Fantasy baseball 2014 team previews: Toronto Blue Jays
Entering 2013, Toronto had added big names like shortstop Jose Reyes, lefty Mark Buehrle and righthanded ace R.A. Dickey through free agency and trades. Buehrle was the second-most expensive player on the team (behind Jose Bautista), and he posted a 4.15 ERA, with 10 losses, in his return the American League.
The Mets parlayed Dickey's 20-win, NL Cy Young season in 2012 into a big offseason trade with Toronto. The Blue Jays still got 14 wins out of him, and the second-most innings of his career (224.2). Unfortunately, his K/9 dropped from 8.9 in 2012 to 7.1 last season.
Reyes' injury history came back to injure any fantasy owner who spent a high pick on him, as a bad ankle troubled him throughout most of the year. He played in just 93 games -- the second-lowest amount of games played for him since 2005.
Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, the Dominican keystones on this team before the big trades, were still quality fantasy players. Although, Bautista was limited to under 120 games for the second season in a row and Encarnacion needed offseason wrist surgery.
What does a fifth-place finish in the division in 2013 portend for their 2014 fantasy squad?
Expectations are much lower for this ballclub in 2014, coming off a season in which it finished ninth in the American League in batting average, and 12th in ERA.
Fantasy owners are still drafting Blue Jays with high hopes, however, as four players are being drafted in the top 100 players, and about nine Jays are expected to go in a 23-round Mixed league draft.
MORE TEAM PREVIEWS:
1. Jose Reyes, SS
2. Jose Bautista, RF
3. Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
4. Adam Lind, DH
5. Colby Rasmus, CF
6. Melky Cabrera, LF
7. Brett Lawrie, 3B
8. Dioner Navarro, C
9. Ryan Goins, 2B
1. R.A. Dickey
2. Mark Buehrle
3. Brandon Morrow
4. J.A. Happ
5. Kyle Drabek
Others: Todd Redmond
Bullpen: Casey Janssen (Closer), Sergio Santos
When should I picky R.A. Dickey? Dickey was a shadow of his 2012 self in 2013, and really, we all should have seen this coming. He had just one big season, with just one other season in which the knuckleballer won more than 10 games. Plus, he was returning to the American League, which swaps out throwing to a pitcher with a designated hitter once every few innings.
Dickey posted a 4.69 ERA in the first half of the season, and people had already written him off as a huge bust as a top-15 Fantasy pitcher in ADP.
But in the second half, when the Blue Jays' season was written off as a failure, Dickey quietly posted a very nice 3.56 ERA in 14 starts. As a matter of fact, his 85 strikeouts (in 96 IP) ranked 13th in the majors in the second half.
The 11-year veteran's velocity on his knuckleball improved in the second half, and with it, his strikeout percentage. But most will remember the early season doldrums -- and that makes him a nice value pick!
In the early part of the drafting season, Dickey is going in the early teen rounds, after about 35-40 other pitchers are picked. Draft him as a SP4 and he could pay off with an SP2-type season again.
Should Edwin Encarnacion still be considered with a high draft pick after his wrist surgery? Much like when the Fantasy owner of a pitcher cringes when he hears the phrase, "elbow soreness," the Fantasy owner of a slugger cringes when he hears the phrase, "wrist surgery." While most of a hitter's power comes from his hips and shoulders, his wrists are what cranks up the bat speed. If a slugger has a tough time turning that wrist over, his power stats will suffer.
Interestingly, we have Encarnacion's teammate, Bautista, to compare against. Both are right-handed power guys who had surgery on their left wrist.
We'll look at Bautista's ISO numbers, which measures a hitter's raw power, to see what we might possibly expect. (ISO is calculated by subtracting a player's batting average from his slugging percentage.) We're going to check Bautista's ISO numbers from every season dating to 2010, his breakout season.
• In 2010, he had an ISO number of .306 before the All-Star break.
• In 2011, he had an ISO of .368 before the break.
• In 2012, he had an ISO of .296 before the break.
• In 2013, after wrist surgery from the previous season, he had an ISO number before the break of just .239.
Bautista ended up playing just 118 games last season, before leaving with a hip injury in August. While Encarnacion could still end up being a very good fantasy player, he's currently a late first-round /early second-round pick -- with a bad left wrist. Bautista, meanwhile, is being drafted outside of the top 30 picks.
Can we trust a closer who spells "Jansen" with two S's? While it's very true, the spelling of Casey Janssen's name is enough to send OCD fantasy writers into a tailspin of rug combing and light-switch flipping. But Janssen quietly puts up very good numbers at a position that is rife with roller-coaster rankings.
While he's expected to close games once again in Toronto, he's not one of the first few names you think of when you dream about your fantasy lineup. But in the past two seasons, Janssen has a combined 2.55 ERA and 0.92 WHIP, with 56 saves in 61 save opportunities.
The guy walked just 13 batters last season! That's like half a game for Ubaldo Jimenez!
Entering a contract year, draft Janssen with confidence as a top 15-20 closer.
Adam Lind, 1B -- Lind doesn't get enough pub, especially as a first baseman coming off one of his best seasons so far. That he's entering his ninth season, with just one 100-RBI season under his belt, has people looking elsewhere for a first baseman. As a corner infielder, however, he gives you the chance to grab the cleanup hitter in an above-average offense in the late rounds. He has trouble with left-handers (.208 against LHP in 2013, compared to .309 against RHP), so if he ever improves those splits just a bit, he could be a top-15 first baseman that you draft in the middle rounds.
Edwin Encarnacion, 1B -- I've already committed to Encarnacion as my "Bust" pick, but really, it's more because of his current ADP than it is anything against his ability/talent. Did you know that Mark Trumbo has averaged 32 home runs over the past three years, just like E.E.?
The point is -- first base has a lot of good hitters. Don't roll the dice on one coming off of wrist surgery in the first couple rounds, when you can take a different superstar at that point in the draft and still end up with a very good slugger later on at first base.
Is it just me, or are Brett Lawrie and Mike Moustakas the same person? They've been in the league for three years; they're six-foot tall third basemen; and they have underwhelmed fantasy owners year after year.
Lawrie actually has a better outlook for 2014, as some injuries limited him in 2014, and let's remember that in his prime, he could end up being a 25-20 player for Toronto.
AL-Only Guys to Know
Colby Rasmus, CF -- It seems like Rasmus has been frustrating owners for the better part of a decade, but this is just his sixth full season in the bigs. He was hit in the face by an errant warm-up pitch by teammate Anthony Gose, and a sore oblique cost him time last year. If you extrapolate his 118 games out to about 158, he would've had a line of .275-28-83 in 530 at-bats. That's not too far off from Domonic Brown's numbers. He makes for a very good DH pick in mixed formats if you already have speed covered.
Dioner Navarro, C -- True -- Navarro batted .300 in 240 at-bats last season. False -- Navarro will be able to duplicate that this season. True -- There are a ton of good Catcher-2 options out there this season. False -- "Dioner" means "Buster" in Venezuela.
Brandon Morrow, SP -- It's never a bad idea to gamble on a player like Morrow, who has shown skills in the past, but has been derailed by some injuries (including a nerve problem in his forearm last year). He's not a bad final pick in mixed leagues, or a high-upside gamble in AL-only leagues.