3. Toronto Blue Jays
1993. A golfer without any issues, 18-year old Tiger Woods, won the U.S. Men’s Amateur title and the Toronto Blue Jays made the playoffs. It was also the year they won back-to-back titles, a playoff drought most baseball fans especially those on the north side of Chicago would kill for. The reason why this will be the year Blue Jays fans get to see their team play October baseball starts with the catcher some thought they overpaid for, Russell Martin. Not only is Martin a significant upgrade on Dioner Navarro, he is a proven leader, something the Blue Jays clubhouse was in need of.
Martin wasn’t the biggest surprise of the off-season. That was the A’s willing to give up third baseman Josh Donaldson for oft-injured Brett Lawrie along with right-hander Kendall Graveman left-hander Sean Nolin and minor league shortstop Franklin Barreto. Donaldson’s power (29 home runs, 98 RBI) will be huge in the middle of the lineup and Donaldson is another dynamic clubhouse presence.
Pitching and health rarely go together, but they do in Toronto. Five starters combined for 144 starts last year. R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle are non-maximum output types that figure to stay there. 23-year old Marcus Stroman is poised for a big year, 24-year old Drew Hutchison is not far behind and Aaron Sanchez should be the best 5th starter in the American League East, unless he is helping the bullpen.
The Red Sox are the favorite in the up-for-grabs American League East. With no dominant force, the Blue Jays are in great position to finally get back to the playoffs.
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