Can the Toronto Blue Jays beat the big wallets?
The Cactus and Grapefruit leagues of Major League Baseball spring training are well underway in Arizona and Florida. While the usual World Series favourites are still the same, some teams have begun to rebuild their teams in the hopes of building the dynasty of the future.
One team in particular has given its fans reason to believe. The Toronto Blue Jays' group of young and talented "stud" hitters, as well as their ace pitcher, Roy Halladay, explicitly show the Blue Jays are a team on the rise.
With American League Rookie of the Year Eric Hinske, Josh Phelps (who finished third in rookie voting), Vernon Wells and the charismatic Orlando "O-Dogg" Hudson as the core, the Blue Jays have a talented group of young hitters. Add to the fold their leader, first basemen Carlos Delgado, as well as left fielder Shannon Stewart, and the Jays lineup is as fierce as it has been in years.
All-star pitcher Roy Halladay won a career high 19 games last season and was one of the American League's best starting pitchers. He leads a young staff into a season where run support won't be a problem. Due to the acquisition of Cory Lidle from Oakland, Tanyon Sturtze from Tampa and late season call-up Mark Hendrickson, the Jays staff is much improved from one year ago. The 6'9" Hendrickson led the AL in Earned Run Average in September with a ridiculous 0.91 mark.
The Blue Jays were once again busy in the off-season. General Manager J.P. Riccardi added players like Sturtze and Lidle to the rotation, as well as veteran catcher and former Jay, Greg Myers, veteran shortstop Mike Bordick, outfielder Frank Catalanotto and pitcher Josh Towers.
The only position up for debate is catcher. The Blue Jays have all their marbles stashed away in Triple A. Kevin Cash has been dubbed "the catcher of the future" for the Jays, but he will begin the year with the farm club. However, he should reach the big club by the All-Star break.
In the 2003 campaign, the Blue Jays should win more than they lose, but will once again finish third behind the big wallets of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
The 2003 projected opening day line-up:
1. Shannon Stewart LF
2. Eric Hinske 3B
3. Vernon Wells CF
4. Carlos Delgado 1B
5. Josh Phelps DH
6. Frank Catalanotto RF
7. Chris Woodward SS
8. Ken Huckaby C
9. Orlando Hudson 2B
P Roy Halladay