It is no secret the Blue Jays are using 2010 as a rebuilding year. They lost their ace, Roy Halladay, to the Phillies this past offseason and their rotation is in shambles. Playing in the AL East and not having a strong pitching staff is not a good combination. Their lineup also has some question marks so 2010 could prove to be a very long season for the Blue Jays.

The Jays’ pitching rotation took a huge hit this offseason when Halladay was sent to the Phillies. Sure, he was clearly the best pitcher on the staff and one of the top pitchers in the league. But they are going to really miss his experience considering there is nobody on the starting rotation who has pitched more than 200 innings in season. Left-hander Ricky Romero is now considered the “veteran” of the staff, and his career-high in innings pitched is only 178. Shaun Marcum, the right-hander who missed all of 2009 after undergoing Tommy John ligament transfer surgery, is slated to start the 2010 season as the ace. Romero will slide into the No. 2 spot and RHP Brandon Morrow, LHP Mark Rzepczynski and LHP Brian Tallet will round out the five-man rotation. Morrow, who was acquired from Seattle in a trade, suffered a minor setback this spring, missing two scheduled starts because of soreness in his right shoulder. He should be fine when the season begins, though. The Jays did pick up a nice pitching prospect from the Phillies in the Halladay trade in RHP Kyle Drabek. He will most likely begin the season in Double-A New Hampshire, but could be called up at any time. It could be sooner rather than later depending on how the rotation does over the course of the season.

The starting rotation may lack experience, but the bullpen sure doesn’t. It is clearly the team’s biggest strength and as long as the starters can keep the games close, their bullpen should be able to take care of things from there. But the bullpen no longer has complete-game guru Halladay to give them a night off here and there, so they may be somewhat overworked this season. The middle relievers include RHP’s Jason Frasor, Shawn Camp and Casey Janssen and LHP’s Scott Downs and Jesse Carlson. They signed closer Kevin Gregg as a free agent in the offseason, who has saved 84 games over the past three seasons. He was shaky at times last season with the Cubs, but can be dominant if he gets in a groove. If he struggles, they will have no problem replacing him with Frasor or Downs.

The Jays’ lineup will look similar to last season, which isn’t such a bad thing considering they were ninth in the majors with a .266 team batting average. There are some question marks when looking at the 2010 Blue Jays lineup, though. One is the health of Vernon Wells, who has been injury-plagued for much of his career. He is a vital part of the lineup and needs to be healthy all season if the Jays want to stay competitive. Another question is if Adam Lind (35 home runs, 114 RBI) and Aaron Hill (36, 108) can build on the breakout seasons they had in 2009. Lind and Hill’s continued success is even more important this season considering Marco Scutaro, last season’s leadoff man, signed with Boston in the offseason. Jose Bautista will occupy the leadoff spot this season simply by process of elimination.

I think the Blue Jays will be fighting with the Orioles for fourth place in 2010. Their pitching staff isn’t consistent and their lineup can only win so many games. This version of the Jays reminds me somewhat of the 2009 Orioles except the Orioles had much better pitching prospects then the Jays currently have. The Jays’ record may not be quite as bad as the O’s was last season, but I don’t think they will finish better than fourth place.

Submitted by Steve Giles