The Boys Of Summer.........2012

Well, we finally made it through yet another tedious, grueling, horrible one didn’t we?  And no, I’m not talking about winter, I’m talking about another baseball off season.  I didn’t think it would ever end.  I’m not going to lie though, the memories and feelings of the last day of last year’s regular season are still fresh in my mind.  And the 2011 playoffs proved once again that, pound for pound there isn’t anything in this world that compares to playoffs in the major leagues.  But last year is ancient history. As the grass gets ready to come out, and the birds start to make their way back home, the boys of summer are down south feverishly getting into shape and getting ready to provide us with the greatest thing the universe has ever bestowed upon mankind not named Avena Lee.  That’s right, baseball season is only a few short weeks away.  Now the jays are absolutely destroying the grapefruit league thus far, but anyone worth their weight in hot wings knows, spring training games are meaningless, however, they do give us some fodder, and something to look forward to, and after almost four months of no stick, that’s good enough for me. 

Farrell and crew still have a few question marks when it comes to the pitching staff at this point.  Romero, Morrow and probably Cecil are all but penciled in as starters, but who will round out the rotation?  I’d like to see Alvarez in one of those spots, and if Drabek can get his head out of his silver spooned prima donna up-brought ass, that would be a pretty impressive 5.   As for the bullpen place cards, in true Jays fashion, until someone steps up and takes over roles, they will just be on a “on committee basis”, I’m assuming.  So we will leave the hurlers to be discussed some other day, today we will focus on the just the lineup.  And what a lineup it should be. I’m going to go spot by spot in the batting order (or at least the batting order I would use, if I were in charge), and provide both last season’s numbers, and what I project each player to do this season (that’s right, I’m going to get my clairvoyance on), plus some good and bad per player for you to watch out for during the next 162 games.  So write down the date and time you read this, and at the end of the season you can feel free to think to yourself, damn, the BusDriva was right once again, because if there are two things in this world I know, its baseball and how to (almost) satisfy a woman…….
Here now, are your 2012 Toronto Blue Jays

1.Yunel Escobar-Shortstop
Last year- Batting Average-.290, HR-11, RBI-48
Projected- BA-..290-300, HR-13-15, RBI-55-60

The skinny; I love watching this kid play the field.  He gets to balls quickly, turns sharply and throws accurately.  He is the closest thing to Tony Fernandez we have had in the gap since, well, since Tony Fernandez.  I don’t however like him batting leadoff, he doesn’t take nearly enough pitches and has a bit too much pop to be there, but he was put there out of necessity and has stayed.  I’ve inflated the average a bit, mainly because I’m hoping that in the off season he has learned a thing or two about hitting leadoff, and will become more of a singles doubles walks kind of player (the last one is a stretch, but who knows), and I would like to see him get on base and run, which he definitely has the speed to do.  Hustle and effort are the keys to a successful season for “YEScobar”. 
Although; I’m still waiting to see the attitude that moved him from Atlanta Braves MVP to doghouse to eventually getting traded out of town.  In the time that he has spent in Toronto there hasn’t been a glimpse of it yet, but to get in the bad books of a players manager like Bobby Cox, it has to be there.  If in fact a change of scenery was all Yunel needed, then praise be unto Alex Anthopoulos for securing us a long term shortstop at virtually no cost.

2. Colby Rasmus-Centerfield
Last Year- BA-.173, HR-3, RBI-13
Projected- BA-.275-.285, HR-15-17, RBI-70-75

The You Knows; Colby has the potential to be a really really decent centerfielder, with above average bang and solid slash stats.  Don’t let last year fool you, the trade did really brutal things to his head, which although isn’t really allowed per say, I suppose it can be expected.  With a career high in homeruns (23) just two years removed, and a second “second” chance in Toronto, I think the kid will round out and make it happen. 
The No One Knows; Or maybe his head IS the problem, and will not return to form.   Maybe 2010 was a fluke, and maybe he is one of the many who have all the talents but not the mind set for a major league career.  I doubt it personally, but if that’s the case, that’s fine.  Anthony Gose is just about ready to come up and man the deepest part of the outfield for the next decade or so, if Rasmus decides he doesn’t want the job, and would like to just be a career minor leaguer.  Either way, centerfield is all fine and taken care of for a very long time.

