“65Mustangs” AL East Preview: The Toronto Blue Jays.
I can finally see my yard, or what is left of it, after a horrible winter. It is almost time to start the season as Opening Day is less than a week away. I finished my last draft tonight and it is time to get ready to set my lineups. Like all of you, I have a lot of work to do Lets get right to this review of one of my last two teams in the AL East. I don’t think the Jays have a chance to win the Division, but every team has a shot at a wild card now. The Jays have a good power laden lineup, but no real aces in the rotation and a brand new closer. The rest of the bullpen is a mess. I think this team is good for one last hurrah or two before the core is too old to rely on. I’m going to discuss the fantasy relevant players, some potential ones, and will go in depth on each player like in the other three AL East articles on the Red Sox, Yankees & Orioles. I’ll discuss the Tampa Rays in my next article. So, lets go. Play Ball!!
Catcher: Russell Martin & Dioner Navarro – The Jays took two catchers with marginal fantasy value in the first place, then put them together to create even less value for each of them. Some would say Martin is underrated, but I think he is better in real baseball than fantasy, and we really don’t need to talk about his running ability anymore, do we? Navarro will give you double digit homers and a .250 to .260 average if he gets playing time. In 2014 Martin had the best season of his career since 2007 with the Dodgers, hitting .290/.402/.430 with 11 HR and 67 RBI, but only played in 111 games for the Bucs. Both players are on the wrong side of 30 years old. I would draft Martin late if I failed on my other catcher targets. Navarro should go undrafted.
1B: Edwin Encarnacion – Edwin is a 1st rounder with some health risk. There is no doubt he can hit with major power, which is a rare commodity in recent seasons. He is a classic 30-40 HR, 100-110 RBI slugger with a decent batting average. He is 32 and had an injury marred 2014 so there is some risk. I drafted him on at least two teams this season and will ride those broad shoulders. They would like to DH Edwin full time, so they brought in Justin Smoak, but Smoak is not fantasy worthy at this point unless it is a very deep league.
2B: Prospect Devon Travis – I’ve seen some buzz over Travis in deeper leagues. In his brief career in the minors he shows double digit HR power, a .300 average and can steal some bags. What more do you want from your 2nd baseman? He only has 3 seasons in the minors but played in college and is 24 years old. That probably makes him MLB ready, but it remains to be seen if he is fantasy worthy. Draft him as a late round flyer. His competition was Maicer Izturis who is on the DL and Ryan Goins who is a utility player at best.
3B: Josh Donaldson – Toronto and Oakland shocked us with the Donaldson trade. I have never been a huge believer in Josh, but 2014 was even better than 2013 for this masher other than in batting average, which took a dip from .301 in 2013 to .255 in 2014. There was a large spike in BaBip in 2013, so that .300 AVG may have been the outlier. The Rogers Center might be good for this 29 year old, but I don’t think he establishes a new ceiling going forward. .275 25-30 HR and 100 RBI are in reach, but not guaranteed. He is going in drafts ahead of Evan Longoria which I don’t understand.
SS: Jose Reyes – He is still a fantasy stud, but will be 32 in June and comes with big time injury risk. We all know this, so where do we draft him? I can’t draft him until the 3rd round, but I love him more in the 4th if he lasts that far. The 2005 through 2008 version of Reyes is now a legend, so don’t draft him for that. If healthy, how many other SS will give you 100 runs, 10 HR, 30 SB and a .290 AVG?
OF: Jose Bautista, Prospect Dalton Pompey, Michael Saunders – Bautista is a stud, but after him I think the lack of depth on the Jays is very apparent. Saunders has teased us for years with the promise of 20/20 seasons, but can neither stay on the field nor keep his batting avg. respectable. In 2014, his age 27 season, he did hit .271/.341/.450, but only managed to play in 78 games. He will start the year once again on the DL and will probably be replaced by Kevin Pillar until he comes back. Like Edwin, Joey Batts is a late blooming slugger who is good for 30/100/100 and good ratios. He typically goes in the first round which I think is one round too early. He is a great guy to have on your fantasy team, but will be 35 when the 2015 World Series is played. I doubt I’ll own him.
Prospect: OF Dalton Pompey – Pompey is an interesting 22 year old who stole 81 bases the last two seasons in the minors while scorching the 3 highest levels for a .317 average in 2014. That got him a Cup-O-Joe last season and he should be the starting CF in 2015. He is worth a look late in your draft if you need speed.
R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada & Johan Santana – This group looked a whole lot better before Stroman went down with knee surgery. Stroman had an impressive rookie season with 11 wins and a 3.70 ERA/1.171 WHIP in the tough AL East. He would have been the first Jays pitcher drafted in most drafts, but will now have to wait until 2016. Dickey & Buehrle are steady veterans. They are worth spot starting in most leagues, but I can’t see drafting them unless you are in at least a 16 team league. Hutchison will give you a strikeout per inning but his ratios are suspect due to high walk rates and a BaBip near .300. He is only 24 though, so I’ll keep an eye on him, but doubt I would draft him. I have made a fool of myself drafting Johan Santana the last two seasons hoping to ride his next top secret comeback to a league championship. This season I will not be adding him to my queue. Marco Estrada may start as well but is not a draft target.
Prospect Daniel Norris – This is a guy to watch and draft late as a flyer. In 2014 he went 12-2, 2.53, 1.118 and struck out 163 in 124 innings in the minors. That is not a misprint. He is only 21 and has just 1 MLB start so I would not bet the farm, but he is probably the one to own from this bunch. Stroman’s injury all but secured Norris’ spot in the rotation.
Prospect Aaron Sanchez – Sanchez has a shot at starting in 2015 but will likely end up in the bullpen. He is a good young pitcher but has to cut his walk rate, about in half, to be successful. If he doesn’t he’ll be starting, but it will be in AAA. Draft him as a strikeout contributor out of your bullpen late, but don’t expect him to be a starting pitcher just yet.
Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup, Steve Delabar, Kyle Drabek – Brett Cecil was named the closer the other day, and while that is finally some concrete news, Cecil has no body of work as a closer to let us predict how he will do in the 9th. He is a strikeout pitcher who excelled in a set up role after failing as a starting pitcher earlier in his career. He’ll be 29 in July so this could be a career changing season for him. He has no competition for the closer gig, although a rumor was floating around the past few days that the Jays are talking to the Phils about Papelbon. That would change everything. Aaron Loup is a very good reliever and worth owning in leagues that count holds and IRS (Inherited Runners Stranded). In fact, he led all of baseball in the combined H + IRS category in 2014. While I was typing this, I read that Delabar was sent to the minors and Drabek was claimed off waivers from the White Sox. Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna were added to the roster and will join the losers of the SP battle to round out the pen. None but Cecil & Loup are draft worthy.