I think you can make the argument that the 3rd best team in the division, be it Boston, Tampa or Toronto could legitimately be better then any team in the entire national league. Now I wouldn't have said that if Philly had both Howard and Utley in the lineup but with them down I would take both Boston or Tampa over them right now.
I think this is the strongest this division has maybe ever looked, especially if the Jays take the jump to around a 90 win team.
Let me preface this by saying that I am usually the furthest thing from a optiomist when it comes to sports teams I like or that play in the city I live in. Lots of people in Toronto seem to like what the Leafs are doing but I am not one. Anyways I think this Jays team has massive potential and heres why.
They have arguably one of the best hitters in the game in Bautista.
They have a budding frontline starter in Ricky Romero.
They have one of the most exciting young players in the game in Brett Lawrie.
I know that alone doesnt gurantee success but not many teams in the league can say they have a legitmant MVP candidate, a all star pitcher and a top young rookie in the game.
Heres 3 guys that will prolly dictate just how dangerous the Jays can be next season.
Colby Rasmus - This guy was just a mess last season but with his half season with the Cards and also when he came to Toronto. He looked like a mentally broke player from the minute he arrived with the Jays but lets not forget that this was a young kid who was one of the better young players in the game in 2010. He put up a line of .275 avg, 23 homers and a .859 OPS while playing a good CF. Im not saying its a gurantee he returns to that form but the kid has pedigree and loads of talent. All reports leading into spring training say hes looking better then ever and has fixed up some little hitches in his swing.
Brett Cecil - Another guy that has a horrendous 2011. From the start of spring training there were reports that his velocity had dropped and that he came into camp way out of shape. He was bad to start the year and got sent down to AAA before being recalled. Im not the biggest Cecil fan but he was pretty solid in 2010 with a 15-7 record and a ERA around 4. Its said that hes lost 20 lbs this offseason and in the best shape of his career. If he can pitch close to 2010 form he will give the team a solid #4/5 starter.
Adam Lind - I really dont know what to expect out of this guy. He looked like a absolute monster in 2009 hitting .305, with 35 home runs and 115 rbi's. Then in 2010 he was a mess and last season he started off really hot but then got injured and when he returned he was brutal again. He's a good hitter but seems to either get injured or go thru long stretchs where he cant hit a thing. I'd be happy with a .270, 25 home runs and a respectable OPS and that would be decent behind Bautista in the lineup.
Then you have guys like Morrow who alot of people have been expecting to take the next step. He finished off 2010 strong but then got injured in spring training last season and when he came back looked rusty but finished off the 2011 season well. I think at some point he will become a bonifide #1b but just not sure when that will happen.
Escobar is a very good SS and just entering his prime.
Kelly Johnson is meh but he has the potential to have a good season
Arencibia wont hit for average but he should be good for 25 home runs and a good # of RBI's
One of Eric Thames or Travis Snider will be the everday LF'er. My money right now would be on Thames.
Encarnation actually showed to be a qaulity option at DH and it looks that now that he doesnt have to field he can focus more on what he does well.
The Bullpen is majorily improved in my opinion. Adding a young hard thrower in Sergio Santos, a good lefty specialist in Darren Oliver, a solid late inning option in Jason Frasor and a vet 8th inning/closer in Francisco Cordero should definitely have this bullpen better then last season where they blew as many games as any team in the league.
The starting pitching is where everything is going to be decided. Right now is looks like the starting 5 will be ROMERO - MORROW - ALVAREZ - CECIL - MCGOWEN. I'll be the first to admit that rotation is volotile and im really not sure how it will turn out but at least I can say theres a good amount of talent in there. Theres also the chance Drabek wins a spot and keep a eye open for one of the teams best pitching prospects Drew Hutchison.
I know most people will say "meh its still a 4th place team" and thats totally fair but I certainly think they have the potential to suprise alot of people if some of the teams question marks go in there favour. I have no idea what the teams win total will be but I have a strong feeling that they will win more games then Vegas has them pegged at. Even someone like Peter Gammonds says this team is a sleeping giant and soon to wake up. Add to it that either Travis d'Arnaud and Anthony Gose could be called up mid season and really this is the most exciting times Jays fans have seen in awhile.
I really cant believe im getting this price on LSU.
To me this looks like a straight up mismatch sytlistically.
LSU is going to be able to pound the ball all day with Ware and Ford. Did you see what Megget from Maryland did to that West Virginia defence last week? I really dont see anyway WV is going to be able to stop the run. LSU's offensive line should really bully WV's and create lanes all day for those two guys to run thru. Sure theres going to be times where Lee will have to step up and make a big throw but for the most part I think LSU is going to run and then run some more and im not sold on WV's ability to stop them.
On the other side of the ball WV wants to throw all day but that aint going to fly against the team with prolly the best corners in all of college football. Im not even sure Smith will have much time to throw and LSU is going to make WV's offensive line look very similar to Oregons and they will be in Geno's face all day. WV has shown me nothing running the ball the past 2 weeks to make me think they will be able to pound the ball against this beastly defence.
I guess it comes down to this. I can easily come up with a way that LSU can score the ball (run) but I cant come up with a way that West Virginia can. Oregon is a much better team then WV imo and LSU make them look silly. I think this will be a routinely easy win for LSU but there offence does scare me so Im not messing around with the -6.5 seeing LSU has a bad habit of playing tight games and dont want a late meaningless TD to fuck me over and the ML price is pretty good for this spot.
950$ to win $413
Better finishing position
Canada -250 vs USA +175
Lets be honest. There really isnt much comparison quality wise when you compare to two possible rosters (There #1 center prolly wouldnt even make Canada). Add in home ice, smaller rink (which will favour a big Canadian team) and the fact that this USA team is basically going thru a rebuilding process and I think this is pretty much a slam dunk. Brian Burke has even mentioned in interviews this summer that his team is going to be young and on paper cannot matchup against the likes of Canada or Russia and that he also knows this team isnt going to be as strong as ones in the past.
Anything is possible but if all the teams in the tournament play up to there top potential, I think the only team that can beat the Canadians is Russia (Maybe Sweden but not likely). I also wouldnt be one bit suprised to see a little bias reffing go in Canadas favour this tournament.