On the eve of the new season, a time in which o0ne ought to be full of joy that real baseball will soon by afoot, it seems that many Jays fans, including your humble host, find themselves squinting hard to look at the happy things and screen out the unpleasantness.
Already it has become a cliche and a byword to note the irrationality of Clarance Gaston, and yet, like Dick Griffin contemplating JP, we just can't turn away from so tempting a target.
But rather than throw off another short forgettable rant in a serious of rants about where i find fault, let me expand this post into something a bit more meaningful. Here's my review and preview of each member of the 25 man roster, plus a few bonus players who are relevant (such as those on the DL). Now that I think of it, I'll probably follow this post within a week with a similar look at key minor league prospects.
Shaun Marcum - There's little I can say here in some regards because I've been pretty clear I'm a believer. Maybe it's irrational optimism but I, for one, do not forsee him being hindered at all by his late surgery and recovery. I'm looking for him to be a staff leader, even without the "Ace" pedigree. A season something like what Jered Weaver had last year, if not better, is what I expect.
Brian Tallet - After a Twitter exchange with Jordan Bastian, and then reading his tweeted quote from Clarance, I find myself depressed/incensed about Tallet as the #2 more than any other issue save one. The Manager says that among the reasons Tallet is #2 is that they wanted the veterans at the front. Bastian tells me that contrary to what I though was an obvious conclusion, Tallet will not in fact be skipped on 4/6 and that means we're going to have a glorified long reliever starting the Home Opener. How depressing is THAT? Has no one considered that when you have the one guaranteed sellout of the year that you MIGHT want someone who's potentially a big part of the future starting instead of a stopgap makeshift starter? Jeez Louise.
I'd been hoping that Tallet would be out of the rotation by no later than mid-May but every time I think to myself "Be patient, it's only temporary" they go out and defy all logic.
Ricky Romero - One of my trademarks is to call people on the habit of writing off Jays players in a sort of pre-emptive negativist mentality, and I did that throughout Romero's minor league career while the legion was saying "we coulda had Tulo!"
Nevertheless, I have been trying all winter to remain rational about Romero's 2010 and had taken it as a base assumption that he'd need to work through some of his second half issues from last year before really being established. But there are a lot of reports saying that Romero took the winter to clear up that bit of business and that he looks primed for a big year. I'm a sucker for that sort of talk and so I've got one foot on the Romero bandwagon.
Brandon Morrow - when ask in a recent survey about which Jays would have a "breakout season" I had a two-word answer: Brandon Morrow. I would almost end this paragraph with "Nuf Said" but I will say one thing more - my only reservation here is whether or not the Jays will shut him down early because he doesn't have a history of a lot of innings in a year, or whether they will ride him out and hope it doesn't come back on them. My feeling is it will probably be the latter, but if it's the former, it might hinder the preception that Morrow has "leveled up" this year.
Dana Eveland - I'm treating him with basically zero expectations. We might luck out and get a "Towers '05" season out of him, or we might see him implode and be replaced by Cecil/Zep/McG by the end of May at the latest. A surprise season would be nice but we have enough potential alternatives that it matters very little if we get an implosion instead.
Jason Frasor - I'm gonna guess that we're going to see a big contract year push here. Frasor will make himself a fan favorite this year.
Scott Downs - Will do what he always does when healthy, and be very valuable doing it. Either of these too might get dealt in July though.
Kevin Gregg - While not possessed of the same sort of stuff, I think Gregg will make us all think of Billy Koch (and not in a good way) when and if he handles a save situation. I'm very pessimistic here, with the only hope I cling to being that Walton can show him how to maximize his best tendencies.
Jesse Carlson - opens the year on the DL simply because he needs a couple of weeks to build up some innings. I expect he'll do very well this year (he really wasn't as bad as most think last year - 3 or 4 VERY bad outings skewed the final line) as long as The Manager doesn't abuse him.
Casey Janssen - I look for big things here, if we didn'thave so much young pitching coming I'd be raising hell that he wasn't the one in the rotation instead of Tallet, but I figure the tide of youth is gonna displace a couple of guys anyway so Janssen might as well stake out some turf here. Hopefully he can regulate Gregg to the mop-up innings if Clarance will give him the chance.
Shawn Camp - smarter analysts than me have pointed out just how much Camp has improved as a Blue Jay as opposed to his previous work. Last spring I dismissed Camp as a player who should have been non-tendered, and I will not be so disrespectful again given his work in 2009. But that said, I can't be irrational enough to suggest that no one in the bullpen will regress. I don't think Camp will be as good as 2009, but he'll provide fine yeoman's work out of the bullpen in the shadow of other higher profile pitchers.
Merkin Valdez - I have no clue. The Jays seem to really like his arm. But whether he'll run with the chance or flounder in an "undefined role" is anyone's guess.
Jeremy Accardo - Won a reprieve, despite not really running with any opportunities in the spring. I'm on record as believing he's a good pitcher and an asset, but whether or not he gets a chance to be one for the Jays is a matter of grave doubt. I'm pretty convinced his days in our organization are coming quickly to an end. I'd go so far as to suggest that the main reason for his non-demotion had to do with maintaining some small trade value. Still, he's on a very short clock because he's the obvious potential victim of Carlson's impending recall.
David Purcey - Reports from Jays' bigwigs are that all the right people are mightily impressed by Purcey the Reliever (as opposed to Purcey the failed starter). Someone reported that JP had concluded that Purcey didn't have what it took to be a starter "between the ears" and apparently he's not alone in that opinion. On the other hand, a few whispers are beginning to circulate that his two-pitch reliever incarnation might even be good enough to invoke the word "closer." not that the Jays don't have a few alternatives, but don't be shocked if it's Purcey who inherits that job when Frasor is gone.
Brett Cecil - Did everything right done the stretch in ST, and deserved to make the rotation. No one has invoked the "service time" issue here, but it might be in play. Reportedly Cecil was told that he'd be the first starter called wen the Jays needed someone. My bet is when he arrives next time, it will be to stay. Mike Wilner, for one, says that he was commanding late in the spring and looked like a top of the rotation guy, not just a plug in.
Marc Rzepzynski - His injury will keep him out six weeks, my guess is that Cecil is up before that time and Zep might spent a few weeks beyond his recovery date biding his time in AAA. That kind of depends on how well Eveland fares, and on how quickly McGowan progresses. He also has to look over his shoulder a bit at Drabek. I like Zep a lot, even though he's the "trendy" pick this spring. But even so, his window of opportunity is limited. The injury could be career altering, even though it's not real serious.
Dustin McGowan - no way to predict. Still might very well be done if his velocity doesn't come back (think about the perennial failed attempts to come back by Mark Mulder), still might yet step up and be a giant among men, however briefly (think Chris Carpenter). It's anyone's guess.
Scott Richmond - might be the forgotten man by the time he recovers.
Jesse Litsch - Jays can afford to go real slow with him. Will be difficult for him to get back into the mix if others play up to their potential. Might be more convenient to give him the whole season off even if he doesn't really need it.
Josh Roenicke - like Cecil, promised he'd be the first man called should there be a bullpen need. A presumptive future closer, the best thing he can do is just kick AAA ass and not worry about the depth in front of him. It's a pretty good problem to have if you have a guy as good as Roenicke is pushed back to Las Vegas because you are so deep.
Due to length, I'm going to make a snap decision to put the hitters in a separate post. Maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow.