Real baseball starts tomorrow. Thought you should know. Today: the Toronto Blue Jays. Tomorrow, the world.
Lineup: There's not a lot of exciting talent here, but this is a fairly productive group of hitters. Adam Lind and Travis Snider are the excellently pedigreed hitters who should hit well enough to overcome their defensive shortcomings - they will spend time at LF and DH. Vernon Wells is hoping that his annoying trend of alternating good and bad seasons continues, since he was terrible last year - but with that contract weighing him down, it's gonna be tough to man CF effectively, or swing a bat. Jose Bautista, whom we did not know was still alive (that's why we write the previews!) is apparently going to be in right field, but he's 30 and has a career .729 OPS so don't get your hopes up, Nucks. The infield is cornered by Edwin Encarnacion and Lyle Overbay, both of whom are near-certainties to be league-average and also get hurt. Alex Gonzalez and Aaron Hill will be the double play combo, and while Gonzalez is no good, Hill had a monster season last year. If he can repeat that - and it's not very likely - then this team actually has a decent middle of the lineup, which will be exciting. John Buck, who improbably slugged .484 in 200 ABs last season will don the tools of ignorance, and hopefully play well enough to keep Jose Molina on the bench. Brett Wallace should be up before too long; he's a hitter in the Lind/Snider mold, albeit somewhat more athletic, and catcher Travis D'Arnaud will hopefully take over for their uninspiring catching duo at some point, though it may not be soon.
Rotation: Obviously, this group looked a lot better with Roy Halladay running out there every fifth day, but they're not an altogether bad unit. Shawn Marcum has struggled with injuries in his brief career, but he has excellent control and could be a real force if healthy. Ricky Romero, the slight lefty, has also...y'know, really, just about all Blue Jays pitchers have gotten hurt but have some real talent. So feel free to re-read the Marcum comment and apply it to Romero and Dustin McGowan. Brandon Morrow is a very intriguing prospect acquired from the Mariners, and he'll man the 4 spot. Morrow was effective as a reliever, but hasn't demonstrated much as a starter. The fifth spot will likely go to Marc Rzepczynski, whose name we still have trouble spelling even after writing more about him than probably anyone who doesn't write for Drunk Jays Fans, but Brandon Tallet and Brett Cecil will likely get some starts as well. Top prospect Kyle Drabek may be along to help things out eventually, but probably not for any substantial amount of time this season.
Bullpen: Jason Frasor is the closer here, and while he's somewhat uninspiring, he's a pretty good hurler, so they could do worse. Scott Downs and Jeremy Accardo are also good late-inning options. Jesse Carlson, besides looking absurd in this MLB.com picture, is a fairly mediocre option, but he's probably better than a guy like Shawn Camp, who isn't good for much besides getting groundballs. Oh, and Kevin Gregg is likely to see lots of innings, too...but he's terrible, so Jays fans had better hope that's not the case.
Overall: The Blue Jays are, unfortunately, the least inspiring squad in a division of heavyweights. Obviously, they're not competing with the unholy trinity of Sox/Yanks/Rays, but they're likely behind even Baltimore in the race for fourth-best team - not necessarily this season, but in terms of future prospects. There's some good young talent there now, and more coming, but they're still a lesser version of the O's - and that's even if they can finally keep their promising rotation healthy for once.
Predicted Record: 77-85, 4th place AL East
Beer: Alexander Keith's. Har dee har, choosing a Canadian beer for the only Canadian team in MLB. We're just phoning it in at this point. But like the Jays in their loaded division, Alexander Keith's tends to fall by the wayside when talking about Canadian brew; in the minds of the many, they are hardly worth noticing next to, say, Molson and Labatt. But there's definite quality in this Blue Jays squad - it's just that, like Keith's, you have to work a little to find it.