Dec 9, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos talks with reporters during the MLB Winter Meetings at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Reviewing What Toronto Needs

Before I start, I do want to say I do often read and admire Blue Jays MLB.com writer Gregor Chisholm’s work.  I, in no way, am trying to pick a fight or start a war with somebody I think seems to have a good handle on this team.  Every now and then, however, I don’t fully agree with what the man writes.  So I decided to take Chisholm’s 10 questions he asked himself and give some different, yet sometimes similar answers.  I don’t normally do this because I wouldn’t like it done to me… but I expect it to be done to me at some point, so here goes.  Let’s review what Toronto needs this season in order to be successful in 2014.

10.) Will Colby Rasmus be able to repeat his production the from 2013 season?
Chisholm doesn’t answer the question here and that’s probably due to the fact that nobody really knows.  According to what Tony Rasmus IV says on Twitter, responding to a question by a solid Blue Jays’ fan, this may have something to do with it.

If that’s any indication that Colby goes as the coach goes and the kid is having fun, then yes, it may be a precursor to Rasmus returning to his 2013 form.  The bigger tell will be  Rasmus’ pitch selection and if he’ll keep his head down on the ball.  His swing greatly improved later in the season once he did both.  Early in the season, he was often swinging at pitches low, either just in or out of the strike zone,  raising his head in the process.  This often left his bat swinging just above the pitch, resulting in a swinging strike or a weak grounder off the end of the bat.  Much rumoured credit for “fixing” Colby was given to former Blue Jays hitting coach, Chad Mottola.

9.) Is 2014 when Brett Lawrie breaks out and officially becomes one of the Blue Jays best assets?
I don’t feel Lawrie is untouchable like some, but I do believe he is already one of the Blue Jays best assets.  In regards to age and contract control, Lawrie is indeed one of Toronto’s best assets as he is still widely viewed as one of the top young affordable 3Bs in baseball.  In regards to his play on the field, Lawrie has shown that in the field, he’s top notch.  His high motor allows him to get to balls that should go for hits.  His strong arm allows him to go deep into the hole or make a tough play on the run.  This question was more in regards to Lawrie’s hitting however.  Chisholm neglects the other aforementioned facts when answering this question.  Lawrie’s bat should come around.  Less movement at the plate, combined with a more upright stance has given Lawrie some lift in his swing.  This means fewer batted balls into the ground, something which plagued him upon his return from injury in early 2013.

8.) Will R.A. Dickey get off to another slow start, or will his second-half success from 2013 carry over into the new calendar year?
No to the first question.  Unless the back issue creeps up again.  Even then, no.  I do not believe Gibbons will allow some of the players to come into camp the shape they were in last offseason, again.  I’m not in his head and maybe that isn’t considered to be a problem, but it should be.  Brandon Morrow‘s velocity was way down.  Dickey was having back issues and couldn’t throw his hard knuckleball.  It took Mark Buehrle some time to get going and that normally does not happen with the fast paced Buehrle.  The 2014 Blue Jays will, in no way, have an April in 2014 as poor as the 2013 April.  Write that down.  Does it start with Dickey?  Maybe.  You saw what he did in the second half of last season.  Quietly, he wound up having a solid year.  It just wasn’t the year Blue Jays fans were expecting when they traded away two of their top 3 prospects to the Mets to acquire him.

7.) Toronto’s bullpen was one of the best in baseball in 2013.  Can the group maintain that consistent production?
I took the liberty of shortening Chisholm’s question here.  I didn’t feel the pen defied odds.  Steve Delabar was expected to be good again.  Sergio Santos was expected to be healthy.  Casey Janssen, despite having some clean-up surgery in his throwing arm, was expected to still be an effective closer.  The man that defied odds was Brett Cecil.  Sure, there were others, but when Santos didn’t stay healthy as expected, Cecil filled the set-up void earning himself his 1st All Star appearance.  Will Cecil retire 43 consecutive batters again?  Probably not.  But there’s no reason to think that he, as well as the rest of this group, will suddenly become unreliable.

6.) Which version of Melky Cabrera will show up in 2014?
Chisholm’s makes an excellent point about the tumor that was just removed from Cabrera’s lower back.  If you click on the link, the Associated Press also made reference to Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos saying that “it didn’t make any sense…”  I’m sure AA is referring to Cabrera’s drop off in play, which Cabrera falsely attributed to battling quad injuries.  But why would even a tumor make sense?   Sure, it’s an explanation, but at 28 years old, a benign tumor in your lower back is indeed rare.  Sure, it could happen to anybody, but tumors do happen to be a side effect from the use of performance enhancing drugs.  Read into that part with a grain of salt however, because tumors can be caused from past use, as well as possibly current.  I’m not saying Cabrera is currently using.  I am saying expect more of the 2013 Cabrera in 2014.  Besides, who knows how recovered he’ll be from this surgery when the season starts.

