Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Blue Jays First Half Review: Staff Picks

 At Jays Journal, we decided do a group review of the Toronto Blue Jays first half. This way, we could put a final word on the ups and downs of the Blue Jays play prior to the All-Star Break, and then put it behind us heading into the season’s second half.
I polled  the director (Kyle), the editor (Wray), and a couple of the Jays Journal staff writers for their comments on the following topics:
  1. Overall State of the Toronto Blue Jays
  2. George Bell Award (Team MVP)
  3. Dave Stieb Award (Best Pitcher)
  4. Biggest Surprise
  5. Biggest Disappointment

I thought it important to post all the ‘Overall State of the Jays’ in there entirety even though there was some overlap. When reading this I wanted the readers to remember that it was written by Blue Jays fans just like you because I think that sometimes get forgotten…..and comment accordingly.

So, let’s see how things shaped up, shall we?

Overall State of the Jays
Ben Machin: Although many fans and critics may say the Jays are struggling right now, they’re actually in the best position they’ve been in to make the playoffs since before I was born. The offence on this squad is potent enough (when healthy) to compete with some of the best teams in the league. We got a hint of that playoff potential when the Blue Jays went on that 9 game win-streak in May which included sweeps of Oakland and Detroit. The starting pitching has been a surprise and if it continues to provide the bats with quality starts from youngsters Hutchison and Stroman as well as veterans like Dickey and Buerhle, the Blue Jays should have the ability to compete for a playoff spot. The only really weak link in the Blue Jays roster is 2nd base (or 3rd if you look at Brett Lawrie as a 2nd baseman). Although Steve Tollesson has provided an ideal platoon role against lefties, if AA can find a way to upgrade at 2nd with an everyday second baseman who can hit both righties and lefties, I think the Blue Jays will be in a great spot once everyone is healthy.
EricElliot: The Blue Jays are at a crossroads: they can either stay the course and hope that what they currently have is enough or they can compromise the future to acquire some MLB talent which could push them into the playoffs. Thus, doing something does not automatically equate to improving your ball club. If Alex is not going to go big at the deadline, he should probably just stay home.
JustinJay: They’re a healthy impact player away from staying competitive. Unfortunately, where they stand, there’s not enough depth to offset the lose of core players. The emergence of Marcus Stroman has managed to make us forget about Brandon Morrow/Morris/Samsonite guy (Dumb & Dumber reference), but it’s hard to find another impact starter on this club’s 40-man roster right now (though I’m not against seeing Hendriks again)
KeeganMatheson: The Toronto Blue Jays are treading water.  Given their injuries, just being above water is an accomplishment. I believe that the rest of the league caught on to the Blue Jays about one month ago.  They have been exposed as a team that is top-heavy: A table with 3 sturdy oak legs, and a 4th leg fashioned with dozens of toothpicks and a bottle of glue.

Kyle Franzoni:  At one point, the Blue Jays had the second best record in the American League. However, now is not that time, and the Jays badly needed the All-Star break to step back and reset. Still two games over .500 and only four games out of the lead in the AL East, Toronto still has a chance to get something done this season That all said, injuries are piling up and the Blue Jays cannot wait for players to return in order to right the ship. Jose Bautista may believe in this team, and to a certain degree so do I, but at some point, Alex Anthopoulos needs to look at the line-up and see that Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera, and Jose Reyes are not going to be enough to get it done.

The team needs to make a decision if it feels it is a piece away from being a serious contender or whether it is wiser to weather the storm and play for the future. Either way, it is not a great spot to be in.

LucasSilva: Overall, I’d say they’re in a solid position. They’ve been hammered by injuries lately, but when the lineup is healthy they rake, the rotation has been a pleasant surprise, and the AL East is still up for grabs.
MichaelWray: Things are okay, the Jays have done enough to stay in it. The schedule seems to ease up a bit in the second half so as long as key cogs are able to eventually return I wouldn’t be surprised if this season comes down to their final series against the Orioles.
RyanMueller: The Jays are what they are what they’ve been for the past 2 decades…..a team that has the potential to be a Top-Tier team when healthy. The problem is, when injuries start to pile up, the Jays lack depth and lack talent in the minors at key positions.
ShaunDoyle: Solid. Honestly, despite my opinion below, I think that AA has done a good job setting up the Jays for the future. He does not give in to pressure to force deals. The MLB team is in a position to contend with a farm system that is turning into quite a strength. With the exception of AAA, the farm is looking promising. Considering the injuries that have hit the Jays, the fact that they are contending is a HUGE bonus. Granted, this says more about the rest of the division than anything else. But, contending is contending. It doesn’t have to look pretty. And, the Jays are not making it look pretty, but they are making the possibility of the post season look more real than in any of the last number of years!

George Bell Award

BenMachin: Jose Bautista
EricElliott: Jose Bautista
JustinJay: Jose Bautista
KeeganMatheson: Jose Bautista
Kyle Franzoni: Edwin Encarnacion
LucasSilva: Jose Bautista
MichaelWray: Tie between Jose Bautista and EE
RyanMueller: Melky Cabrera
ShaunDoyle: Juan Francisco (Surprise Pick)

Dave Stieb Award

BenMachin: Mark Buehrle
EricElliott: Marcus Stroman (Surprise Pick)
JustinJay: Mark Buehrle
KeeganMatheson: Mark Buehrle
KyleFranzoni: Mark Buehrle (Casey Janssen a close 2nd)
LucasSilva: Mark Buehrle
MichaelWray: Mark Buehrle
RyanMueller:  Casey Janssen 
ShaunDoyle: Mark Buehrle

Biggest Surprise

BenMachin: Juan Francisco
EricElliott: Mark Buehrle
JustinJay: Mark Buehrle…..honourable mention to Marcus Stroman and J.A. Happ
KeeganMatheson: Marcus Stroman
KyleFranzoni: Melky Cabrera
LucasSilva: He can’t touch lefties (.439 OPS), he strikes out a ton (37.9 K%), but when used effectively, he’s been an absolute boon for the Jays. Juan Francisco.
RyanMueller: Mark Buehrle
ShaunDoyle: J.A. Happ
MichaelWray: Steve Tolleson (Surprise Pick)

Biggest Disappointment

BenMachin: Steve Delabar
EricElliott: Colby Rasmus
JustinJay: R.A. Dickey (Surprise Pick)
KeeganMatheson: Depth
KyleFranzoni: Alex Anthopoulos
LucasSilva: Colby Rasmus
MichaelWray: Colby Rasmus. I thought he would build off a great 2013 but inconsistency continues to plague him.
Ryan Mueller: Brett Lawrie, well his health or lack of
ShaunDoyle: Alex Anthopoulos
So we had a few surprises, but overall it seems that these fan/writers on are the same page. I was really surprised to see J.A. Happ get picked for Biggest Surprise, and R.A. Dickey for Biggest Disappointment. What do you think……It is time to have your say in the comment section below or send me your comments via twitter.

Tags: Edwin Encarnacion Jose Bautista Toronto Blue Jays

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