On Monday we took a look at the offense; on Tuesday the defense. Today we bring it all together.
Also, this is your last chance to enter a record prediction and a playing time prediction.
Lastly/elsewhere, the Jays rank as the number nine franchise in baseball, per Fangraphs' annual offseason exercise. Our own Marc Hulet wrote the piece.
Will there be a big storyline for the club in 2012? Other than people piling on Colby Rasmus of course.
Matthew E: I suspect the very good play of Brett Lawrie will be the big attraction.
John Northey: Thames becoming a really good everyday player or Alvarez becoming an ace level pitcher. Negatives will likely be Snider moving from super-prospect to backup status but my mind could change next week.
Thomas: Missed opportunities. The Jays will finish within 4 games of the last wildcard, Fielder will hit 40 homers, Lind will disappoint, Yu Darvish will do reasonably well and the back end of the rotation will go through several iterations. Towards the end of the season, the fans will be looking back on the signings the team didnít make and public pressure will grow on AA to make a splash in the coming offseason.
Obal: Attendance. I think itíll trend upward noticeably this year in the official accounting.
Gerry: The big story will be the teamís record. The city is desperate for a playoff team. If the team starts slowly the wailing and gnashing of teeth will begin. A fast start will lead to playoff expectations. On the field I see the starting pitching as the big story of 2012.
Anders: I think that weíll have buzz for the Jays at the trading deadline for the first time in a while (at least in a positive way). Of course, knowing AA, it will all be wrong and heíll pull some other rabbit out of his hat that, somehow, improbably, 20% of online fans will still hate.
Is there a player you think could surprise us in 2012 (either for good or for bad)?
Gerry: I think JPA could surprise to the upside creating a challenge for AA. Expectations for JPA are low and I think he will do better.
Obal: It was suggested at one point that thereís too much optimism in these previews, so Iíll jump in here and speak the unspeakable. On July 26, 2011, Jake Arrieta rang Jose Bautistaís bell. Bautista hit .257/.417/.487 from July 27 onward, and subjectively, it looked to me like Bautista wasnít quite the same guy over the last two months. and we should know by now not to underestimate the effect head injuries can have. A healthy Bautista is probably the best hitter in baseball, but in assessing the Jaysí prospects for this year and beyond it seems weíre coming dangerously close to taking his contributions for granted.
Thomas: Iíll say Rasmus, as he could do either. He might surprise the naysayers and put up numbers like he did in 2010 (although Richard Griffin doesnít recognize that as a good offensive season) or disappoint those who have been looking at the larger picture and encouraging patience by putting up numbers like he did in 2011. One other name is Drabek. Perhaps not as likely, but expectations are quite low after 2011 and the pedigree is still there. If the changes to his delivery work and he is able to maintain his cool in difficult situations, thereís a lot of upside there still.
Anders: I think when all is said and done that Edwin Encarnacion will have had a sneaky good year. Not elite territory, but ZiPS has him at .261/.331/.457, and I think he could end up closer to .275/.345/.480. I would have picked Cecil to disappoint but itís unlikely heíll get the chance. I think Francisco Cordero will be largely ineffectual.
Matthew E: Iím going to put all my chips on Rasmus for this question. For one thing it ticks me off when people criticize ballplayers for being quiet guys. As a quiet guy myself Iíd like to assure the world that it doesnít make one a bad teammate or a loser or anything.
John Northey: Thames for me - few see him as anything special but I think heíll establish himself solidly in LF this year.
Alright, time to put up or shut up - how many games do the Jays win in 2012, where does that put them in the AL East, and do they make the playoffs?
Thomas: To be consistent, 86 and fourth in the East.
John Northey: 93 games - one of these years they have to crack 90 donít they? Crowds come back as the Jays get into the playoffs but lose the one game playoff leading many to complain about how unfair the new system is.
Gerry: 85, tied for third and out of the playoffs.
Matthew E: I will guess, and I canít support this with any reasoning, that theyíll win 89 games, finish 4th in the East, and not make the playoffs.
Anders: I think Iíve predicted a couple of different things, but Iíll say 85 wins, which puts them 4 games out, 1-2 behind the Red Sox.
When all is said and done, the Jays 2012 season will be described as a ____________?
Anders: The last stepping stone before the Jays really become a club that threatens year in, year out to win the division.
John Northey: Success because it will break the 4 year playoff slump for Torontoís big 3 (Leafs/Jays/Raptors) - yes, I am an optimist. Plus normally when a team shifts from pretender to contender it is a sudden shift, not just a gradual (see Tampa Bay)
Matthew E: It will be described as a failure because they will not make the playoffs.
Thomas: A natural progression forward. There will be recognition that the development into a (hopefully sustained) contender takes longer in the AL East than in other divisions. I think the front office will use 2012 to get a final read on players like Lind, Snider, JP, Cecil and Drabek so they can be integrated into long-term plans or disposed of.
Gerry: The final step, the team will know how will be a key player in the playoff push for 2013 and on. Players like JPA, Lind, Johnson, Thames, Rasmus, Cecil, Drabek and McGowan need to show whether they are playoff caliber.