It’s fair to say that a 3rd place finish in the AL East was disappointing for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2014, and they have made every effort this offseason to try to get to the playoffs next year. They added a huge piece in Josh Donaldson and backed that up with the addition of Russell Martin to add a bit of excitement to their starting line-up. Two more underrated moves were the addition of Justin Smoak, who will be an excellent back up if Encarnacion struggles with injury again at any point, and Devon Travis, who could add some real excitement in the middle infield. None of their departures really make me shake my head in disgust with Colby Rasmus and Casey Janssen perhaps the two main stand out names. In both cases there are options there to replace them and the loss of Happ and Lawrie have actually led to upgrades at the position so it is looking up there. For fantasy purposes they are very top end loaded with three legit fantasy superstars who will all be drafted in the first 18 picks of a draft. Below that there is some decent fantasy talent especially is Travis can nail down second base.
Predicted Line-up (according to www.rosterresource.com)
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- Jose Reyes, SS
- Russell Martin, C
- Jose Bautista, OF
- Edwin Encarnacion, 1B
- Josh Donaldson, 3B
- Dioner Navarro, DH
- Kevin Pillar, OF
- Maicer Izturis, 2B (vs RH), Steve Tolleson, 2B (vs LH)
- Dalton Pompey, OF
Fantasy Superstar 1: Jose Bautista, OF
Bautista set the league on fire last season as for once he managed to stay healthy for the majority of the season. He put up 35 home runs, over 100 RBI and scored over 100 runs which is a rare and much sought after combination for roto leagues. This year I expect something similar from Longoria making him a sure fire late first round pick.
Fantasy Superstar 2: Edwin Encarnacion, 1B
Encarnacion struggled a little with injuries in 2014 meaning that he didn’t reach 500 AB’s which is a big reason he didn’t finish in the top 5 at first base as he has the last two years. Even with a slight reduction in AB’s he still managed to hit 34 home runs with 98 RBI. His batting average has dropped the last two years since he was the number one overall first baseman. I expect that average to rebound a little bit if he stays healthy this year and you should lock in 30+ home runs with 90+ RBI. Those numbers mean he is generally going at the end of the first round/start of the second round.
Fantasy Superstar 3: Josh Donaldson, 3B
Donaldson’s trade from Oakland to Toronto has lifted him into fantasy superstar territory with the improvement in Ball Park. Even in cavernous O.co Coliseum he managed to hit 29 home runs while driving in 98 and scoring 93. However, those numbers did come at a 0.255 batting average which was massively down on his 0.310 average from 2013. He also hit around 30 doubles last year and with the expected rebound in batting average there is a good chance he hits more than 30 homeruns in 2015.
Elite Speed: Jose Reyes, SS
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Reyes is probably the second player taken in drafts right now who is a lock for 25+ home runs with a number greater than 30 being realistic and not coming at a cost of multiple other categories. Reyes has just enough pop that he should be capable of hitting double digit home runs, whilst still hitting at a greater than 0.280 average. Batting atop this stacked line up means there should be plenty of opportunity for him to score runs and there is a chance he could reach triple figures this year. He is well worth a 4th round pick especially if you have loaded up on power early in the draft.
Solid Production with Upside: Russell Martin, C
It was hard to know how to categorise Martin because catcher just generally isn’t a very exciting position outside of the top 5. Where Martin’s potential upside comes from is the fact that currently Dioner Navarro is slated to play DH for the Blue Jays meaning that when Martin is given a rest behind the plate it is likely he and Navarro could just swap roles. This should put Martin closer to an everyday player meaning that he could creep up towards the 500 AB range which would move him from a low end #1 catcher to a decent middle of the road catcher. If he does slot in at #2 in the order then he should have plenty of opportunities to both drive in the speedy Reyes and be driven in by the powerful trio behind him.
Sneaky Upside: Dioner Navarro, C
Similar situation to Martin really where Navarro could see close to everyday playing time split between catcher and DH. Batting behind this extraordinary top five should mean he can drive in plenty of runs and could lead to him being an undrafted player in single catcher leagues who goes on to put up top 10 catcher numbers. Well worth considering a pick up if you draft Lucroy just in case he doesn’t return for opening day as Navarro was solid last year and could be again with decent playtime.
Massive Upside: Dalton Pompey, OF
Pompey is someone who seems to be slipping under the radar a little in fantasy leagues. Right now he is scheduled to be a starting outfielder for Toronto and if he can solidify that job in spring and get full time at bats then you could be looking at a late round gem in redraft leagues. If he can get full time AB’s (500+) then 30-40 steals with 80+ runs could be well within play with someone who can generally be got with a pick in the last couple of rounds.
Any Other Business?
Pillar has some sleeper potential for me if he can take advantage of the injury to Michael Saunders and grab the job with both hands. As for Izturis and Tolleson I am actually not sure they are ever platoon partners because there is a prospect I expect to beat them both out meaning I wouldn’t touch these guys unless I was desperate in a very deep AL only league.
- A. Dickey
- Mark Buehrle
- Drew Hutchison
- Marcus Stroman
- Aaron Sanchez
There aren’t really superstars in this group of guys but there are a few decent low end options who can be found later in drafts. Dickey has the ability to be unhittable at times but he isn’t going to be anything more than a low end guy for you. Hutchison had good stretches last year but he isn’t someone you will be actively pursuing and I always feel you will look at someone else more exciting everytime you see his name a top your list. Stroman and Sanchez are perhaps the most exciting options for fantasy although Sanchez may be even more valuable if he ends up in the bullpen. Stroman is the only guy you may extend yourself for in this rotation and even he doesn’t offer a great deal.
CL: Brett Cecil
SU: Aaron Loup
SU: Steve Delabar
MR: Marco Estrada
MR: Chad Jenkins
MR: Kyle Drabek
LR: Todd Redmond
This is an interesting situation because right now Cecil is the leader in the clubhouse but he could lose this job in spring without doing anything wrong. Depending on how Sanchez performs in spring either as a starter or reliever will decide how the dominoes fall. If Sanchez beats out the competition for a rotation job then Cecil is locked in to be the closer with no obvious rival but Sanchez’s fall back is likely to be the closer making him worth his current draft position if not one in the late teen rounds. As for Cecil it is a real shame he isn’t locked into this job because if he was his stunning K/9 and decent WHIP & ERA would mean he has a real shot to be a top 5 closer.
- Devon Travis, 2B: I love the idea this kid could be the man at second base for the Blue Jays. Another middle infielder with speed to burn mean you could be looking at a minimum of 20 steals from him if he earns the job. He should be able to hit for a decent average and if Reyes sees any of those previous injuries then Travis could have a job at the top of the line-up waiting for him.
- Daniel Norris, SP: Norris’ potential for this year is linked to the Cecil/Sanchez issue. If Sanchez blows out in his attempt to be in the rotation then the door will open for Norris. A decent chance he sees time during the season but unless he is locked into the rotation he is nothing more than a name to flag and keep an eye on injuries and the surrounding news.