Going into this year, we all know the score. In order for us to punch our way into the playoffs we are going to have to have a lot of things break our way. We need Snider to break out, Hill, Lind and Escobar to bounce back, Escobar to play a full season, Davis to prove he is an everyday player, The list goes on and on.
Let me get this out of the way first. I think AA has done a fantastic job with this franchise. He has turned our farm system from a bottom five into a top five in all of the big leagues. That is amazing, regardless of who you got to trade to kick start the process. I am perfectly happy with the direction of the team, that being said there are some concerns going into this year and the recent rash of Spring Training injuries only highlights this fact.
There is no way around this, this team is paper thin at the big league level. Sure we have building impressive pitching depth, and our prospects up the middle of the diamond are looking good, but those are all chips for the future. If any of current regulars go down and our bench and replacement players are forced into a full time role our lineup starts to look considerably weaker. Now I can hear your thoughts already "But JohnnyG! Name me a team in the big leagues that wouldn't have the same problem!" and that very well may be true, but at the moment let's tackle my worries before we fix the rest of league.
As was discussed on the recent Wilner blog and on the radio broadcast today, the biggest story of today was the recent rash of injuries that seem to have taken down some of the Jays both regulars and ones fighting for jobs alike.
First up was Scott Podsednik, he showed up to the field with a walking cast on his foot, now this in and of itself was not really surprising as we already knew he was hurting. This all but takes him out of the running for the 4th outfield spot which basically belongs to Patterson, although there is an outside shot Thames could edge him out.
Next we find out a trio of pitchers are hitting the shelf for a couple of days. Our opening day starter Ricky Romero was sidelined for a few days with a strained finger. You may remember that during his last start he was looking at his finger off and on. The broadcast team suspected that he may of had a blister, but it turns out it may be a tendon or ligament issues, no worries though, looks like it will only be a one start issue.
Then we have a pair of relievers that were pegged to be near the back end of our bullpen, Francisco has been sidelined until at least after the weekend. Apparently he has been having trouble "getting loose". Not to be outdone, it came out that Octavio Dotel was having hamstring issues.
Out of all of these I am the most worried about Frank Francisco. The vagueness of the injury and the lack of timeline really has caused me concern. Going into the off-season I had Francisco as the closer, I knew it could come down to a fight between him and Jon Rauch, but I felt Francisco had an edge. Regardless if he was a setup or closer he was going to be (hopefully) one of the stable arms in the pen. It's not that I don't have confidence in Rauch but losing a valuable pen arm could be very harmful to the team.
The only good thing about all of this is that it is still Spring Training, which means that if Ricky were to miss extended time we still have extra arms like Drabek, Litsch, Rzep, Reyes who still have been training all spring as starters and not moved to the pen at all, their arm strength would be right where we need them, and I am fairly confident middle relievers are easy enough to replace from the system. Losing Francisco would hurt no matter what though.
All of these injuries have just got me questioning our depth, which admittedly Tom has been talking about all Winter including on our round-table discussion (Hey! Maybe I should have listened). A lot of people are optimstic about the team, you can see that via the team poll on the left hand side of the page, we have been sitting at 75-90 all off-season. How quickly is that going to drop if we are forced into seeing McCoy or McDonald everyday or we have to start using our regular AAA(A) players on a regular basis.
.... Ah screw it. GO JAYS GO! PLAYOFFS!!!1
EDIT: Forgot to mention, Title comes from Firefly.