Toronto Blue JaysManager: John Gibbons
Stadium: Rogers Centre
2008 Record: 86-76 (4th in AL East)
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The scouting information available to minor league hitters is often scant -- the name of the opposing pitcher, a couple of statistics. So when Travis Snider was promoted to the majors last August, he was thrilled to discover the detailed info at his disposal. "It becomes more of a chess match than at the minor league level," says Snider, Toronto's first-round pick in 2006. After slugging .513 in three seasons on the farm, the left fielder batted .301 with six doubles and two homers in 73 big league at-bats. The Blue Jays, who finished 21st in baseball in runs scored last season, hope Snider and Adam Lind, a third-round pick in 2004, can help Vernon Wells and Alex Rios kick the offense up a notch. With a club built around pitching and defense, Toronto has averaged 85 wins the past three seasons. That would make the Jays contenders in some other divisions, but they've become an afterthought in the loaded AL East. This team is nearing a crossroads: Another mediocre season, and it may be time to clear the chessboard and start over.
-- Buster Olney
HITTER TO WATCH:
Travis Snider might be the favorite to win Rookie of the Year if Matt Wieters doesn't come up in the first few weeks of the season; Snider has a quick bat, plus raw power and a good eye, and plays capably in right or left field.
PITCHER TO WATCH:
Ricky Romero has bounced back from a few years of control trouble and has a strong three-pitch mix that should help him get through opposing lineups two or three times.
-- Keith Law, Scouts Inc.
Will Roy Halladay be the ace of the American League? Will Adam Lind rank among the top outfielders in the league? Register your vote.
With B.J. Ryan's velocity way down this spring, Scott Downs is the Blue Jays' fallback option at closer. He's been really good as a set-up man two years running, and this news makes him a viable deep-league draftee.
B.J. Ryan will probably keep his closer's job to begin the year, but there's real concern about how soft he's throwing. He was reliable in '08 but looks overvalued in '09. At the very least, his strikeouts seem likely to suffer.
-- Christopher Harris
Last year, Vernon Wells missed significant time because of a strained left hamstring and a broken wrist. This spring, Wells has already been bothered by the same hamstring and wrist. No need for a medical background to know that this is not good. Hamstring injuries are known to be annoyingly recurrent, but having the problem crop up so early for Wells is cause for concern when the first of 162 games has yet to be played. As far as the wrist issue, stiffness and soreness in the area of a prior fracture are not unusual, but once again, the fact that this is rearing up so early is of concern. Manager Cito Gaston remains hopeful that these are minor issues, but this is unlikely to be the last we've seen of these injuries for Wells.
-- Stephania Bell
PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS
No. 18 overall
No. 15 overall
No. 15 overall
No. 20 overall
No. 18 overall