StrategyFebruary 27, 2011

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Toronto Blue Jays

By Christopher Ventra

When you think of the 2010 Toronto Blue Jays, you think power! They went 85-77 and missed the playoffs mostly due to the fact that the AL East is the best division in baseball. Their success was affected by their offensive prowess. Power! That’s what they had, 257 team HRs led the majors; it was 46 more than the next best team, the Red Sox, which is almost as many homers Jose Bautista had by himself. More on that later. Home runs lead to runs, and that’s why they had 755 runs — good for 9th in MLB — but they only had a team average of .248, which was 25th. A team ERA of 4.22 was in the bottom ten of the league, which is an important factor in why they couldn’t surpass the top dogs in the AL East. Now the 2011 season is right around the corner, and a bunch of offseason moves could help or hurt the Jays. Only time will tell.

In “30 Teams in 30 Days,” the Fantasy Baseball Cafe will preview each team in Major League Baseball on a daily basis. In addition to projecting starting lineups, rotations and closing situations, the Cafe will identify potential targets for 2011 fantasy baseball drafts.
Offensive Starters

C J.P. Arencibia.301.359.6267632850412w/AAA
1B Adam Lind.237.287.4255723720569 
2B Aaron Hill.205.271.3947026682528 
SS Yunel Escobar.256.337.318604356497w/2T
3B Jose Bautista.260.378.617109541249569 
LF Juan Rivera.252.312.4095315522416w/LAA
CF Rajai Davis.284.320.3776655250525w/OAK
RF Travis Snider.255.304.4633614326298 
DH Edwin Encarncion.244.305.4824721511332 

Unsettled: Catcher. Most of the Blue Jays position players seem to be fixtures in their spots because their bench is not very strong and there isn’t any young guys ready to take over for veterans on the roster, except for the catcher position. Catcher appears to be the most unsettled because they have a possible platoon situation between the defensive veteran, Jose Molina, and young prospect J.P. Arencibia. Depending how Arencibia’s Spring Training debut goes, Molina should see a good amount of appearances behind the dish because he is a proven player and is excellent defensively. The Jays will try and work Arencibia in, and if he hits well he should see more and more playing time. As you can see I posted his Triple-A stats, because he only played 11 games in the majors last season; he has the potential to be a quality offensive catcher and is obviously not proven yet, but could be a nice sleeper pick at the end of drafts.
Target: Jose Bautista and Travis Snider. Jose Bombtista is one of the most intriguing players in the league, because he basically came from a sea of under-the-radar players and rose above almost all by having one of the most incredible seasons in the MLB — and it’s not the steroid era anymore! Many analysts say that this breakout season could have been predicted because he had a power surge at the end of 2009; a sign of things to come. But if this was predictable, someone would have drafted him in 2010; did anyone? I picked him up after he was leading the league in homers with 22 a third of the way through the season; people still didn’t believe. Can you believe now after a full season where he put up these stunning numbers? It’s tough to predict what he will do this season because his career numbers could suggest this was a fluke, yet how could it be according to how astronomical his numbers were and how consistently his power was throughout the season?
Two numbers stand out to me. He walked 100 times, which is tremendously important for power guys like Bombtista and means he has a great eye and did in previous seasons as well, so this should help his stock especially in fantasy. The other number is his batting average; he hit .260 last season, which is the highest mark of his career, having a career average of .244; this should hurt his stock. The best thing to do is expect regression to somewhere in between his career numbers and his totals from last season, maybe .250/90/32/98. He is also a lot more valuable now because of his third base eligibility, so he may be worth a late third to early fourth round pick.
Travis Snider at only 23 years old has potential to breakout and be a top 20 fantasy outfielder. He has had his struggles so far in his young career but did hit .304 with a .543 SLG % in the month of September last year. Snider has much promise and was ranked the sixth best prospect in baseball before 2009 for a reason; keep your eye on him when you need a 3rd or 4th outfielder. It’s not a bad idea to take a chance on him.
The Rotation
Ricky Romero (L)14-93.731.2917482210 
Brandon Morrow (R)10-74.491.3817866146.1 
Brett Cecil (L)15-74.221.3311754172.2 
Kyle Drabek (R)14-92.941.1913268162w/AA
Marc Rzepczynski (L)4-44.951.60573063.2 

Unsettled: The Blue Jays rotation has question marks just like most other teams but all spots seem to be filled except for their No. 5 starter, who could be either Rzepczynski or Jesse Litsch. Romero has progressed and is the ace of the staff and Morrow, Cecil and Drabek are going to be in the rotation in some order unless they perform very poorly in spring training. It looks to be a middle-of-the-road rotation at best.
Target: Everyone knows Romero should have another nice season at only 26 years old in 2011, but a target I have as more of a sleeper is Brett Cecil. At 23 years old, Cecil won 15 games in only his sophomore year. He also pitched almost 173 innings, a number that should continue to increase as he progresses. He was a top 100 prospect before 2009 and was a first-round pick by Toronto in 2007. Cecil is definitely a guy to consider grabbing late in drafts.
The 8th and 9th Innings
Frank Francisco (R)23.761.27601852.2w/TEX
Octavio Dotel (R)224.081.31753264 

Chasing Saves: Many additions were obtained by the Jays in this department and four of their guys, including three of the newer ones, all have opportunities at winning the closer role this year. It will most likely be a closer by committee situation — I guess the plan was to get as many washed up closers as they can and someone would have to step up and be good, right? As of right now it’s Francisco’s job to lose, but he will be on a short leash with Dotel next in line to give it a try. Your best bet is to stay away from Blue Jay closers and pick up one of the ten guys in their bullpen later in the season if you feel the need to, because there’s a chance that guy will be the next closer.
Final Thoughts
The 2011 Toronto Blue Jays should once again have a nice amount of power while having added a chunk of new acquisitions that do balance out the team a bit more. A record of 78-84 is what I see for them this year, regressing and missing the playoffs yet again. The division just gets stronger and stronger, even the Orioles are a force to be reckoned with adding hitting talent. Although they added to the roster the Jays also lost key guys like Shaun Marcum and Vernon Wells, which were two important pieces of their team last season. Romero is not yet an ace but a good number two and Morrow has never pitched a full season but has promise as a power pitcher, while Cecil and Drabek are young and might need some more grooming, especially Drabek. There are a good amount of quality fantasy players on the Jays, the biggest one being Bautista. Players like Lind and Hill have value due to how well they did in 2009 but are not early round draft picks because of how much they fell off in 2010. Davis, Rivera, Arencibia, Morrow, Cecil and Drabek should all contribute in some way in many fantasy Leagues.
Check back tomorrow as we kick off the AL Central.

Christopher Ventra is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. He has been playing Fantasy Sports for 6 years now and loves to create his own personal rankings for draft day. You can catch up with Christopher in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of cmonni15.
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