Well it's one week out now, and what do we know?
Not as much as you'd have expected but still, more than maybe you'd think. Let's review the safe assumptions about the major league roster, even though these conclusions are easily found elsewhere:
Catchers: John Buck and Jose Molina. given that Raul Chavez isn't playing with the major league team at all, it's a given he doesn't make the cut.
Infielders: Lyle Overbay, Aaron Hill, Alex Gonzalez, Edwin Encarnacion (if not on the DL) John McDonald, Randy Ruiz and Mike McCoy.
Outfielders: Vernon Wells, Travis Snider, Jose Bautista, and Adam Lind (really a DH but you get the idea).
If EE starts on the DL, add Jeremy Reed.
That's pretty much set, with the only minor question being the reversal of McCoy and Reed. It's on the pitching side that things get more uncertain. Let's look at the rotation first. Marcum at #1 and Romero at #2 is written in ink at this point. What comes after is less certain. For those three spots are at least five candidates:
Brandon Morrow - if he does well and makes it through five innings in Houston, he's in at #3. if he has a setback it's off to the DL;
Dana Eveland - has steadily pushed his way into consideration with an excellent spring;
Brian Tallet - Clarance's boy, hasn't had an impressive spring but veteran guys who have made the team often enjoy a lot of leeway on that, also a proven commodity in the bullpen;
Marc Rzep - Had an up and down spring, came into camp is a favorite of the manager but is also young enough to not be insulted by a AAA assignment to start the year;
Brett Cecil - came into camp with a presumptive future in Vegas to open the season but has impressed the right people;
Dustin McGowan - has been shut down for two week insuring he starts on the DL and won't see Toronto before May at the very earliest.
There are a number of ways one could look at this competition. First, lets concede the #3 spot to Morrow and note that the best of the guys we'd otherwise eliminate gets to step in if he has to hit the DL. For the other two spots you have several potential combinations.
Scenario A: Conclude that in terms of both the learning curve and service time, the future is best served by the kids being in Vegas and put Eveland and Tallet in the rotation.
Scenario B: Conclude that the kids learn best in the majors and send the older guys off to the bullpen.
Scenario C: go with the best spring performances, thus Eveland and Cecil. Zep goes to AAA and Tallet to the 'pen.
Scenario D: Entertain trade offers for one of the older guys from a team thin on pitching. Let the dominoes fall as they will thereafter.
We really don't have many clues here, but based on AA's seeming "build for the future" philosophy, and my conclusion that Tallet is probably a placeholder anyway, and the instinct that Eveland would build value by posting regular season success as a starter - I'll take a flier on Scenario A and base the rest of this projection on that event.
What we gain here is that we don't lose Eveland (since he's out of options) to waivers, and we reduce the bottleneck on the bullpen jobs which likewise helps maintain some depth - at least until someone pushes Tallet out of the rotation (which is bound to happen).
In the bullpen, we've been told from day one that Frasor, Gregg, and Downs are the only locks but as long as his knee is fine (which it seems to be) Carlson is pretty much a given as well. Shawn Camp did such good work for Clarence last year that he'd have had to pitch himself out of the pen and he hasn't. Those five are pretty easy calls. That leaves two jobs and the following competitors (assuming the aforementioned rotation):
Merkin Valdez - Reading the stat page gives us no real info about how well he's done this spring, a sample size of six innings has little relevance anyway. What we do know is that he's out of options, a fact to which which the Jays are paying attention. At the very least, he holds a tie-breaker;
Casey Janssen - Like all the relievers in camp, he's thrown very few innings (at least in games that "count" on the stat page), but the reviews have been universally favorable. His problem? He has an option left;
Josh Roenicke - generally listed as a candidate, in reality having the least major league experience and the most options, he'd have had to have been a monster to be a real candidate;
David Purcey - seems to be destined for a bullpen role, but still raw in that capacity. Purcey might conceivably evolve into an intimidating late-inning lefty, maybe even a closer (for someone) but for now, his newness to the role and his remaining option puts him in the role of long-shot. this would change in a hurry if Downs were traded since he'd then benefit from his left-handedness;
Jeremy Accardo - has an option, and had a so-so spring, which also puts him in a dis-favorable position for making the team. if I may digress a bit here, for all the talk of teams looking at Frasor and Downs (quality acquisitions to be sure) I have to wonder if the guy most likely to be traded is Accardo. If you are the Twins, for instance, and looking to increase your resources in terms of the closers role, but were unwilling to pony up a real prospect for Frasor or Downs, who wouldn't you take a long look at a guy like Accardo?