3. Jose Bautista-Rightfield
Last Year- BA-.302, HR-43, RBI-102, Walks-132
Projected- BA-.310-.320, HR-40-45, RBI-105-115, Walks- A whole bunch

The Good; Fuck Albert Pujols, “Joey Bats” IS the best player in baseball.  Because he doesn’t play for a playoff contender (until this year?) and because he plays north of the border, the American media will never profess this, but he is.  Although his homeruns dropped last year, his walks and slash stats somehow improved from the year before, and that says one thing.  He is legit.  I don’t mind a dip in the blasts all in the name of a .300 plus average, because simply put, that’s a good damn hitter.  Oh, and I suppose I should mention, he plays the best right field in all of baseball, is a great team leader and spokesman, and judging by his paltry “monster” contract, he is a pretty down to earth and level headed guy.  We are all better off having watched him come up, and just having seen him play this game, period no comma.
The Bad; There is no bad in Bautista’s game.  He doesn’t make mistakes, he doesn’t say the wrong thing, and he destroys baseballs.  Hell, he could probably come by your house, lay your stone patio, change your oil, cook you a great steak, and still be at the ball park in time to go 3 for 5 with 2 jacks.  Best in baseball, end of thread.

4. Adam Lind-First Base
LY- BA-.251, HR-26, RBI-87
Projected- BA- .300, HR- 20-25, RBI-95-100

The Ups; If we could throw one season out, it would be last year.  Learning a new position, well, in honesty, learning A position, since he was a DH most of his life, was a challenge for Lind.  Throw in a nagging injury and I’m ok with justifying that .250 average.  What I really need for Adam to do is learn to make pitchers pay for “unintentionally” walking Bautista.  Calm down a bit, choke up, and slap some of those gapers I love watching you slap.  Don’t worry about home runs, you’ll get your 20 plus.  Having Lawrie bat behind Lind will also by him more fastballs, which Lind feasts on, as long as he can lay off the junk he likes to hack at. 
But’s; 2008 was a fluke, regardless of how good of a hitter Lind is.  We don’t need almost 40 bombs, there are plenty of big hitters in this lineup.  Get on, move Bautista over, and let the kids behind you cash you in.  Lind has to keep it simple, and let it flow.  If he continues to put pressure on himself to live up to those lofty numbers he once produced, he will most undoubtedly fail.  That’s pressure no one needs.

5. Brett Lawrie- Thrid Base
Last Year- BA-.293, HR-9, RBI’s-25 (in 43 games)
Projected- BA-.310, HR-24-27, RBI’s-100 plus

Seriously; This kid is the future.  He will be a monster by the time it is all said and done.  But for now he will play his role, and continue to blossom at third, and let his bat do his talking.  One thing I love about this kid is his energy.  I can feel it sitting on the couch watching the game, so I can only imagine how majestic it is in the dugout and on the field.  In the event that you missed it, here is a write up I did on him a few months ago, that should say enough.
Although; Brett, please don’t become complacent.  Continue to improve.  I’ve been around long enough to know what happens to “Prodigy’s”, and it’s scary.  Hell, look across the field to Drabek if you don’t know what I’m talking about.  I’m not really worried about that with you, because as I’ve said before, you have respect for the game, and you play it the right way, but stay focused and continue to grow.  Every Jays record could be yours for the taking if you do.

6. Travis Snyder- Left Field
Last Year- BA-.225, HR-3, RBI-30
Projected- not even going to bother to be honest……..

Here’s the deal with Snyder. He has been hyped for too long as a solid contributor to the future of the Blue Jays.  Truth be told, he will have a long and great career in Major League Baseball, after all he is only 24, and has been up and down for 3 years now, but it seems like every year it’s something.  And as hard as it is to give up on him and move on, Marcus Thames is ready now and should be in there.  Travis is the better fielder, and probably (or should I say obviously) the better hitter, but inconsistency and minor injuries have plagued him since his initial call up in 2008.  If Travis stays off the disabled list (he’s never played more than 80 games in a season)  and remembers how easy hitting should be for a guy with his talents, not even I can predict what he will do over the course of a full 162.  See ball, swing bat, hit ball, run.  That’s all there really is too it.  Now show me, or go get me some good pitching on the trade market.
7. JP Arencibia- Catcher