5.) Who will be the Blue Jays’ starting second baseman on Opening Day?
There’s still a month and a half to go, but the 2Bs we wanted the Jays to sign are, well, “No mas.”  Unless a trade happens soon, and there have been a few names kicked about like Neil Walker and Brandon Phillips, I agree with Chisholm.  It appears to be Ryan Goins job to lose.  I’m not sure if he’s an above average defender like Chisholm states, but he can’t be any worse Maicer Izturis and Emilio Bonifacio.   If he is worse, the Blue Jays did re-sign Munenori Kawasaki, who can play 2B no problem and we know what to expect with his bat.  The problem is we don’t know what to expect with Goins’ bat, but we’re about to find out.

4.) The Blue Jays have a series of young starting pitchers ready to step into the fold, but who will emerge as a reliable option for a team that wants to win now?
Chisholm mentions a bunch of names in his article like Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek, Sean Nolin, Marcus Stroman, and even Aaron Sanchez.  I’m going to delete Drabek’s name and insert my darkhorse, Ricky Romero.  Now, why delete Kyle Drabek?  I KNOW we as fans want to see something come from the trade of our beloved Roy Halladay, but sadly, that’s not going to happen.  Drabek is entering his prime.  He’s had two Tommy John surgeries, which would make you think he’s safe from having a third, but who knows.  Prior to his surgery, he threw 97 MPH, but not accurately.  Prior to his second surgery, he threw 93 MPH, but not accurately.  He’s now throwing around 94-95 MPH, but not accurately and he only threw 20 pitches this season.  He can’t consistently throw strikes with fastball and his offspeed stuff has never materialized… oh yea, he can’t throw those for consistent strikes either.  Stroman seems to be the most promising, followed by either Hutchison or Nolin, though the latter two pitchers could probably use some more work in AAA.  Aaron Sanchez isn’t a realistic option at this point.  His arm slot flies open too often when throwing to the left side of the plate.  He would suffer at the MLB level right now.  Then there’s Romero.  You now know what I think about him.

3.) Following several years as a back-up catcher, is Dioner Navarro ready to handle a full-time workload?
Yes.  As long as he remains serious about being an everyday ballplayer, Navarro will be a significant upgrade over J.P. Arencibia.  All the Jays are asking from Navarro is to block the baseball, take a walk, make more contact than JPA, and frame a pitch.  The bar hasn’t exactly been set high here.  So while his signing doesn’t come with much fanfare, it is an upgrade and he will be better than the man he replaced.

2.) Will this finally be the year that the team’s overall health becomes a mere footnote instead of the defining storyline?
Same team essentially.  With the exception of Rasmus’ fluke injuries, it’s probably safe to say injuries will again be a problem this season.  Even Jose Reyes‘ ankle injury early in the season was fluke, but his injury history says otherwise.  The other problem with Reyes’ injury was that the Blue Jays played their best baseball without him.  It left us all with a lot of hindsight-false hope once he returned.  Other than that though, just by the style of play by some of the players dictates that injuries are a strong possibility.  Maybe the question should be “does Toronto have enough depth to overcome impending 2014 injuries?”  The answer to that question is NO.

1.) Is this finally the year that Brandon Morrow emerges as one of the best starting pitchers in the American League?
I want to pull for Morrow.  I want him to be that proud voice of success for overcoming Type 1 Diabetes and emerge as one of the best starting pitchers in the AL.  I want him to show the world you can make it with such a difficult affliction.  Answering whether or not he can stay healthy is a major quagmire, however.  Was Jack Morris right last season in calling out his preparation for the 2013 season, or was there something already wrong with Morrow heading into 2013?  He dialed up the velocity when he had to which says no to injury prior to the season, but he threw more sliders than usual last season.  Morris’ comments are really concerning to me.  Reading Morris’ comments forces me to say Toronto should be happy if they get anything positive out of Morrow at this point, much like they should be if they get anything positive from Romero.   The pressure for Morrow would not be as high however, if AA would go out and sign a solid pitcher, whether that be offseason prized arm of Masahiro Tanaka, or Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, or even Ervin F*****g Santana.  Chisholm mentions the upside of Morrow being better than any other option on the market however.  Morrow is going to be 30 this season.  There have been plenty of late bloomers in baseball history, but at this point, Morrow is more of a tease and shouldn’t be solely relied upon to make or break the Blue Jays’ season.

Tags: Toronto Blue Jays

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