With the season now only a few hours away, here are ten fearless predictions for the Blue Jays 2015 year…
1) Daniel Norris may not continue undefeated and with a sub-3 ERA, as he’s been in Spring Training, but will look comfortable in the Big Leagues …and be better than Aaron Sanchez who will quickly look out of place as a starter.
2) Second base may not be as bad as it’s been the past three seasons, but Left field will be the team’s offensive and defensive black hole. Kevin Pillar is a serviceable back-up and a healthy Michael Saunders might – might- excel at Rogers’ Centre, but Pillar is not an everyday player on a team with playoff aspirations and a wonky-kneed Saunders isn’t going to be “healthy” for some time to come.
3) Either Buck or Pat will mention that Russell Martin is from Toronto every time he hits a home runs and that Dalton Pompey is from Mississauga every time he makes a dazzling catch. They probably won’t add that trivia to the discussion when either player strikes out on a pitch in the dirt.
4) Jose Bautista will have a very MVP-worthy season (being among lead leaders in homers, RBI, on base pct., outfield assists) but won’t win it because that award is Mike Trout‘s to lose. Unless Trout does something remarkably stupid and unexpected and is suspended, or sees his strikeout rate double while his average drops, he’ll win that award.
5) Edwin Encarnacion won’t have an MVP-calibre season. Don’t get mad at me here- I like EE too. I just think his bad back is going to act up too much for him to play every day, especially if pushed into service at first too often. A smart but hurting power hitter who plays 120 games can help a team, but not put up award-winning numbers.
6) Josh Donaldson, who today hit his 6th homer of spring, is going to make people forget about Brett Lawrie pretty quickly. Mind you, Lawrie just might have a bit of a renewal in Oakland and look better than he did in Toronto.
7) The Blue Jays will win a big award – Rookie Of The Year. Or at least I give them a better than 50-50 chance of doing so, which is pretty darn good in a pool of 15 teams. Many experts, including Sportsonearth.com are picking Dalton Pompey to win that, which isn’t unreasonable, but I also think Daniel Norris will have a shot if he stays in the rotation til season’s end, and even young Devon Travis, playing a high-profile position could do it. The bad news though is that it’s not guarantee of a big season for the team. 2010 was the last time the AL team with the Rookie of the Year made it into the World Series. (Neftali Feliz of Texas that year)
8) Mark Buerhle will roll along as always and record his 15th straight year of 200 innings and double-digit wins. Critics will continue to mock him for his 83 mph fastball and laud instead young pitchers who throw 99 – and win seven or eight games less than Buehrle!
9) IF the team appears to be in a playoff spot at the All-star break – leading the divsion or at least within a game or two of the wildcard, we’ll see the rotation supplemented with a major acquisition (somewhat like what the A’s did with Lester last season, or the Jays did back when with David Cone) by the end of July. If however the team is way back in the standings by All-star time, the opposite will happen…either Buehrle or RA Dickey will be shuffled off to a winning team.
10) By the time we flip the calendar over to June, Josh Thole will once again be back catching Dickey. One or two bad outings by the knuckleballer with Russ Martin behind the plate will get him griping and the team revisit their decision to keep Dioner Navarro and his five-million dollar salary to warm the bench. Navarro will likely end up somewhere like Seattle or Pittsburgh.
Well, we’ll check back in fall and see how clear my crystal ball was , and in the coming week I’ll give you my quick prognosis on the National League season ahead as well as who’ll be playing in October…