With the expected season the Jays are about to go through it is easy to say that a good portion of the lineup would need to have career years for the club to compete. In years past, when the club thought it was in position to contend for a playoff spot, the Jays suffered from certain players either not performing to their expectations or not being able to play at their career norms due to injuries.
Last year, for example, Adam Lind and Aaron Hill played at levels that no one could have foreseen. On the other hand, players like Alex Rios and Vernon Wells were not able to continue their play of years past.
This year the Jays and their fans will look for breakout seasons from players like Brandon Morrow and Travis Snider while searching for continued dominance from Hill and Lind. With the relative inexperience that is on the roster, the chances of breakout seasons from some of the younger guys are unlikely to happen.
At this point in the re-building of the organization, general manager Alex Anthopoulos is looking to see who can handle the majors and who needs more development time.
As I mentioned, though, since it is unlikely for every player to have career years which would push the Jays into contention, there will be key players which could really progress the building of a competitor in the tough AL East.
At 26-years-old, Lind will look to build on his sensational 2009 season where he found himself as a LF/DH for 151 games. After posting a .305/.370/.562 with 35 homers and 114 RBI, Lind will be put in a similar position in the lineup where he is going to be expected to be amongst the top sluggers in the American League. With the track record of being a top-notch hitter at every level of baseball, there is no reason to expect he cannot continue what he started last season.
While missing nearly two-thirds of 2008 with a severe concussion, Hill rebounded with a sublime 2009 season where he hit .286/.330/.499 (36 HR and 108 RBI) and won the Silver Slugger award for his position. It has been said that he may not be able to smash home runs at the same pace, but if he is able to get on-base a bit betterwhile still seeking his pitch to hit he will continue to be amongst the best young second basemen in the majors. For an interesting read on Hill's spray chart for homers last year, check out this article from Fangraphs.
Wells will hope to bounce back after a 2009 season where he hit .260/.311/.400 with 15 homers and 66 RBI. After the season he had surgery on his wrist which will hopefully give him some of his power back. Cito has mentioned he wants to place Wells in the cleanup spot behind Hill and Lind so he will be given every opportunity to show he can be the hitter he was in 2003 or 2006. I am sure the Jays would settle for something around his career averages of .280/.329/.470. If Wells were able to find his previous form he, at the age of just 31, could give some justification to his massive pricetag.
At just 22-years-old, Snider will look to fulfill on the promise which everyone has heralded him with since being drafted. It looked like last year was going to be that season, but after slugging .484 in April (and smashing two mammoth homers while in Minnesota) last year it was all downhill. Snider has admitted to going through some rough times last season (recounted here) and is looking forward to having a strong spring. He has not been guaranteed an outfield spot on the major-league club, but it would benefit the club for him to make a statement at the highest level. Snider is the type of player who contending teams place in the middle of their orders and expect top-10 MVP type seasons. His vast potential has allowed him to cruise through the minors and it should allow him to flourish in time.
These are some position players that I feel could help the club grow into the contender they hope to become. Obviously every player would benefit the club with a good season, but they are obviously the core of the current major league club (in terms of position players). If players like Edwin Encarnacion and Lyle Overbay could have solid seasona they may be in line for an extension or a quality trade, respectively. The club will look to boost the minor league system to fill positions of need while promoting those who are currently in the system. Some of the key position players who may see playing time in the majors as soon as 2010 are: Brett Wallace (1B/3B) and J.P. Arencibia (C).
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