2016 Fantasy Baseball: Toronto Blue Jays Team Preview
2015 Quick Overview
If it was power you were looking for last season, the Toronto Blue Jays didn’t fail you. The only team in baseball to possess three players with at least 39 homers last season, the Blue Jays mashed their way to the post season for the first time in 22 years. Offensively the Jays were nothing short of amazing, leading the league in home runs and runs scored, the latter by a significant margin.
Not only did the blue birds have the knack for sending the ball to the moon, it was their patience at the plate that made them the league’s best offense. A 9.1 BB% was tied for second in the league and an 18.5 K% was 5th best proving that not only could they reach base safely but they rarely made mistakes at the plate.
On the other side of the diamond however, things weren’t nearly as phenomenal as they ranked 13th in the league in wins above replacement. Despite winning 93 games last season they were 4th worst in the league in strikeouts per 9 innings and were 2nd worst in Saves.
The Jays did what they could just before the deadline acquiring both Troy Tulowitzki and David Price in trades to bolster their already solid roster, but in the end it wasn’t good enough as they fell short of the World Series losing to the eventual champs Kansas City in six games.
2016 Off-Season Overview
The loss of David Price to the Boston Red Sox was a bit of a shocker. The Jays put a lot of value into a trade for Price specifically giving up Daniel Norris, and not being able to resign the hard throwing hurler is going to hurt. The Jays made changes to their front office at the end of last season including bringing in former Indians GM Mark Shapiro to take over for the Presidential duties of the club.
He quickly went out and acquired Jesse Chavez from Oakland, signed JA Happ and resigned Marco Estrada to lessen the blow of Price’s loss. Shapiro also went out and made a splash in the bullpen, which provides a glimpse into the future of Roberto Osuna who could see some action in the rotation, by trading for Drew Storen.
Fantasy Impact Bats
You will be hard pressed to not find an impact bat in this Blue Jays roster. From Joey Bats who shows absolutely zero signs of slowing down to Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson, the Blue Jays have arguably the best three power hitters in the middle of their lineup. All three of them ranked in the top 15 in HR totals last year and all three are currently being drafted in the top 20 picks leading into the 2016 season.
But those three aren’t the only talented bats coming out of Toronto. Russell Martin might be getting up their in age but had one of his most productive seasons in his career last year. Hitting a career high 23 home runs and driving in the second most runs (77), while scoring the third most runs of his career all signal for another solid season ahead.
At the front of their lineup both Devon Travis (2B) and Troy Tulowitzki (SS) have the potential to crush in this lineup. Both injured heading into Spring Training but Tulo should be back to start the season with Travis not too far behind. The concern here is that away from Coors Field Tulo just isn’t the same player despite the Rogers Centre being a hitter friendly park. Since being traded to the Jays last season Tulo only hit .239/.317 compared to his .300/.349 slash line in Colorado. He only saw 41 games as a Blue Jay before getting injured after colliding with a teammate but with a full year under his belt and all the monsters hitting behind him he should be able to see a ton of favorable pitches.
Kevin Pillar, Chris Colabello and Justin Smoak should all provide nice value in the back half of the lineup. Pillar is a speedster and one of only 15 players in MLB last season to steal 25 or more bases. In his first full season in the majors (159 games played) Pillar hit .278 and scored 76 runs. He isn’t going to hit you a ton of homers but has double-digit HR potential in this stadium. Colabello and Smoak are very intriguing but sort of for opposite reasons. Colabello had a .411 BABIP last season, which was highest among any player with at least 350 plate appearances. That points to a downward trend in 2016, specifically knowing that his .308 BABIP for the Twins in 2014 produced significantly worse numbers. Smoak on the other hand possess a lot of power potential. In his last three full seasons he has tallied at least 18 HRs in all and that was on only 328 plate appearances last year. Smoak and Colabello will platoon at 1B this season and if the latter dips off faster than we’d expect look for Smoak to be the immediate benefactor.
Fantasy Impact Arms
While not the best pitching staff in the AL last year they certainly weren’t the worst as well. With a 2.48 BB/9 they ranked as one the best pitching staff in the American League at slowing down the oppositions hitters with a 1.21 WHIP good for 3rd in the AL. However, it was their 6.98 K/9 that is a bit troubling as they struggled to strike out a lot of hitters which left them susceptible to getting hit and in a ball park that is known to be hitter friendly that often has negative repercussions.
The loss of David Price, their only ace-like pitcher of 2015 to the Boston Red Sox in free agency this past off-season is going to hurt. RA Dickey will provide plenty of veteran leadership in the rotation, and Estrada, Drew Hutchinson, JA Happ and Jesse Chavez should be serviceable enough to secure victories. But where the Jays will be strong will be the back end of their bullpen. Brett Cecil had K/9 of nearly 11 and should make for a solid stopgap between the rotation and the 8th / 9th innings.
The addition of Drew Storen to the back of the bull pen sets up plenty of question marks for Osuna who could be looked at as a possible rotation guy moving forward. Storen should ultimately be the closer for the Jays with Osuna being the set-up man as a worst case but if the Jays look to extend Osuna during Spring Training look for the young hurler to provide plenty of value as a starter.
What’s on the Farm?
The Farm is a bit barren these days for Toronto because of the splashes made by GM Alex Anthopoulos before the trade deadline last season. The trades for Tulowitzki and David Price saw two of their top prospects Jeff Hoffman and Daniel Norris among several other players exit to other squads.
Of the teams top 30 prospects still on the roster only two of them are expected to make any sort of impact on the club this season. Joe Biagini is a hard throwing righty who can hit high 90s on occasion but will settle nicely in the low to mid 90s regularly. Originally apart of the SF farm system Biagini didn’t hold much value for the Giants and was left unprotected in the rule 5 draft where the Jays picked him up. Most likely going to come in as a middle reliever Biagini does have the fantasy relevance to be a back of the end rotational guy if needed in a pinch. JA Happ, Jesse Chavez and the rest of the Jays rotation is going to make it hard for him to make an immediate impact but if anyone of them goes down he could step in nicely.
Dwight Smith is a lefty slap hitter who will give pitchers fits at the plate. A knack of getting on base will give Smith plenty of opportunity on the big club. Smith sees the ball well out of the pitchers hand and has a great eye for the strike zone. He won’t provide a ton of pop (single / low double-digit HR potential) but he will get on base and will make the right decisions to score.
2016 Season Outlook
The 2016 season shouldn’t look much more different than the 2015 season, but remember prior to the trades for Price and Tulo the Jays as a hole were pretty mediocre with a 48-49 record as of July 28th. The loss of Price is going to hurt and if there is one thing the Jays don’t need more of is its hitting which makes things a bit tough to swallow knowing that Price is gone.
Drew Hutchinson is going to be a massive question mark here. His 13 – 5 record was solid but his 5+ ERA and his relatively high BABIP are causes for concern, specifically knowing that wins are very hard to predict.
The offense isn’t going to regress unless injuries start to take their toll but the pitching staff is going to be equally as impressive to keep them relevant late in the season. For Fantasy purposes, go all in on their offense but pump the breaks when looking at any of the Jays rotational pitchers.