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“On Bzdek” 2017 Team Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

2017 Team Previews: Toronto Blue Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays are coming off an 89-win season finishing 3rd in the AL East, good enough to clinch a wild card playoff spot, and marking the team’s second straight playoff appearance. The Jays beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-2 in an 11-inning affair, then swept the Rangers 3 games to none in the divisional series. The Jays met their match in the ALCS losing to the Cleveland Indians 4 games to 1. The Blue Jays have been legit contenders the last two seasons and with most of the core group still intact they should remain contenders for 2017. Let’s look at the Blue Jays’ off-season moves.

Notable off-season additions

  • Lourdes Gurriel (free agent signing)
  • Kendrys Morales (free agent signing)
  • Steve Pearce (free agent signing)
  • Jarrod Saltalamacchia (free agent signing)
  • P. Howell (free agent signing)
  • Joe Smith (free agent signing)

Notable off-season deletions

  • Edwin Encarnacion (elected free agency; signed with CLE)
  • Brett Cecil (elected free agency; signed with STL)
  • RA Dickey (elected free agency; signed with ATL)
  • Michael Saunders (elected free agency, signed with PHI)

Not listed above, but still a focal point of the Jay’s off-season was re-signing Joey Bautista, who’s high demands left him a free agent until he came back to the Jays on a 3-year deal with a mutual option after the first year. Bautista is coming off a down season due partly to injuries that held him to only 116 games. While Joey Bats will be 36, a full season in good health will be a huge boost for the Jays and he should be good for 30 homers at a cheap price in your fantasy league. With that in mind, here is the projected lineup and bench heading into 2017.


Lineup & Batting Order

 

  1. Devon Travis – 2B
  2. Troy Tulowitzki – SS
  3. Josh Donaldson – 3B
  4. Joey Bautista – OF
  5. Kendrys Morales – DH
  6. Russell Martin – C
  7. Steve Pearce – 1B
  8. Kevin Pillar – OF
  9. Melvin Upton Jr. – OF

Bench

  • Justin Smoak – 1B
  • Ezequiel Carrera – OF
  • Dalton Pompey – OF
  • Darwin Barney – IF
  • Jarrod Saltalamacchia – C

At the top of the order is Devon Travis, the talented but oft-injured second basemen. Travis has shown the ability to hit for average while also displaying a bit of pop. If he can stay on the field he can be a top-12 second basemen. He is currently recovering from off-season knee surgery but is expected to be ready for opening day. Behind Travis is another injury prone player, Troy Tulowitzki. After an abysmal start to the 2016 season, Tulo hit a respectable .269 in the second half and should be able to reproduce another 20-home run season. Out of Coors, the ceiling is much lower, and with the injury concerns I’ll be avoiding him on draft day. Batting third and playing third base is superstar Josh Donaldson. Donaldson has done nothing but rake since arriving in Toronto, winning the MVP in 2015 and following it up with a 37-home run 2016. He injured his calf in spring training but has resumed baseball activities and should be ready for opening day.

Batting clean-up is Joey Bautista (discussed above) followed by the big off-season addition, Kendrys Morales. Morales moves to Toronto from the palatial Kauffman Stadium of Kansas City. Morales hit 30 homers last season, his highest total since 2009. While I expect some of that power to regress for 2017, the move to a more hitter-friendly ballpark and an improved lineup should mitigate some of that regression. Morales should push 90 RBIs and 25 home runs, and at an average draft position of 145 he provides great value in leagues where he remains 1B and OF eligible.

From the bottom half of the order, the most interesting fantasy piece is Steve Pearce. The journeyman utility player is joining the 6th team in his career and yet has never played in more than 102 games in a season. With Justin Smoak’s constant struggles at the plate, Pearce could find his way into regular playing time. Pearce has some pop, and with regular at bats he is a 20-home run threat. He comes with multi-position eligibility and would make a great late round sleeper pick.

Also deserving of comment is Melvin Upton Jr. The streaky outfielder had himself a bounce back 2017 season hitting 20 home runs and stealing 27 bases. His strike out % remains high at just under 30%, so the average isn’t likely to improve from the .238 of 2016. Upton also doesn’t get on base much – note his OBP of just .291 last year. I wouldn’t draft him, but if he’s in the free agent pool I’d keep my eye on him in the hopes of adding him for a hot streak where he can give you that power/speed combo we all covet.

Off the bench, Dalton Pompey could be a fantasy relevant name if he can earn some regular playing time. Pompey would be a straight-speed play with 20+ stolen base potential if he can get on base enough to warrant the playing time.

