Now that the 25 man roster is pretty much set (save for 1-3 bullpen slots) the question becomes who is likely to slump and need
replacing and who are the replacements should a player get hurt/be
Going through the 40 man roster and all the Non-Roster Invitees (NRI's) here is what we see.
Catcher: J.P. Arencibia/Henry Blanco start it seems with Josh Thole an expensive AAA backup. A.J. Jimenez is probably the closest to the major of the prospects but is at least a year away from a short term call up I'd think. NRI's are Jack Murphy (8 games in AA, not ready for a call-up obviously 235/321/384 lifetime in minors), Mike Nickeas (73 ML games 180/241/238 another ex-2012 Met), and Sean Ochinko (reached AA last year, lifetime 289/343/459 in the minors). Of those only Nickeas is a likely call-up this year. Thus Thole/Nickeas are the ML backups and AAA catchers while Ochinko & Murphy are likely in AA with Jimenez (one might be in AAA or A+ depending).
First Base/DH: Edwin Encarnacion is the starter, Adam Lind the DH starter, David Cooper the injury replacement, Bautista an emergency replacement. The easiest position to find a replacement at as most players can play it well enough to get by. The only NRI is Luis Jimenez (7 ML games, 290/374/477 lifetime in minors). Could see Rajai Davis, Emilio Bonifacio or Mark DeRosa in the mix as well at DH.
Infield: Maicer Izturis/Brett Lawrie/Jose Reyes starters, Emilio Bonifacio the #1 backup and Mark DeRosa secondary backup with Ryan Goins on 40 man (277/335/378 lifetime in minors at SS/2B highest level AA for 136 games last year) so could be called up in the event of injuries. NRI's are Mike McCoy, Jim Negrych, Ryan Schimpf, Eugenio Velez, and Lance Zawadzki. No hotshot prospects that are close unless you view Goins or Schimpf that way.
Outfield: Melky Cabrera, Colby Rasmus, Jose Bautista starters, Rajai Davis, Emilio Bonifacio ML backups, Anthony Gose & Moises Sierra are the top prospect backups, NRI's are Ryan Langerhans & Ricardo Nanita & Adam Loewen (listed as an infielder on the Jays site for some reason). Tons of depth here although if Bautista goes down 2013 will be another frustrating year I suspect.
Clearly AA has gained some backups in the outfield, first base, catcher, and infield but the prospect base is thin with Gose, Sierra and Jimenez the only ones remotely close to the majors who are viewed as being likely starters at some point (and that is being generous to Sierra).
Starting pitching: R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Ricky Romero are the big 5, J.A. Happ, Brad Lincoln, Chad Jenkins are the next 3 in line, Dustin McGowan if healthy is in the mix (please hold your laughter, he could be healthy and I could win the lottery), and assorted kids are going to fight to make it as well (such as NRI Sean Nolin, John Stilson) and don't forget NRI's Dave Bush, Chad Beck, Justin Germano, Ramon Ortiz, and Claudio Vargas who all have starting experience and will be fighting for a role in AAA.
Bullpen: Casey Janssen, Sergio Santos, Darren Oliver, Esmil Rogers are locks, Brett Cecil, Steve Delabar, Aaron Loup, Jeremy Jeffress are on the 40 man fighting for a ML role,all the non-big 5 starters will fight for a slot here as well, plus other 40 man guy Evan Crawford, and the NRI reliever crowd: Alex Hinshaw, Tommy Hottovy, Juan Perez, Rich Thompson, Neil Wagner. Those last 3 slots will be a dog fight but I'd bet on Cecil, Delabar & Loup right now with Happ and Lincoln possibly forcing themselves into a role other than AAA backup starter.
Phew. That is a lot of pitchers to go through. The Jays have 11 backup starting pitchers in spring plus 10 more fighting for 3 relief slots. And that isn't factoring in prospects like Deck McGuire and Casey Lawrence. There will be a need for more catchers in spring than are currently listed I suspect with guys who are now coaches doing tons of catching in the early spring I suspect. So if you are going to any early spring games bring a catchers mitt and they might call on you :)
There was talk of the need for backups and boy do we see them here. The question is 1) are any of them any good and 2) will any of them be needed. Odds are someone will impress in spring and force the Jays to reconsider them for the ML roster. Ramon Ortiz catches my eye as he has started 214 games in the majors over 11 seasons for 7 teams with a 90 ERA+, while getting time in the pen the last 2 years. He gives up too many HR (1.4 HR/9 lifetime) but with that experience and a determination to keep going at 39 who knows? He'll be a good influence on the kids, showing that even guys with a lifetime pension (maxed out after 10 years experience) want to keep trying.