There are very few things I like better than Opening Day. It's the moment where all things are possible. All teams have hope. All players could have a career year. Magic could happen, and any team could win 100 games. At the start of 2008 nobody was expecting the Tampa Bay Rays to win the AL East. We have a new season and the promise of seeing new things, seeing young players progress, seeing veteran's surprise.
So with that in mind, what can we expect from our Jay players? Let's look at them in the batting order we'll see tomorrow, since with Cito, odds are we'll be seeing this batting order a lot. After the jump
1. Jose Bautista: Jose had a terrific spring, hitting .439 with a .895 slugging average. He did only walk once in the spring but when you are hitting seeing the ball as well as he has been and are making as good contact as he has, why not swing the bat. He finished last year on a hot streak too. Does this mean he's suddenly figured out how to hit at 29 years old. I doubt it. But I am expecting a pretty good year from him. Maybe a batting line of .270/.350/.460. Maybe 15 to 20 home runs. I still don't see him being a great leadoff hitter against right handers but this is the way we are going, so let's see what happens. Defensively he is pretty good in RF, I don't expect him to get as many assists from the outfield as last year, teams will know he has a great arm now and likely will take fewer chances.
2. Aaron Hill: Another guy that had a terrific spring hitting .417/.517/.865. He started the spring taking a ton of walks and finished the spring pounding home runs. I'm not sure that his walk rate will go up all that much this year, but then even a little better would be a good thing. And maybe he won't quite have the same number of homer as last year but I'd expect a really good season again. A batting line of .295/.345/.490 with 30 home runs would be a really nice season.
3. Adam Lind: He didn't have a great spring (well, he had a pretty good spring with the pen, signing a really nice contract), hitting .222/.263/.444. I don't think a poor spring means he'll have a poor year anymore than I think Bautista's spring means he'll be a .400 hitter this year. Just 26 this year, I wouldn't expect him to have a much different season than last year, maybe a few more walks. How about a .300/.385/.550 line with 30 or so homers.
4. Vernon Wells: Vernon started spring well and finished spring well, in the middle there he didn't hit a thing. He hit .300/.315/.400 on the spring. I think he's almost got to be better than last year but not near what we'd like to see from him. Maybe like a .285/.340/.450 range line with 20 or so homers. Defensively, I thought he improved as last season went along, likely moving better out there as the hamstring troubles from the spring faded from his memory, but I don't think he'll ever be a good defensive CFer again.
5. Lyle Overbay: Cito says he is going to play everyday. I know there is a feeling that as the season goes on Cito will change his mind on that, but it takes a lot to change Cito's mind. There is a song about a truck driver saying 'give me 40 acres and I'll turn this rig around'. That's about what it takes to change Cito's mind on things like lineup. Lyle had a good spring too, .317/.417/.488. He didn't have a homer but did have a bunch of doubles. I think Lyle will hit right handers great, just like he did last year but I don't think he'll hit lefties at all, just like the past couple of years. Let's look for a batting line similar to last year's but slightly lower numbers with him facing more lefties: .265/.360/.440. It would be nice if he could get off to a quick start to help the Jays talk someone into making a trade for him by mid-season.
6. John Buck: He wasn't terrific this spring, .250/.250/.571, no walks, but two homers. Get used to the no walk thing, though he walks a bit more than Rod Barajas. I think he'll likely be a streak hitter too, hopefully not to the extreme Barajas was. I wouldn't expect much better than .240/.300/.410 with about 15 homers from him.
7. Edwin Encarnacion: That opposite field homer he hit the other day in Houston made me feel a lot better about him. I do think that it could be a very close race between errors and home runs for him this year. I'm hoping the homers win out. I also hope that if he starts slow, like he probably will, that fans give him a chance to turn it around. He has always been willing to take a walk. Lets look for a .250/.340/440 line with 22 homers and 21 errors.
8. Alex Gonzalez: Plays great defense. Hits, hopefully a little better than John McDonald. He didn't show it this spring, hitting ..225/.347/.300. He did take a few walks. I'm hoping there might be a little Cito batting coach magic that might help his power numbers a bit, he has hit as many as 23 home runs in a season. Let's look for a .240/.300/.420 batting line with maybe 15 homers.
9. Travis Snider: I'd like to think he'll move down from the 9th spot in the order but Cito has said Snider will play everyday, so let's take small victories. He didn't have the best numbers on the spring, .250/.333/.500. He took some walks and did look good in the games at Houston. I think he'll be streaky and likely drive us crazy at times, but the massive blasts will make thing all worthwhile. His defense has looked good, I can't see why Cito would have any trouble putting him out there in right field. Let's look for a .265/.340/.470 line with 20 or so homers. I think he'll be a favorite of mine for a long time.
I'm not going to go over the bench guys, mostly because, with the way Cito uses the bench, odds are they won't get enough at bats to be of any interest.
Our opening day starter, Shaun Marcum: He had an up and down spring and only got into 3 'A' games. I'm thinking he might start slow and improve as the season goes on. He's not the blow them away with a 95 mph fastball type, so it might take a bit for him to figure out all his pitches. I'm hoping for an ERA close to 4 and 13 wins.
I am guessing 76 wins this season. I'd like to be more optimistic but with Buck and Gonzalez in the lineup, it is going to be tough to score a lot of runs.
I'm so happy the season is starting. After a long winter of talking about baseball in the abstract, having real games to talk about is so much better.
If you haven't before (or even if you have), join us in the game threads, we have a great time. .