It’s Opening Day at Progressive Field, and while the excitement of the season starting is the story of the day, it won’t be an easy start for the Indians. As Brian Heise noted in his series preview, this is the first important series of the year for the Tribe. The visiting Toronto Blue Jays are the most unpredictable team in baseball, and they had the best spring training record in baseball—a distinction that, contrary to popular belief, really does mean something.
We’ve already covered all the information you need about Cleveland’s 2012 Opening Day roster, but what about Toronto? In order to get an expert’s take on the Tribe’s first opponents of the year, we asked Jared Macdonald, editor of JaysJournal.com, to give us his take on the state of the Blue Jays.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: The Blue Jays ranked as the most unpredictable team in baseball based on the data from our FanSided power rankings vote. What do you foresee for Toronto in 2012?
JARED MACDONALD: For the Blue Jays to rank as the most unpredictable team in baseball certainly makes sense given the club’s various question marks heading into the season. What will full seasons of Eric Thames, Colby Rasmus, Kelly Johnson, Henderson Alvarez and Brett Lawrie look like? Will Adam Lind hit like he did before the All-Star Break last season or put together a full year like his dismal second half of 2011? How is the back end of the rotation going to look/fare later in the season?
Question marks aside, the 2012 Blue Jays are going to be a competitive club with the potential to surprise people. They have improved in various areas (especially the bullpen) without losing anyone substantial or valuable. While I think it’s a stretch to say that the Jays are playoff-bound this year, they are definitely a better club than they were in 2011.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: Alex Anthopolous has earned a reputation as being one of the best GMs in the game, but not all of his high-profile moves seem to have worked out (dealing Mike Napoli, dealing for Colby Rasmus). What do you think of him so far?
JARED MACDONALD: Alex Anthopoulos has been a refreshing change from J.P. Ricciardi, the Jays’ previous GM, and then some. He’s overhauled the team’s entire scouting department, drafted incredibly well, and been aggressive on the international market. In addition to dealing Roy Halladay and Vernon Wells, among others, Anthopoulos has boosted his rapport with other GMs around the league by ensuring his moves are never leaked in the media, so you don’t hear about them until they’re done. Needless to say, Jays fans and media are quite impressed with Anthopoulos so far.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: So Jose Bautista wasn’t a fluke—he was even better in 2011 than he had been in 2010. What do you expect from him in 2012?
JARED MACDONALD: Even though it’s Jose Bautista, I think it’s important to expect something realistic, as you can’t expect him to hit 40-plus home runs for the third year in a row, even though it’s possible. Bill James predicts a .262/.385/.525 line with 38 home runs and 107 walks in 675 plate appearances which, outside of personal predictions of a higher average (.274) and lower home run total (34), I’d say is a legitimate estimate.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: How good is Brett Lawrie going to be?
JARED MACDONALD: Brett Lawrie has received a lot of hype this spring, earning comparisons to Pete Rose and George Brett. While he’s not a Hall of Famer or anything yet, he draws rave reviews from scouts for his makeup and overall athletic ability. His energy, confidence and way of playing the game have been great to see, and after you see him in person, you’ll know what I mean. His combination of power and speed have brought up a 30/30 ceiling for him.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: Who’s taking the mound for the Blue Jays this weekend, and what should Tribe fans expect from them?
JARED MACDONALD: The Blue Jays will be sending Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow and Joel Carreno to the mound this weekend against the Tribe, with Romero likely being the most familiar name. Morrow added a cutter at the end of the regular season and has put more confidence in his curveball and changeup, so look for a more varied attack from him aside from just his four-seamer.
It’s understandable if nobody in Cleveland has heard of Carreno, as not many Jays fans have even heard of the right-hander, either. Optioned to minor league camp a few weeks ago in spring training, Brett Cecil‘s struggles (and demotion to Double-A) opened a spot in the rotation, and Carreno got the nod. A 25-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, Carreno complements his plus slider with an effective fastball and a changeup that could still use some refining. He’ll strike out a high amount of batters but, because of his poor command, he’ll walk his fair share as well, so patience might be key for the Indians lineup. Carreno spent all of last season at Double-A before earning a 15-inning relief stint with the Jays in September.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: What’s your prediction for the series?
JARED MACDONALD: I’ll say the Jays go 2-1.
Be sure to check out Jared and his staff at JaysJournal.com for great Blue Jays coverage all season long!