.7 bWAR would have little to prove. Then again, we’re also talking about a player that received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for synthetic testosterone and then subsequently tried to cover it up with an elaborate hoax centered around a fake website. To make matters worse, Cabrera was named in another steroid scandal involving the Biogenesis facility in Miami, keeping him firmly in the spotlight of baseball’s biggest problem. The Jays secured him with a 2-year deal in hopes that he would not only rebound well, but be a part of their new winning culture.
So loyal readers, which player do you think has more to prove in 2013?