The Toronto Blue Jays were a popular pick to make a big leap in 2013, but they ended up finishing in last place in the AL East that season. Expectations leveled out last year and they finished a few games over .500. After acquiring Josh Donaldson in a trade and signing Russell Martin, Toronto is expected to once again contend in the AL East again. Can they pull it off or will they fall flat on their faces again?
Injuries plagued Toronto’s potential resurgent season in 2013 and they were already dealt a huge blow when they learned their young pitching phenom Marcus Stroman tore his ACL. He will miss the entire season. Which one of Toronto’s many young pitching prospects will take his spot in the starting rotation?
Here is the 2015 MLB season preview for the Toronto Blue Jays.
2014 Win/Loss Record: 83-79
Key Additions: 3B Josh Donaldson, 1B Justin Smoak, OF Dayan Viciedo, OF Michael Saunders, SP Jeff Francis, RP Wilton Lopez, 1B Daric Barton, 2B Ramon Santiago, OF Chris Dickerson & OF Andy Dirks
Key Losses: OF Melky Cabrera, SP Dustin McGowan, RP Casey Janssen, OF Colby Rasmus, OF Adam Lind, SP J.A. Happ, 3B Juan Francisco, 3B Brett Lawrie, SP Brandon Morrow, OF Anthony Gose, RP Sergio Santos, 1B Dan Johnson & OF John Mayberry Jr.
Interleague Schedule: NL East
Projected Starters: Russell Martin, Edwin Encarnacion, Maicer Izturis, Josh Donaldson, Jose Reyes, Dayan Viciedo, Dalton Pompey, Jose Bautista & Justin Smoak
Projected Starting Rotation: R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Drew Hutchinson, Aaron Sanchez & Daniel Norris
Closer: Brett Cecil
Fantasy Sleeper: 1B Justin Smoak – I’m going heavy on ‘post-hype sleepers’ this season. His nickname is ‘The Smoak Monster’…a reference to the TV show ‘Lost’. He hasn’t exactly been fantasy relevant since the show went off the air. Smoak hasn’t lived up to all the hype that surrounded him in the minors. He seems to knock the cover off the ball in Triple-A, but falls into long slumps in the Majors. I believe he’s much better than most Four-A players that bounce in-between the minors and Majors. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion both arrived in Toronto as players who never fulfilled their potential. I’m not saying Smoak will hit 40 homers, but I have a feeling he’ll have his best season in the Majors.
Prospect To Keep Your Eye On: SP Daniel Norris – All three of Toronto’s top MLB-ready prospects could begin the season on the Opening Day roster. Starter Aaron Sanchez and outfielder Dalton Pompey are both locks. Norris has a shot as well, especially since Marcus Stroman will miss the season after tearing his ACL, but it’s not a lock. Norris turns 22 years old in late-April and rocketed from High-A to start last season all the way up to appearing in five games in the Majors. It could be in his best interest to get some more time in Triple-A before jumping into the rotation.
Team Analysis: Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos is known around the league as someone who likes to initiate trade discussions by immediately asking for the moon. I’m sure it has soured some negotiations in the past, but he seems to pull off at least one big trade every offseason.
Anthopoulos was able to pry All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson from Oakland for Brett Lawrie and two minor league pitchers. Toronto has a surplus of elite pitching prospects, so this was a win-win for Toronto. The Blue Jays should lead the Majors in home runs thanks to Encarnacion, Bautista, Smoak and Donaldson. Their offense is well-suited to face all the top starting rotations in the American League.
The Blue Jays are one of the favorites to win the AL East this season. The last time they were this highly-touted in the preseason was 2013…they finished last in the division. This was just after they acquired both R.A. Dickey and Jose Reyes. This team is more well-rounded than the 2013 squad. Their offense is better and the starting rotation is filled with young pitchers on the back-end with high upside.
Toronto will be in a three-team race in the AL East all season. Baltimore and Boston have been in this position before and many of Toronto’s best players have little-to-no postseason or pennant race experience. It will be a test for manager John Gibbons, but I predict they will win their first AL East division crown since 1993.
2015 Wins Over/Under Betting Line: 83.5 (Prediction: OVER)
2015 Projected Win/Loss Record: 89-73 (1st in AL East)
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.