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Monday, March 24, 2003
Season preview: Toronto Blue Jays

ESPN.com


Projected batting order
Shannon Stewart, LF
Eric Hinske, 3B
Vernon Wells, CF
Carlos Delgado, 1B
Josh Phelps, DH
Frank Catalanotto, RF
Chris Woodward, SS
Ken Huckaby, C
Orlando Hudson, 2B
Rotation
Roy Halladay, RHP
Cory Lidle, RHP
Tanyon Sturtze, RHP
Mark Hendrickson, LHP
Pete Walker, RHP
Bench
Mike Bordick, SS
Grey Myers, C
Tom Wilson, C
Dave Berg, INF
Bruce Aven, OF
Bullpen
Kelvim Escobar, RHP (CL)
Jeff Tam, RHP
Doug Creek, LHP
Cliff Politte, RHP
Trever Miller, RHP
Justin Miller, RHP

Complete Blue Jays roster

 ESPN's Take

Q: How close are the Blue Jays to contending this season? And down the road?
If they win 81-85 games they will be happy. It will be two or three years before they can seriously contend because other than Roy Halladay and Jason Arnold, they lack any prime pitching in the organization.
-- Peter Gammons





He's no longer a catcher, but it shouldn't stop you from making Josh Phelps a high draft pick. Armed with legit power and freed of the worry of playing the field, Phelps qualifies at first base in ESPN leagues and could deliver better numbers than Mo Vaughn.

No pitcher was better last August than Cory Lidle, who allowed a mere one run in six starts. The rest of his season was just average, but now that he's moved up in a rotation, from Oakland's No. 4 to Toronto's No. 2, there are expectations. Look for Lidle to reach 12 wins and become more consistent.
-- Eric Karabell




Jayson Werth, OF
Werth hit 18 homers and stole 24 bases in Triple-A last year. But he struck out 125 times, and still needs some minor-league seasoning. He's missed most of the spring with a ligament injury in his left wrist, but could make an appearance with the big-league club later in the season when he gets healthy.

 Manager: Carlos Tosca
 Home: Skydome (50,516)
 '02 record: 78-84
 Team page | Schedule | Offseason moves

Catcher: Ken Huckaby/Greg Myers
These two figure to share time behind the plate. Huckaby, the righty, toiled in the minor leagues for years, but is solid defensively. Myers, the lefty, spent last season with the Oakland A's. Don't expect much offense from this position -- Tom Wilson, who can also catch, has the most pop in his bat, but will be more of a utilityman than a regular catcher.

First Base: Carlos Delgado
Struggled early last season, but finished with 33 homers and 108 RBI. Still, that was his lowest power output since 1997 -- and he's averaged only .278 over the past two seasons after hitting .344 in 2000. He'll still hit for power and walk a lot, but don't expect a .300 batting average.

Second Base: Orlando Hudson
Has a bright future, as evidenced by his great spring, and should benefit by having a full season in the bigs. He hit over 100 points better with runners in scoring position last season -- the Jays surely hope that trend will continue. His defense is also improving.

Third Base: Eric Hinske
The AL Rookie of the Year last season hit .279 with 24 homers, and recently signed a long-term contract. He also improved in the field as the season progressed -- he had 15 errors in his first 55 games, five in the last 97. But you never know if a sophomore swoon could be in store as he struggled at the plate this spring.

Shortstop: Chris Woodward
Is teaming with Hudson to become a talented young duo in the middle of the Toronto infield. He hit .276 with 13 home runs last year, and will benefit as well from playing a full season.

Left Field: Shannon Stewart
Is extremely consistent, hitting .300 for the fourth consecutive year last season. He needs to be more active on the basepaths. He'll be a free agent after this season, so that could provide extra motivation.

Center Field: Vernon Wells
Along with Hinske also recently signed a long-term contract with Toronto. He drove in 100 runs last year in his first full season in the majors, batting .275 with 23 home runs. The Jays hope his power production continues to improve.

Right Field: Frank Catalanotto
Missed most of spring training with a bad lower back. But the Blue Jays still plan on him being their regular right fielder in the regular season. He's versatile, which means he'll also see time in the infield as well as being the DH. Two years ago he hit .330 while with Texas. Last year, he struggled with hand and groin injuries, but if he's healthy, he should hit for a high average this season.

Designated hitter: Josh Phelps
Began last season in Triple-A, but hit .309 with 15 homers and 58 RBI in 74 games. A former catcher, Phelps will primarily be the Jays' DH because the team fears his knees won't hold up behind the plate. He could have a monster year, especially in the power department, with a year in the bigs under his belt.

No. 1 Starter: Roy Halladay
How far has he come? In 2000, he had a 10.64 ERA in 67 innings, setting a major-league record for worst ERA with at least 50 innings pitched. He then went back to the drawing board in Class A and last season he won 19 games with an ERA under 3.00, and led the league in innings pitched. Twenty wins is well within reach this year -- through March 22, Halladay hadn't given up a run all spring.

No. 2 Starter: Cory Lidle
Is an important new acquisition from the Oakland A's. He now can escape the shadow of Oakland's Big 3 -- he went 13-6 two years ago, and last season he struggled early but heated up after the All-Star break with a 6-3 record and a 2.69 ERA. With decent run support, look for Lidle to win 12-16 games.

No. 3 Starter: Tanyon Sturtze
The bad news? He led the AL in losses last season, going 4-18. The good news? He pitched for Tampa Bay. Sturtze still ate up 224 innings, and his record should improve dramatically with the Jays' lineup behind him.

No. 4 Starter: Mark Hendrickson
Has emerged as a lock for the rotation after an excellent spring. The 6'9" hard-throwing lefty, a former college basketball star at Washington State, went 3-0 in four late-season starts last year. His future is very bright.

Bullpen: Doug Creek, Jeff Tam, Cliff Politte, Trever Miller, Justin Miller
Right-hander Tam and left-hander Creek will be the two primary set-up men in middle relief -- both are veterans, but both struggled last season. Tam had a 5.13 ERA with Oakland, Creek a 5.82 ERA with Tampa Bay. The Jays hope they can bounce back, but middle relief should still be pretty shaky in Toronto this season.

Closer: Kelvim Escobar
Yes, he recorded 38 saves last year, and throws a heater in the upper-90s. But his ERA was 4.27, and his eight blown saves tied him for worst in the AL. He'll likely continue to make Toronto fans nervous  until he's potentially traded during the season. Then Cliff Politte would likely take over in this role.


-- Kieran Darcy, ESPN The Magazine

Record: 78-84 | Finish: 3rd in AL East | Results | Statistics: Batting | Pitching
Offense (AL rank) Defense (AL rank)
813 runs (7th)
Home: 408 runs (6th)
Road: 405 (5th)
828 runs allowed (9th)
Home: 408 (10th)
Road: 420 (11th)
2002 Stats Leaders  
Average: Shannon Stewart, .303
Runs: Stewart/Carlos Delgado, 103
On-base pct: Delgado, .406
Stolen bases: Stewart, 14
Wins: Roy Halladay, 19
Saves: Kelvim Escobar, 38
Home runs: Delgado, 33
RBI: Delgado, 108
Slugging pct.: Delgado, .549
OPS: Delgado, .955
ERA: Halladay, 2.93
Strikeouts: Halladay, 168