As part of TSN.ca's 2013 MLB Season Preview, we will be rolling out stories this week on five pressing questions facing the Toronto Blue Jays this season. The fourth question facing the team: Which member of the 2013 squad is primed for a breakout season?
The Blue Jays' 2013 roster is one of the most star-studded the team has fielded in years.
Big names like R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle not only add depth to a squad that got decimated by injuries in 2012, but add the kind of star-power this team has not seen since a mid-90s overhaul brought names like Roger Clemens, Jose Canseco and Randy Myers to town in 1997 and 1998 respectively.
The Jays are hoping for a better return on name recognition this time around.
But beyond the headliners, who will step up and prove to be an unexpected catalyst as the team strives for its first playoff appearance since Joe Carter "touch(ed) 'em all".
While Dickey is the highest profile addition, the acquisitions of Buehrle and Johnson will add much-needed experience and talent to the Jays' rotation.
If Johnson regains his 2009 or 2010 form when he posted a WHIP below 1.20 and north of 180 strikeouts he could be a weapon for the Jays, especially if he continues to face the third- or fourth-best arms in the opposition's rotation.
Reyes is another player who is an ex-factor that might have been overlooked in South Florida. He was a dynamic presence this spring in the Dominican Republic's World Baseball Classic victory and is just a year removed from winning the NL batting title.
But the Miami acquisitions are hardly under-the-radar names. So, what of the supporting cast?
If this Jays team is built to get more men on-base – and with the additions of Reyes and Cabrera it certainly should be – then Arencibia could be just the guy to pick up the slack in cashing in extra base-runners.
With those two at the top of the order, the one-time top-two combination of Colby Rasmus and Brett Lawrie could slide in ahead of the 27-year-old, who has driven in a higher percentage of base-runners over the past two seasons than even Bautista and Encarnacion.
Then there's the new cast of power arms populating the Jays' bullpen. The off-season additions of Esmil Rogers and Jeremy Jeffress give the Jays what Alex Anthopoulos likes to call "bat-missing" stuff and could be potent late-game weapons alongside late-2012 standouts Aaron Loup and Steve Delabar as well as lefty-specialists Brett Cecil and Darren Oliver.
TSN.ca's Scott MacArthur has been following the Jays all season and believes that Colby Rasmus is poised to make an impact for the Jays this season.
He writes: I'm going to take this in a bit of a different direction, just because the Blue Jays' lineup is made up mostly of guys who've proven themselves.
Colby Rasmus isn't a forgotten man but he is someone looking to breakthrough. Now 26 years old, is Rasmus the guy who had 17 home runs at last season's all-star break? Or is he the guy who hit .176 with six home runs in the second half of last season?
Now's the time, never before has Rasmus hit in such a potent lineup. He's likely to get better pitches to hit more often; he's no longer expected to be a centerpiece of the offense. Also, the spotlight shines on the entire lineup; no longer to younger guys like Rasmus and Brett Lawrie have to shoulder the load of heightened expectations. Rasmus is a quiet, shy guy who stands a better chance of thriving on this revamped Blue Jays' team.
One more name for you: Keep a close eye on Anthony Gose's work down in Buffalo. The 22-year-old was a standout in spring training; he needs to become a more well-rounded hitter but that's usually the last thing to click for a young player. At this point in his development, 600-plus plate appearances with the Triple-A Bisons is the next step in Gose's path to the big leagues.
What do you think?
Will one of the new acquisitions outshine even the lofty off-season expectations of Jays' fans? Or, will one of the hold-overs from 2012 step up his game and become a championship-calibre catalyst?
As always, it's Your! Call.