Last Year- BA-.219, HR-23, RBI-78
Projected- BA-.270-.280, HR-20-23, RBI-75-85
Yes’s; It’s easy to get caught up with that shameful .219 average, but remember this, he jacked a record 23 homeruns for a jays catcher last year (P.S. that was his rookie campaign), batted in almost 80 RBI’s.   Oh, and he did a phenomenal job in his first full season catching a young staff.  The average will come up, I promise you, and the power numbers will go nowhere, and his arm strength seemed to have improved with each stolen base attempt. 

No’s?; In the event that he doesn’t improve the average, I don’t see any need for concern at this point, and that’s two fold.  On one hand, he DOES do a great job catching, and hits for power, and what else could you ask of a catcher.  And on the other hand, Travis D’arnaud, the Jays top overall positional prospect player (say that 3 times fast) in the organization is only a year or two from being ready for the show.  Although I doubt JP is going anywhere anytime soon to be honest.

8. Edwin Encarnacion- Designated Hitter
Last Year- BA-.272, HR-17, RBI-55
Projected- BA-.275-.280, HR-18-20, RBI-50-55

Do’s; With the exception of giving Adam Lind a day off or three at first base, just let Edwin worry about hitting.  When he does, good things happen at the plate.  For example, although I can’t recall the dates or numbers exactly, around the All-Star break last year, Encarnacion was hitting a salty ball-esque .220ish.  Do you have any idea exactly how good of a second half he had to finish above .270?  An incredible one, that’s how good.  A little tweak in his wrist may have had something to do with it, but the larger part was he became comfortable in his role as a DH, and it showed at the plate.  And when you have a DH batting 8th, that can give you around 20 homers easily, that’s a pretty damn good bottom of the order.  The RBI’s will lack, mainly because the boys in front of him aren’t going to leave a lot on base, but that’s a good problem to have.
Don’ts’ssss; True story, one afternoon at the SkyDome (er: Rogers Center, my bad) E5 was playing third and he made a great diving in the gap back handed glove snag on a hard hit ball, but then turned and fired the ball straight through my bedroom window in Aurora.  I still have it and refuse to hand it over to MLB so they can put it in the hall of fame as the worst aimed throw ever in baseball, mainly because I’ve watched Edwin field, and I honestly don’t think that it was in fact HIS worst throw ever.  He can field, he can catch, and we know he can hit, but just keep him out of any scenario where throwing is a possibility.  It’s as simple as that.

9. Kelly Johnson- Second Base
Last Year- BA-.270, HR-3, RBI-9
Projected-Not Important

As far as Kelly Johnson is concerned, I see two viable scenarios for him.  Scenario 1 has him absolutely wetting the bed and being released by the All Star break, in the name of bringing up Adeiny Hechavarria, whom the jays have way too much money invested in, for him not to being playing every day at the major league level.  Scenario 2 has Johnson returning to 2010 form, where he hit 20 plus jacks, and batted .280 plus, but gets traded at the deadline for either a younger more controllable second baseman, or pitching, thus making way for of course, Adeiny Hechavarria, whom the jays have way too much money invested in, for him not to being playing every day at the major league level.  Either way, don’t go getting a Kelly Johnson jersey anytime soon, because I don’t see him being around too long.   Or maybe I’m a hater, and am just still bitter about him being traded for and us losing John Macdonald as collateral damage in order to rid ourselves of Aaron Hill, which I still don’t understand, but anyway…..
So there’s the lineup folks, and yes it’s a good one.  Pitching and the rest of the bench may very well be discussed once roles are a little more defined.  Enjoy the weather this week, and we will see you next week, unless my German correspondent has something (finally) for you to read.  Either way, hang in there, because first pitch is only a handful of meaningless games away……  (Oh, and Eli, that’s 2500 hundred plus words, and I don’t care.  This is baseball we are talking about.  So bite me.  Prick)