Posted on: March 30, 2008 11:42 pm

Jays Season Primer

    Well, it's that time of year again! Opening night for MLB, the first chance for fans to view the upcoming years product.  As a Jays fan every year we are slated to finish behind the Red Sox and Yankees, and ever year we do exactly that (except 2006).  The Jays have a great all-around team, but things always come up.  Be it injuries to Halladay and Burnett, or injuries to key players (the departed Troy Glaus, Lyle Overbay, and Vernon Wells). 
    This year looks promising for the Jays, as for the first time in a decade they have a true lead-off hitter, the key players are for the most part healthy, and the team is as deep as it has been since back-to-back World Series wins. 

    The team has Gold-Glove candidates in Aaron Hill, Alex Rios, and Vernon Wells, along with defensive whiz John McDonald.  The infield has the potential to be strong defensively with Scott Rolen, Hill, Overbay and McDonald.  Eckstein would be the biggest weakness in the infield, and he will be replaced by John McDonald when Roy Halladay pitches.  In the outfield, there are two great defensive outfielders in Rios and Wells. Stairs is a weakness, but is in a platoon with Shannon StewartGregg Zaun is adequate at best behind the plate, and will split time with Rod Barajas this season.

    On offensive the Jays are as potent as ever with a healthy Vernon Wells (who still needs to improve his clutch hitting), who should hit more than his 16 homers from last season as he was playing through a shoulder injury.  Alex Rios looks like a great breakout candidate for 30 homers and 20 stolen bases to go with a .300 clip.  With Eckstein, Hill and Wells batting ahead of him in the line-up, Rios could close in on 100 RBI as well.  The offensive depth is very strong as well as all players in the line-up could hit at least 10 homers and drive in 50 runs.  Frank Thomas should have a big year after figuring out his swing midway through last season, Rolen once he gets healthy should be able to provide some protection for Rios in the heart of the order.

    Starting Pitching
    Starting pitching, going into this year, should be one of the Jays biggest strengths.  With the entire quintet returning this season, the unit that had the third best ERA in baseball last year is intact.  Roy Halladay, when healthy, is a perennial Cy Young candidate, A.J. Burnett is one of the best pitchers in the AL when he isn't being a big baby, Marcum, McGowan and Litsch are promising young pitchers who all should be around 10 wins this year, and McGowan and Marcum could be around 12-15 a piece.

    Relief Pitching
    A lot has been made of B.J. Ryan's attempt to come back from Tommy John surgery.  The Jays should take things slowly with their prized closer, because they have one of last years unsung heroes, Jeremy Accardo who can take over the closer spot whenever asked.  With Casey Janssen out for the year, this opens up a pitching spot for Brian Wolfe to stay up the whole year. Last year in limited duty until the All-Star break, Wolfe posted very respectable numbers.  The rest of the bullpen looks solid with one of the top lefty specialists in the league, Scott Downs returning, a healthy Brandon League, a re-born Jason Fraser, and solid situational lefty Brian Tallet returning.

    In The End
    In the end, the Jays will finish third in the division again this season, behind the powerful Yankees and Red Sox, but above the up and coming Rays, and the re-building Orioles.

Projected Record: 83-79

1. David Eckstein SS
2. Aaron Hill 2B
3. Vernon Wells CF
4. Alex Rios RF
5. Scott Rolen 3B
6. Frank Thomas DH
7. Lyle Overbay 1B
8. Matt Stairs LF
9. Gregg Zaun C

Rod Barajas C
John McDonald SS
Marco Scutaro IF
Buck Coats UT
Shannon Stewart OF

Starting Pitchers
1. Roy Halladay
2. A.J. Burnett
3. Dustin McGowan
4. Shaun Marcum
5. Jesse Litsch

Jeremy Accardo
Jason Fraser
Scott Downs
Brian Tallet
Brian Wolfe
Brandon League
B.J. Ryan

Disabled List
60 Day - Casey Janssen
Category: MLB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com