Toronto Blue Jays
SLEEPER Reed Johnson has excellent on-base skills, leads off for a potent offense. He has zero name-brand recognition but can easily score 100 runs.
BUST Gustavo Chacin walks too many and strikes out too few. His 13 wins in 2005 will probably be a career-high.
HITTER TO WATCH: Adam Lind, LF Lind should be the club's everyday left fielder; he's below average defensively but can rake and has power to come.
PITCHER TO WATCH: Ricky Romero, LHP
No one is close here, although Romero could emerge as a fifth-starter type or a quality reliever if he bounces back this year.
MLB Preview 2007
FIXED J.P. Ricciardi had plenty of loonies and toonies in his pocket this winter, but the Jays GM knew his money wasn't enough to entice luxe FAs like Barry Zito or Jason Schmidt north of the border. So, after locking up Vernon Wells, Ricciardi jacked up the team's offense by signing 38-year-old Frank Thomas to a two-year, $18M deal. "By adding Frank, we think we have a true AL East kind of lineup," Ricciardi says. The Jays are counting on the Big Hurt's brain as well as his brawn. Yes, Thomas mashes HRs, but he also takes a lot of pitches and draws walks, which helps drive starters from the mound.
NEEDS FIXING Toronto's frontline SPs and closer make them dangerous, but do they have the back-line depth to hang with the Sox and Yanks? Hello, John Thomson; konichiwa, Tomo Ohka; bienvenido, Víctor Zambrano. Even Josh Towers, 210 with an 8.42 ERA last year, got into the act this spring, regaining the command that made him effective in '05. "I¹ve grown up a lot," Towers says. "I know we still need a solid starter to fill the spot." Problem, or opportunity?
Adam Lind belted a game-winning HR at Yankee Stadium in October. Now the 23-year-old lefty power hitter just needs a hot Triple-A start to win himself a job in left.
Patrons will still enjoy $2 Tuesdays in April and May and a Ladies' Night Out discount on selected Thursdays. Rogers Centre (formerly SkyDome) gets flak for its cold concrete appearance, but Ted Rogers and his club have already spent more to fix it up than the $25 million Canadian he paid for it in 2005.
"I hope the Jays can stay healthy in '07. They are a fun team to watch and I think they can finish 2nd again in the East, hopefully make a strong run at the wild card this year."