I wouldn't be running to Las Vegas to put my money on Toronto having a winning record this season because the odds are stacked against it, but the Blue Jays have a good young nucleus of players who are willing to work hard. The only way the Toronto is going to have any chance of mounting a semblance of a pennant drive is if everyone on the roster hustles like they never have before and if they all have career seasons.
Worth Every Penny
All-Star Vernon Wells has always been one of baseball's most promising players and over the last three season's he's proved those predictions of his success right on the money. This year, Wells, whose star power has been muted by playing on a second-division team in Canada, is poised to make a leap into the elite. With the Jays expecting to run more this season than, Wells has the ability to approach the magical .300 30-100-20 levels and will likely be a very good value pick for the heart of your lineup.
About to Blossom
Alexis Rios led all rookies in most offensive categories last season despite playing only four months. The lanky right fielder (6-foot-5, 194 pounds) only hit one home run in more than 450 plate appearances as a rookie, but has the size and stroke to eventually add power. In the meantime, he's a high -average hitter who stole 15 bases.
The addition of Corey Koskie to play third and the free-agent defection of Carlos Delgado shifted incumbent third sacker, Eric Hinske over to first base. A solid defensive player at third, Hinske originally was a first baseman when he was signed in 1998. He's made a couple of nice plays in the field early in spring training, but since he struggled at the plate the last two seasons he's going to be dogged the presence of Shea Hillenbrand, who gives the Jays an out if Hinske's bat doesn't come alive.
Do you feel lucky?
Former Auburn quarterback Gabe Gross started spring training hitting bombs and raising eye brows, despite the fact that he was told that he had little chance, if any, to make the team. While he's hitting his way onto the 25-man roster, Gross could unseat the Frank Catalanotto/Reed Johnson left field platoon in short order, if not to start the season.
Under Carlos Tosca, the Blue Jays were a station-to-station team, waiting for the three-run homer. Now, there's really not anyone in the lineup who can be counted on to hit that timely home run, so they'll try to manufacture more. A speedster in the minors, Orlando Hudson's speed was squelched when he reached the majors because of that plodding style. Now he's got the potential to lead the team in swipes.
If something should happen to Miguel Batista
The closer's role in Toronto was completely up for grabs when camp began, but Batista was switched into the role after competing for a rotation spot. Justin Speier, who saved 16 games over the last two years, was the favorite, but the Toronto braintrust decided to go in another direction. However, when all is said and done this season, look for rookie Brandon League to have the most saves on the staff. He's the guy to get. And one more thing: Billy Koch is not an option so don't waste a pick on him.
Don't forget about
Roy Halladay, Dave Bush, Ted Lilly, Russ Adams
Don't bother with
Josh Towers, Frank Calalanotto, Koch, Justin Speier
David Sabino is the associate editor in charge of statistics at Sports Illustrated and the author of the book, Dominate Your Fantasy Baseball League (Muska & Lipman/Premier-Trade).