The offseason changes the Blue Jays made have been discussed over and over by every writer imaginable, including myself, to the point where it has become somewhat of a broken record. It's time to stop the hype and get to the actual game on the diamond.
Based on what we've seen and heard throughout spring training, Toronto is ready and raring to get started on a season that has championship aspirations. With that said, there is a lot expected of this year's squad, with the biggest expectation being to make the playoffs for the first time in 20 years.
I'm here to give you more than that. I'm here to make the predictions that no one else will make -- except for the first one, everyone seems to be making that one. So, without further adieu, my final four bold predictions for the 2013 season.
I said it would happen in my "sixteen reasons to be excited" story from March 27, and I'm not changing my mind after five days. It's going to take a couple months of bad baseball for me to back off that thought. The team is stacked from top to bottom, and as long as the bullpen performs at an average level, Toronto will have no issues dealing with sub-par AL East competition.
A Pitcher In The Starting Rotation Will Lead The AL In ERA AND Win The Cy Young.
I know this isn't an overly bold statement, but for me to pick just one pitcher would require at least three, maybe four, segments. The Jays have pitchers in Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow, and Josh Johnson that could all lead the AL in ERA. Buehrle is unlikely to be in the Cy Young race for long, if at all. However, the other three are very realistic candidates. If I had to narrow it down, I'd say that R.A Dickey and Josh Johnson will be the two in the running come late August, with Johnson being the one to win the Cy Young.
Jose Reyes Will Win The Batting Title
For the first time since John Olerud in 1993, the Blue Jays will have a player win the AL batting crown. Reyes won't be relied on to be "the guy" in the lineup for the Jays, which will take a lot of pressure of the 10-year veteran. He will be relaxed this season knowing that he has Melky Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, and Jose Bautista batting behind him. His on-base percentage will rise, and his batting average will be above .300 for only the third time in his career.
The Jays Will Make The World Series
Aside from the Los Angeles Angels, there is no team that can truly go bat-for-bat with Toronto in the AL. Sure, the Detroit Tigers will be a power in the AL Central once again, and the New York Yankees are still the Yankees, but when it comes down to crunch time, there won't be many teams, if any, that will be able to handle a healthy Jays team.
But that's the key word: healthy. If they stay healthy, we are looking at a 100-105 win team. Their rotation is deadly, and the top of the order is as good as any team in MLB. Look out for Toronto, it will play in the Fall Classic.
Michael Straw is a sportswriter who lives in Buffalo, NY and has been covering baseball, primarily at the Triple-A level, for two years. He began covering the Blue Jays in the fall of 2012, and has been published in multiple Western New York publications.
For Blue Jays and other sports news, follow Michael on Twitter @MikeStrawQCS.
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