To win a World Series you need to have virtually the entire team playing at the top of their game. For the Jays to have a winning season this year, they will need to have a few players step up their level of play.
Here’s a look at five Toronto Blue Jays, in no particular order, who need to step up this season.
With the Jays signing Dioner Navarro this offseason, he will take on the main job behind the plate. Since he has not played over 100 games in the last four seasons, however, this leaves a good bulk of work to be done by the number two Blue Jays catcher, Josh Thole.
Last season Thole hit just .175 over 45 games. While we shouldn’t expect to see power from Thole, that average needs to climb to around the .277 or .268 mark that Thole hit in 2010 and 2011.
Whether coincidence or not, the decline in Thole’s hitting occurred after the early part of the 2012 season when he collided with Ty Wigginton and was placed on the DL with concussion symptoms. It’s taken other players with concussions, such as Justin Morneau, some time to get their swing back.
Let’s hope that Thole returns to being a reliable hitter who can battle Navarro for the starting job.
Last season Dickey took the role of top ace by being named opening day starter. Prior to the season there was no certainty, as some considered Josh Johnson a possibility, or that Brandon Morrow was more deserving being already a Jay.
It was a good problem to have. But with Dickey coming off a CY Young award-winning season, and after the big trade to acquire him, he got the nod. Because of this, he became etched in the mind of Jays fans as the number one ace, which amplified any of his struggles.
This year there is no doubt. With Johnson headed to sunny San Diego, Morrow still a question, and the rest of the rotation not fit for the role, Dickey will be at the front of the rotation.
Despite Dickey’s inflated ERA of 4.21 last season, his WHIP was somewhat respectable at 1.24. More importantly, he improved over the latter half of the season.
Having him dominate at the top of the rotation, with the so-called Dickey effect, might be the biggest key for next season’s pitching.
It’s important not to forget that Anthony Gose is only 23 years old. While still developing, he is thrust into the role of being an important part of the Toronto outfield.
There is still a possibility that the Jays may trade away some of their outfield before the spring. If that’s the case, Gose would be required in a starting role. If not, he’d still be required as a key fourth outfielder. Melky Cabrera, Colby Rasmus, and Jose Bautista, all missed time due to injury last season.
To date Gose has only played in only 108 major league games, split over two seasons. The .259 average last season is an improvement over the .223 from the year before. But despite the increase, his on-base declined from .303 to .283.
Because of circumstance, the Jays need to hope Gose has a breakout season in 2014.
Like Gose, Goins is another young player, only 25, who needs to have a big season. Goins stepped in late last season to replace injured Maicer Izturis for a small sample size of just 34 games. He looked solid defensively, which was nice to see given Toronto’s struggles at second base all year. Still, he hit only .252.
He debuted strong in his first six games, batting .455, but this could not be sustained.
Goins does not need to be a .300 hitter next season, nor should we expect him to be. He just needs to keep his defence solid, while improving his bat, particularly against left-handed hitting where he hit just .214.
If he is unable to do so, we could see a platoon with him and Izturis which could either work, or become a rollercoaster ride for Jays fans.
At the start of last season, some thought Brandon Morrow would have a good chance to become the best pitcher in the rotation.
The problem with Morrow has been injuries. While his injuries prior to 2012 are overstated, the last two seasons there have been issues. In 2012, Morrow had a phenomenal start to the year before being sidelined with an oblique injury. Last season he missed most of the year due to nerve issues in his forearm.
All pitchers deal with injuries at some point in their career and often bounce back, so to say with certainty that Morrow will not have a full season is careless.
What needs to happen, however, is for Morrow to return to the dominance he showed early in 2012, where he was one of the best pitchers in the league.
If Dickey and Morrow can become a lethal duo at the front of the rotation, this can only help the rest of the rotation.
Next season everyone needs to step up—young and old, rookie or veteran.