MLB Picks: Toronto Blue Jays Futures Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 2/5/2014
Pitchers and catchers start reporting to camps this week, which has to be a great thing to hear for those stuck in the frozen northern parts of this country -- did the NFL luck out with the Super Bowl or what? A winter storm hit the greater New York area the morning after. Perhaps NFL officials will remember that now that other cold-weather cities are asking to host the game.
I am going to start my 2014 previews with the Toronto Blue Jays. Why pick a team that doesn't play in the States, finished 74-88 last season and last in the American League East? Well, the 2012 Boston Red Sox finished 69-93 and last in the AL East before winning last year's World Series. I believe that Toronto has the talent to do the same last-to-first turnaround the Sox did if everything breaks right (and with one addition). Here are the other teams that finished last in their division in the 2013 season: the White Sox, Astros, Marlins, Cubs and Rockies. Do you believe any of them have a chance for a similar turnaround to Boston? Didn't think so.
Remember that the Blue Jays took over as World Series favorites last spring after completing those big trades for Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and a few others from the Marlins as well as acquiring R.A. Dickey from the Mets and signing free-agent outfielder Melky Cabrera. However, the team started slowly -- Buehrle and Dickey were terrible to open the season, and Reyes got hurt early -- and really never fully recovered. The Jays are owned by Canadian behemoth Rogers Communications, so there is money to be spent on the right players. So far it's been a quiet offseason, but I look for a starting pitcher to still be signed with the prices coming down. Toronto also could take on a bulky contract before the July 31 trade deadline.
Blue Jays 2014 Projected Lineup
Toronto's first seven hitters could be as good as anyone's: Reyes, Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind, Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus. Lind and Encarnacion are the only two returning regulars who played at least 120 games last season because of injuries. Lind hit .288 with 23 homers and Encarnacion .272 with 36 homers and 104 RBIs. Rasmus had 22 homers in 118 games and Lawrie 11 in 107, so you could be looking at five 20-homer guys with those four and Bautista. He was shut down after 118 games with 28 home runs. It's the second straight year he didn't play more than 118 games, so that worries you, but Bautista has proven one of the majors' top sluggers when he can play every day.
Reyes was limited to 93 games but was good when on the field, hitting .296 with 10 home runs and 15 steals. The only lock new addition to the lineup will be catcher Dioner Navarro. He hit.300 with a career-high 13 home runs and 34 RBIs in 89 games for the Cubs last season. He replaces J.P. Arencibia, who wasn't offered a contract after hitting 21 homers but only .194 in 2013. The only job likely up for grabs in camp is second base between Ryan Goins and Maicer Izturis. That's clearly the weak spot.
I fully expect Toronto to finish better than ninth in the AL in runs this season, and the Jays could lead the league in homers after finishing fourth behind the Orioles, Mariners and A's a season ago.
Blue Jays 2014 Projected Rotation & Closer
As noted above, I can't see the Jays breaking spring camp in Dunedin without adding someone like Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez -- Toronto would only have to give up the No. 49 overall pick for either guy because the Jays' two first-round picks are protected, and that's big deal -- or perhaps re-igniting trade talk for the Cubs' Jeff Samardzjia. The Jays have a solid trio in Dickey, Buehrle and Brandon Morrow, but right now the No. 4 is J.A. Happ and No. 5 will be likely decided in camp.
Morrow can have overpowering stuff, but he was limited to 10 starts a season ago due to injury. Happ had only 18 after getting hit in the head by a line drive. Buehrle and Dickey will give you innings, but they are going to give up hits and runs. On the bright side, both veterans had vastly better splits post-all-star break. The bullpen looks strong with closer Casey Janssen (34 saves, 2.56 ERA) and quality set-up men in Sergio Santos, Steve Delabar, and all-star Brett Cecil. Toronto's bullpen had the No. 4 bullpen ERA last season at 3.37 but No. 14 rotation ERA at 4.81.
Blue Jays Futures Odds & 2013 Trends
At Sportsbook.ag, the Jays are +2500 to win the American League pennant and +6000 to win the World Series. Division odds, wins totals and MVP/Cy Young props should be out soon with football season finished. Last season, the Jays were a bad bet, finishing 33-34 as a favorite and 41-54 as a dog. They were 85-77 on the runline and 79-80-3 O/U.
2014-15 Toronto Blue Jays Picks and Predictions
The Jays open the 2014 season March 31 at Tampa Bay, and their home opener is April 4 against the Yankees. A good start could be a confidence boost after last season's awful April. As the Jays stand now, I don't think the starting pitching is enough to win the AL East, but Toronto could challenge for a wild card by bashing its way to wins, and then anything can happen. Thus, I'd lean over wins, which I would project the books to list too low, probably 80. And it might be worth taking an AL East prop right when released on the hopes that GM Alex Anthopoulos can strengthen that rotation.
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