A big season from Jose Bautista could be a huge piece of Toronto's success this season. (Image Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports)

2013 MLB Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

The talk of the offseason, possibly the most overhauled team in the Major Leagues, has been the Toronto Blue Jays. Three-fifths of the starting rotation – R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle – were acquired in a pair of winter blockbusters. Don’t forget their new starting shortstop Jose Reyes and super utilityman Emilio Bonifacio. And Melky Cabrera in left field. Toronto paid a steep price to make such a drastic change, parting with multiple role players and four of their top minor league prospects (Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard to New York; Jake Marisnick and Justin Nicolino to Miami). The pressure is going to be high in Toronto this season, but this could also be the first realistic chance the Blue Jays have seen to return to the glory that they enjoyed in the early 1990s.

With the start of the 2013 Regular Season upon us, it seemed like the ideal time to check in with each of our team sites here at FanSided MLB and check out what our experts have to say on the upcoming season. Let’s check in with Senior Editor Kyle Franzoni of Jays Journal, and see what he had to say about the team’s best and worst case scenarios, as well as what’s most likely to happen.

Best Case Scenario

Jose Bautista is 100% healthy and regains his 2010-2011 form, shoring up the middle of the order. Brett Lawrie takes a big step forward and becomes the player everyone project him to be. Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera become the 1-2 punch at the top of the order the Blue Jays have been waiting for. The new rotation gives Toronto something they’ve lacked; stability. R.A. Dickey, Josh, Johnson, Mark Buehrle, and Brandon Morrow make all of their starts, and the team gets a serviceable contribution out of the pair of J.A. Happ and Ricky Romero (once he comes back). Casey Janssen, Sergio Santos, Steve Delabar, and Darren Oliver prove to be the best back-end bullpen in baseball. The team gels right away and dominated the competition in the American League East. With the Yankees hurt and Orioles settling back to where they should be, the Blue Jays storm to an early division lead and never look back. Toronto wins 98 games and gets a good look at the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario

The Jays don’t figure out how to exploit Reyes at the top of the order and hold him back. Lawrie flattens out and becomes just another role player. The trio of Adam Lind, Colby Rasmus, and J.P. Arencibia continue to struggle with making contact and the bottom half of the order suffers for it. Johnson and Morrow make this another year of pitching through injuries. Dickey proves that the knuckle-ball doesn’t float well in the rough and tough American League East. Happ struggles and Romero never finds himself in the minors. Janssen and Santos struggle with arm injuries and effectiveness, leaving the Blue Jays with no solid option to close out games. Toronto loses important pieces like Bautista or Johnson to serious injuries and struggle to overcome them. Maxed out on salaries already, the team is unable to make a move and weathers the unfortunate to a third place finish and misses the postseason again.

Most Likely to Happen

The team has solid chemistry and will find a way to get solid contributions out of all players. Arencibia and Lawrie take a step forward, but Rasmus continues to struggle and Jays cut him loose at the trade deadline. The rotation gets some solid performances out of Dickey and Buehrle, but the team will need the added depth provided by having both Happ and Romero available, as Johnson and Morrow spend some time on the DL and miss a couple of starts. Janssen and Santos share the closing duties, helping each stave off serious injury. The Blue Jays and Rays battle it out for division supremacy and the team narrowly squeaks out the title. Tough competition in the postseason from Detroit and Tampa will put the onus on Toronto to be 100% healthy if they want a World Series title.

GM Alex Anthopoulus may have put a fair amount of pressure on his team with a busy winter, but he may have also brought together a team with a realistic chance of competing for the World Series. Upgrades to the starting rotation, middle infield, and the bench could prove to be significant as the season progresses. This roster will need to remain healthy, of course, and some other things might need to fall their way. Toronto should be in the hunt in the AL East, for the top of the division this time instead of the bottom.

All of your Blue Jays news, insight, and analysis will be found all season long at Jays Journal.

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