the Jays come into spring training in a couple of weeks the biggest question
will be how the team will handle the loss of first baseman Carlos Delgado.
Last season was a setback for the Jays as they suffered several key injuries
and finished in fifth place in the AL East, 19 games worse than they performed
in 2003. After acquiring two bats to replace the loss of Delgado, and trying
to sort their bullpen with a few free-agents, the Jays will look to prove they
can beat not only
, but the division powerhouse teams of
Shea Hillenbrand (acquired in a trade with Arizona for reliever RHP Adam Peterson); LHP Scott Schoeneweis
(free agent- 2 year, $5.25 million); RHP Billy Koch
(free agent – 1 year, $900,000 thousand); 3B Corey Koskie (free agent – 3
years, $16.5 million)
Carlos Delgado, SS Dave Berg, RP Valerio De Los Santos, C Bobby Estalella, RP
Bob File, RP Kevin Frederick, SS Chris Gomez, SP Pat Hentgen, RP Auilino
Lopez, RP Michael Nakamura, SS Chris Woodward
SS Russ Adams
2B Orlando Hudson
CF Vernon Wells
3B Corey Koskie
DH Shea Hillenbrand
LF Frank Catalanotto
RF Alexis Rios
1B Eric Hinske
C Gregg Zaun
looking at this lineup you certainly hope the potential plays out for the 2005
Jays. Russ Adams came on the scene late in 2004, and held his own in
seventy-two at bats, and should come into spring training and win the
shortstop position this spring.
should make a solid double-play combination alongside
, and with Vernon Wells in centerfield, the Jays have entered more into a
defensive philosophy with the loss of Delgado.
from injuries and key acquisitions will be the theme of this Jays lineup.
Frank Catalanotto played hurt for most of the 2004 season, however, he is
expected to be fully healthy by spring training, and his solid bat could be a
solid presence behind the newly acquired bats of Corey Koskie and Shea
Hillenbrand. Koskie should fill in the cleanup role behind Vernon Wells, and
with his power and plate discipline, he should enter in the role General
Manager JP Ricciardi wants him to fill, which is supply half of the
productivity that Carlos Delgado did. The other half of that responsibility
will go to Shea Hillenbrand who came over from
, and will likely be the clubs designated hitter. Hillenbrand has average
power, however, is a very consistent player, and you should expect 15-20 home
runs with a .275-.300 batting average.
biggest player in this lineup could be Eric Hinske. It is unrealistic to
believe he will return to his 2002 form, however, the Jays are hoping he
balances out his 2002 performance with his 2003 and 2004 performance, and
giving the team twenty home runs with a .260 average in the eight spot of the
lineup would be all they are asking for. Joining Hinske in the bottom of the
lineup will be second-year player Alexis Rios and veteran catcher Gregg Zaun.
Although Rios did not show power during his time with the Jays in 2004, he is
still 24-years-old and his body is still filling out. His defensive abilities
and speed will be an asset to the new philosophy the Jays are approaching, and
when his power potential comes into play, he could be a powerful force in the
lineup, as he is compared to a young Magglio Ordonez.
Jays bench is not spectacular, however, they do have some depth at the AAA
level, and those players could come into play during the 2005 season.
Outfielder Reed Johnson could platoon with Catalanotto in left-field, and will
be the Jays best threat off the bench. Guillermo Quiroz, Eric Crozier, and
Gabe Gross could each fight for spots on the 25 man roster come spring
training, however, the likely scenario will be that those three will be given
their at bats at AAA rather than spend time on the bench in
Menechino will provide a veteran presence at second base, and John MacDonald
could begin the season with the parent club, or be sent to AAA to tutor top
prospect Aaron Hill.
first four of the spots appear to be locked in, and the major battle for the
Jays during spring training will be figuring out the 5th starter,
and the bullpen situation. We project that
will win the fifth starter spot, however, he will have his share of
competition as Gustavo Chacin, Jason Arnold, Justin Miller, Ryan Glynn, and
Chad Gaudin will be battling for that fifth starter spot. The most serious
threat for Towers will be Gustavo Chacin, and if Chacin does earn that spot,
Towers could go into the Jays bullpen.
is healthy again, and could be a surprise candidate this spring, while Miller,
Glynn and Gaudin will put up a good fight, although they are the long shots in
Halladay will be returning from an injury plagued season, and the Jays will
need him to return to his ace form, if they want to have any chance of
success. Ted Lilly had a solid 2004 season, and he will be looked upon to
improve his performance in 2005, as the rest of the Jays rotation is filled
with big question marks. There were rumblings that Batista could be moved to
the closers role for the Jays in 2005, however, it now appears that Ricciardi
will give Batista one final chance to revert back to his National League form,
after adjusting to the American League. David Bush will be the new youngster
in this rotation, and the middle of the rotation should be his home.
Realistically, Bush is not a front-of-the-rotation pitcher, however, a he does
fit the profile of a No. 3 or No. 4 starter. Bush, originally was a reliever
because he struggled with his third pitch – the changeup, however, if he can
master his changeup he should have a long major league career ahead of him.
Gaudin, Steve Andrade,
Koch, Frasor, Ligtenberg and Schoeneweis are pretty much assured of bullpen
spots for the 2005 season, which leaves 1-2 more open spots. The biggest
question will be who will emerge as
’s closer for this season, and at this point the likely candidate appears to
be Justin Speier. If Gustavo Chacin wins the fifth starter spot this spring,
would be moved to the bullpen, which will leave Chulk, League, Gaudin and
Andrade fighting for the final bullpen spot.
most intriguing candidate would be Brandon League, because of his impressive
arm, and his ability to pitch in the upper 90’s with his fastball. Many
believe, however, that League will be best suited spending some time at AAA to
try to make succeed as a starter, although the hard-thrower could compliment
the Jays bullpen very well with the likes of Speier, Koch and Frasor.
will the loss of Carlos Delgado affect the Jays?
Koskie and Shea Hillenbrand were acquired to lessen the impact of the slugger
leaving, however, that combination comes with question marks. Koskie has been
injury prone in the past, and if he spends significant time on the disabled
list in 2005, any hopes for the Jays of success could be washed away.
Hillenbrand will likely be batting behind Koskie in the lineup, and there are
questions about if he has the bat in him to merit hitting in the fifth hole.
If you combine the two players’ stats, they certainly match up to the
productivity of Delgado, however, neither player is the intimidating factor
that Delgado was in the lineup.
certainly has the potential to be a solid five-tool player, but lacked in the
power department during his brief tenure with the Jays in 2004. Rios will be
patrolling right field, and he is a great asset to the new defensive
philosophy the Jays are approaching for 2005. He also has the potential to be
a major force in the lineup, and by years end could be batting in the middle
of the lineup, posing a serious threat to opposing pitchers.
has built a decent team for the 2005 season, and if they can play a healthy
free season, we expect them to be better than the Orioles and the Devil Rays.
The trouble they run into is their two other division opponents, are pure
powerhouses. Right now the Jays do not have what it take to be a serious
contender for the AL East title, however, they have built themselves a
building block with a true ace pitcher in Roy Halladay.
is certainly going in the right direction focusing on pitching and defense,
and if their young core of players could blossom in 2005, the Jays could be
playing meaningful games late in the summer.