Granted, he had a limited opportunity last year and some control problems in his limited major league appearances but he was also pretty thoroughly jerked around. Barring some health or "stuff" issue (of which none are reported) this is still the guy who was astonishingly good as a full time closer in 2007. That isn't worth anything to the Twins? or the Cubs? Maybe I'm letting sentiment cloud my vision here but I, for one, would hate to see Accardo become the forgotten man again.
Realistically, I think the Jays will gamble that Valdez gives them something and hang on to him out of camp, given the likelihood of losing him. Out of the other four, the buzz is all about Janssen.
So - to this point I've pretty much repeated that which you could have already gotten (and probably have) from Jordan Bastian and a number of others, but here's the next step - how do these decisions impact the minor league rosters?
Here's my guess:
Catchers: JP Arencibia, Raul Chavez
First: Brett Wallace, Brian Dopirack(DH)
Second: Jarrett Hoffpauir, Calix Crabbe (no idea who starts)
Short: Jesus Merchan
Third: Brad Emaus (I've seen suggestions he'd go back to third this year - which I think is a VERY good idea...I've also seen suggestions he'd start at New Hampshire but I'm hoping not. If he does, I make Phillips the starting 3B)
Outfield: Chris Lubanski, Jeremy Reed, Aaron Matthews, Jorge Padilla
Utility: Kyle Phillips (C, 3B, DH, 1B)
SP: Cecil, Zep, Brad Mills, Zach Stewart, Robert Ray
RP: Roenicke, Accardo (if not dealt), Purcey, Randy Boone, Sean Henn, Zach Jackson and one more from three or four competitors, the rest of whom will probably be cut)
New Hampshire (just starters for the hitters from here on) -
C: Brian Jeroloman
1B: David Cooper
2B: Scott Campbell
SS: Adenis Hechevarria (not at first, it's so late he'll need extended ST first but when he's ready to play)
3B: Bryan Kervin?
OF: Eric Thames, Darin Mastorianni, Moises Sierra, Adam Loewen (one of these doing being a DH most days)
SP: Kyle Drabek, Luis Perez, Andrew Liebel, Ray Gonzalez, Kenny Rodriguez
RP: Danny Farquhar, Tim Collins, Trystan Magnuson, Celson Polanco, couple of other unimportant filler types
C - Travis d'Arnoud
1B: Jon Talley (playing a hunch here, given the catching depth)
2B: John Tolisano
SS: Justin Jackson
3B: Kevin Aherns
OF: Wellinton Ramirez, Brian Van Kirk, Brad McElroy
SP: Chad Jenkins, Henderson Alverez, Bobby Bell, Chuck Huggins, Joel Cerano?
RP: anyone's guess, really, there's too little info.
I'm sure folks are asking themselves "Where's Pastornicky?" - my guess is he goes back to Lansing until the SS bottleneck clears up. He didn't exactly own the Midwest league, he's young, and he needs to be playing his natural position every day. Most of the other better prospects are not really in a position to be at Dunedin yet so beyond the SS issue, there's not too much conflict on that. Predicting the rosters below Hi-A is a fools errand, there's just too much I don't know.
I know this - I'm as excited about these minor league teams as I am about the Jays. the word for the year is "youth" and each of those three rosters features at least eight guys I'll be watching from afar this year.
Let's get started, eh?