Projected Starting Rotation

  1. Aaron Sanchez
  2. Marcus Stroman
  3. A. Happ
  4. Marco Estrada
  5. Francisco Liriano

Projected Bullpen

  • Roberto Osuna – closer Jason Grilli
  • Joe Smith
  • P. Howell
  • Aaron Loup
  • Joseph Biagini

On the other side of the ball, Aaron Sanchez has quietly taken over as the team’s ace. He posted a 15-2 record in 2016 with an AL leading 3.00 ERA. He sits at a 7.55 K/9, which is not elite but won’t hurt your team. On average, Sanchez is the 29th starting pitcher off the board and that is a bargain. He’s a guy I will be targeting in all leagues. Following Sanchez is Marcus Stroman. After getting off to a rocky start to 2016, posting a 4.89 ERA, he settled down and posted a second half ERA of 3.68. Aside from improving his ERA, he also improved his K rate, striking out 83 batters in 88 innings versus 83 batters in 116 innings in the first half. With the up and down season last year, I would stay away this season unless Stroman falls beyond his average draft position of 135. Slotting third in the rotation is lefty J.A. Happ. Lefty pitchers seem to have a knack for finding themselves later in their career and Happ did exactly that, winning 20 games in 2016 at age 34. Like the two pitchers before him, his mid 7s K/9 is not spectacular, but he’s a solid buy and should be a good source of wins again. I prefer him over Stroman due to the price tag being 3-4 rounds later.

At the back of the rotation are two very interesting fantasy options: Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano. I’ll start with Estrada, who battled back problems throughout 2016 yet still managed 176 innings and a K/9 of 8.44. It’s also important to note that Estrada’s velocity has been up this spring, sitting in the low 90s range after being in the high 80s in 2016 due to the back issues. Estrada doesn’t rely on overpowering hitters, but the couple of extra MPH won’t hurt. The key for Estrada is going to be his health, and as reports have him healthy and ready for 2017 he’s a great late round target in all leagues. Last, but not least, Francisco Liriano. He resurrected his career in Pittsburgh back in 2013, but 2016 he struggled and was eventually traded to the Jays at the trade deadline. The change of scenery helped; Liriano’s ERA with the Jays was 2.92 across 8 starts, up from the 5.46 ERA he posted with the Pirates. I wouldn’t expect a sub-3 ERA for 2017, as Liriano’s FIP with the Jays was 3.98, however his K/9 has been over 9 for years so he has the upside to make a real fantasy impact. He’s another great late round target.

In the bullpen, Roberto Osuna is the team’s closer, and he’s one of the game’s best. In 2016 his K/9 was 9.97 and his WHIP was 0.93. He recorded 36 saves last year, and is a safe bet to do so again in 2017. Setting up Osuna is veteran reliever Jason Grilli. Grilli has a great strikeout rate, K-ing 12.36 batters per 9 innings in 2016. He is far from invincible though, as his 4.12 ERA and 1.29 WHIP will attest, but he should be a good option in holds leagues and I’ll take my chances with the K-rate. The other name to watch for in the Jay’s pen for fantasy purposes is Joe Biagini. The 26-year-old had a 8.25 K/9 in 2016 with a 3.06 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP; very respectable numbers for a middle reliever. The K-rate should remain above 8, as Biagini’s fastball is in the mid to high 90s, and he can get batters to chase his secondary pitches outside the zone. Biagini also owns an above average 52% ground ball rate. With this mix Biagini can be a valuable relief pitcher for the Jays and for fantasy teams alike.

Prospect Watch
The top prospect of the Blue Jays per Baseball America is Vladimir Guerrero Jr., son of MLB star Vladimir Guerrero. At only 17 years old, Guerrero Jr. is still a few seasons from the big leagues but he has plus power and hit tool. He played in the Blue Jays’ advanced rookie league last year and should see a full season in the minor leagues in 2017.

The Jays also have some prospects who could make an impact in 2017. One is international free agent signing Lourdes Gurriel, brother of Yuli Gurriel who signed with the Houston Astros in 2016. Lourdes is 23 years old and is athletic enough to play infield or outfield. He’s projected to be a well-rounded player, not spectacular at any position. He will need to get some reps in the minors before making his MLB debut, but if he performs well he could see action in the bigs. The other notable prospect that could see time in 2017 is Rowdy Tellez. Tellez is a first basemen which is not exactly the Jays’ strong spot at the moment. He hit .297/.387/.530 with 23 homers in AA last season and has displayed both plus power and plus plate discipline. He will start the year in AAA, but if he performs well and the Jays’ current first base options struggle, we may see Tellez get a shot.

 

Final Thoughts
The Blue Jays look to make it 3 straight years in the playoffs, and I think it will happen. The offense should continue to be a strength with Donaldson, Bautista, and Morales right in the middle of it. The top of the rotation is reliable with Sanchez, Stroman, and Happ, while Estrada and Liriano have upside on the back end. The bullpen won’t be dominant, but with Osuna closing games in addition to the experience of Jason Grilli and Joe Biagini, it won’t be a weakness either. All in all, the Jays will be a very competitive team with several pieces to help your fantasy squad.

 

 

 

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Major League Fantasy Football 2017 League Openings

(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday March 19th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #79 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will discuss player updates, players being overdrafted, and overall fantasy updates.

Our guest this week is Jon Merkel. Jon is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com in both baseball and football. His articles publish every Wednesday.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday March 26th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #80 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will discuss players in the draft going for nice bargains.

Our guest this week is Steve Hamilton. Steve is a writer, and editor with majorleaguefantasysports.com focusing on baseball. His articles publish every Saturday.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

I am a fantasy baseball enthusiast. I joined my first league in 2004 and haven't stopped playing. I am also an auditor and CPA at a midsize public accounting firm where I analyze information every day. Combined, my passion for baseball and my analytical background create a unique perspective to analyzing fantasy baseball.

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  1. Pingback: “On Bzdek” Bullpen Briefing: Week 1

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