StrategyFebruary 14, 2013

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Toronto Blue Jays

By ensanimal

Canada’s finest had another disappointing season in 2012, finishing fourth for the third season in row. Jose Bautista was injured, the new closer was out almost all year and Brett Lawrie didn’t live up to expectations. Then the off-season came and it was more of the same boring minor deals and … what? The Blue Jays didn’t have a boring off-season of penny pinching? Three years of having Alex Anthopoulos load up one of the best farm systems in MLB came around to help the big club in a big way.

Rumors were swirling of something big before, on November 13, the Jays franchise made a huge move in acquiring Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson. Three days later they added NL batting average leader Melky Cabrera through free agency. Just over a month later, NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey joined the fray. There are a lot of expectations for 2013, with many expecting the World Series banner to once again fly north of the border. There are some questions still though. How does Bautista bounce back from his wrist injury? Can Lawrie bounce back and live up to the hype? Will Dickey and Edwin Encarnacion be able to repeat their dominance of 2012?

With the new additions on the field and an old friend back to fill out the lineup cards, the excitement is building in Toronto and around the baseball world. In the fantasy world, these guys will all go pretty early, and if they all perform as they can, they’ll boost each other’s numbers to potentially new heights. Be leery of the hype though, as average baseball fans may jump on the bandwagon and start drafting Jays too early.

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 2013 fantasy baseball drafts.
Offensive Starters

C J.P. Arencibia.233.275.4354518561372 
1B Edwin Encarnacion.280.384.557934211013644 
2B Maicer Izturis.256.320.3153522017319w/LAA
SS Jose Reyes.287.347.43386115740716w/MIA
3B Brett Lawrie.273.324.40573114813536 
LF Melky Cabrera.346.390.51684116013501w/SF
CF Colby Rasmus.223.289.4007523754625 
RF Jose Bautista.241.358.5276427655399 
DH Adam Lind.255.314.4142811450353 

Unsettled: Second base. Two new faces will be a part of the most interesting off-season position battle. Izturis seems to have the early lead based on his experience at the position and much better K%. Both are versatile, and John Gibbons has said both will be in the lineup regularly. Izturis has played more than 1,500 innings at 2B, SS and 3B each in his career, and Bonifacio has excellent speed and can also play the OF, making him a perfect super utility player.
Target: Jose Bautista. As Bautista goes, so go the Jays, at least for the past few seasons. In 2012, the Jays were 45-47 and averaged six runs a game with Bautista in the lineup. Without him, they were 28-42 and only scored 3.8 runs a game. His wrist is said to be in good condition, and he’s going to have one of the best top of the lineups in baseball in front of him and real protection behind him for the first time in a while. With lots of RBI chances, he has lots of power and even kicks in a few SBs every year. I’m expecting his numbers to jump back to his 2010/2011 MVP-caliber years. He’s gone as late as 20th overall in the Cafe Mock Drafts; don’t let him fall that far.
The Rotation
R.A. Dickey (R)20-62.731.0523054233.2w/NYM
Brandon Morrow (R)10-72.961.1110841124.2 
Mark Buehrle (L)13-133.741.1712540202.1w/MIA
Josh Johnson (R)8-143.811.2816565191.1w/MIA
Ricky Romero (L)9-145.771.67124105181.0 

Unsettled: The top five themselves are pretty much set to start the season. There are some injury concerns with Morrow and Johnson but the real question is whether Romero can even hold onto the number-five spot in the rotation. He went from staff ace to being skipped in 2012. The numbers are jarring to see: In 2011, he shined with 15 wins, 2.92 ERA and 178 Ks, but in 2012, a little less shine to be sure. Amongst qualified starters, his 5.77 ERA and 5.22 BB/9 were dead last. The Jays have J.A. Happ waiting at Triple-A in case Romero can’t turn it around. He should be able to turn it around though; there was no significant drop in velocity or change in mechanics. If he can find his control, he may be one of the better value picks in deep leagues. If he doesn’t, he could be on the waiver wire quickly, and for a long time.
Target: This one is tough. How can you go against the NL Cy Young? His BB/9 has stayed consistent for the past three years, but in 2012 his K/9 jumped from 5.4 and 5.8 in 2010 and 2011, respectively, to 8.9 in 2012. I’m tempering my expectations a touch this year, even with stories of Dickey and his knuckleball loving to be in a dome. I’m going with Brandon Morrow, just as I did last year at this time, when we spoke of differences in ERA and FIP and unlucky BAPIP with men on base. Those did correct, and we saw his ERA drop from the mid-fours to the high-twos. His K rate did suffer a bit, but he lowered his LD% and FB%, which kept more balls in the park. He seemed to be pitching more to contact last year, looked like he was going for the weak contact ground-ball instead of the strikeout we’re accustomed to. He was pitching more for control at the expense of velocity. If he can put it all together this year, watch out.
The 8th and 9th Innings
Casey Janssen (R)222.540.86671163.2 
Sergio Santos (R)29.002.00445.0 

Chasing Saves: In 2011, the Blue Jays lead the AL East in blown saves with 25. They promptly went out and acquired Sergio Santos, who then was promptly out for the season. He saved two games after blowing two during his first (and only, it would turn out) six appearances of the year. Casey Janssen went on to take over and thrive in the role, saving 22 games and recording only two blown saves. I see Janssen starting the season in the role while Santos gets back into things. I can see Santos taking over at some point mid-season. Santos was acquired to be the closer of the future, and if he can show his upper 90s velocity is back, he could step in and dominate. A sneaky pick in holds leagues or a deep, deep sleeper for saves could be Steve Delabar. An older journeyman type, he found his spot in 2012. Great Ks and an opportunity near the back end of the bullpen is a good recipe for success.
Final Thoughts
If things go the way fans, media and Las Vegas think they will, the Blue Jays are set to return to the top of the MLB standings. The city of Toronto has been dying for a sports team to win, and the Blue Jays will hopefully bring them that team. Attendance should grow considerably in 2013 as the front office is looking to go back over the 3 million mark. If you select the right group of players, including a Jay or two, your fantasy team may scale to the heights the Jays are hoping for.
Check back tomorrow for our look at the Chicago Cubs.

Eric Nantel-Smith is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Eric in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of ensanimal.
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