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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.

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  1. AJ
    February 18, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    Where’s the mention of Marcus Stroman in this analysis? Stroman is going to the IT factor for the Jays rotation.

    • February 18, 2016 at 4:44 pm

      I think the biggest issue with Stroman is that he seems (at least to me) to be more represented by his 4+ ERA in the playoffs than he is the 1.90 ERA he had in 4 starts heading into the playoffs last season.

      Sure, he has a career ML ERA of 2.99 in the Regular Season but again a lot of that is due to his 1.90 ERA in the 4 starts last season. He could still be a high 3 ERA type of guy and it seems (at least what his ML numbers show) that he has trouble striking batters out which doesn’t make him that much of a fantasy impact arm. The ERA is nice, his GB% is nice but wins are nearly impossible to predict and if he isn’t striking guys out he could get hit pretty badly once the league gets used to him. That doesn’t make for a great Ace.

      • Jeff
        February 18, 2016 at 5:08 pm

        I think you couldn’t be more wrong about Stroman, first of all his ERA was 1.67 as a starter, not 1.90, his ERA as a starter in 2014 was 3.29 which is excellent especially for a rookie, with his Minor League numbers its easy to believe that his strikeout numbers will go up, and he doesn’t walk many batters, doesn’t give up HRs. And his postseason number are inflated by the fact that he gave up four runs in a game that the Jays were fully in control, his postseason is better reflected by his numbers against Texas in which he gave up 3 runs in 7 innings and 2 runs in 6 innings. You are basically judging him on 6.1 innings of meaningless baseball. Stroman is 100 % the real deal.

        • February 22, 2016 at 2:30 pm

          My biggest issue with this is that he didn’t just pitch 6.1 innings. He pitched 19.1 innings in the playoffs to a 4.19 ERA and in his only full season he had a 3.65 ERA.

          He has been really great at home in his career compared to on the road but he only has 24 career starts. With his low Strike out numbers it leaves some questions as to whether or not he can keep that up.

          Way I see it in a 5×5 league I would personally want a large handful of pitchers before Stroman. He isn’t going to get a lot of strike outs. He’ll have an average ERA and WHIP and he won’t get you any saves. So you’ll have to hope he gets his wins which are nearly impossible to predict (see: Hutchinson) as an Ace none of his numbers show that he should be in the same conversation as the guys like Price, Ross, or even Samardzija for that matter.

          I could be absolutely wrong and I’ll be the first to admit it. But his 4 games in the regular season with such an amazing set of numbers and only 27 innings pitched isn’t that much different than the 19.1 innings he pitched in the playoffs (ALDS and ALCS combined). Those 8 innings aren’t enough to make me think he is the near 2 ERA guy vs. the near 4 ERA guy he has shown the rest of his career.

        • February 26, 2016 at 10:21 pm

          BTW I’m Jeff, couldn’t figure out how to log on to my account so I created a new one. Anyways, Did you read my reply? Because I explained that his inflated ERA came from one start in which he had a huge lead and didn’t have any pressure on, minus that start, he had a respectable 3.46 ERA in 13 innings. His 3.65 ERA came from his 6 relief appearances in which he pitched to a 7.84 ERA, when he started his ERA was 3.29, which is much more indicative of how he performed, also his career WHIP as a starter is 1.13 which would have ranked him 13 in the MLB last year, and his career 2.99 ERA as a starter would also rank him 13th. You are essentially basing your opinion of him on 1 start in which he wasn’t under pressure, and 6 relief appareances, if you look at his stats as a starter, it’s not hard to see that he is going to be a legitimate ace.

        • February 29, 2016 at 8:59 am

          I reached out personally through email but wanted to provide my response inline as well.

          Hi Jeff,

          Glad you reached out to me directly. Would love to have this chat. I am not in any way shape or form saying that Stroman is going be a bust. I am just saying that he may not be the fantasy impact arm that a lot of people are claiming him to be.

          I think the biggest thing here is that you are asking me not to look at a small sample size (playoffs) but to look at a small sample size (4 starts in the 2015 regular season). His 1.67 ERA in those four starts is wonderful but its only four starts. His 20 starts he had in his previous year he only went 11 – 6, which means he is susceptible to getting beat up a bit and his inability to strike guys out kind of proves that.

          My biggest concern about Stroman is that he may give you a solid mid 3 ERA (it won’t be in the 2’s he isn’t that type of guy) and he might get you a pretty solid WHIP but he isn’t going to strike out enough batters to be the bonafide ace I’d want in my staff (MLB or Fantasy). Wins are impossible to predict and by the look of things he could easily provide top 20 stats or somewhere near the 40s / 50s and thats too much of a risk for me to pull the trigger on him.

  2. ej
    February 18, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    And no mention of sanchez? Is osuna even an option to be stretched out.

    • February 18, 2016 at 4:52 pm

      Something should be said about Sanchez being moved to the bull pen in the 2nd half of the season last year. He only had 11 game starts so far in his ML career and they call came in the first half of last season. He pitched in 30 games in the second half all from the bull pen.

      There is no doubt the kid has talent, but he isn’t Brett Cecil, he isn’t Roberto Osuna (if he remains in the pen) and he isn’t going to beat Storen for the 9th. So unless the Jays rotation can’t last past 5 and he comes in around the 6th inning he is going to be combating Cecil for time which will slow down his value which at this time really can only be used in leagues that record Holds because he won’t get too many save opps if any at all.

      The Jays brass want to stretch out one of the Sanchez / Osuna options. While it seems more likely that it will be Sanchez I would put all your eggs into his basket knowing that the Jays have Stroman, Estrada, Dickey, Happ, Chavez, Hutchinson already trying to fight for the 5 spots. Which means Sanchez could get stretched out but play more of a LR role.

      Still a lot to come in Spring Training though.

  3. February 19, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    I would point out that looking at anything Stroman did in 2015 is difficult at best. There are huge sample size questions in both the playoffs and the regular season. The fact that he came back at all has to be encouraging. If you base the bullpen purely on past results (and remove saves from the equation) then Osuna is the clear choice to close. Unfortunately, teams really can’t afford to do that, so Storen may end up winning that battle, but I foresee both getting opportunities this season.

  4. February 29, 2016 at 8:49 am

    Have to love that Stroman throws five pitches and induces a ton of ground balls. Sure, he hasn’t posted the K% he did in Double-A just yet, but he’s also just 24 and doesn’t exactly have a fair sample as most of you alluded to. I’m as big a Stroman fan as there is, but for fantasy purposes, I’m concerned with the current cost. He’s going 26th among starters ahead of guys like Wacha, Liriano, CarMart, McCullers, Richards, Tanaka, Samardzija — all of which I’d prefer to Stroman as of today. Keeper/dynasty formats are a little different, but I just can’t afford that in redrafts. Can’t wait to watch him throw, though!

    • February 29, 2016 at 8:57 am

      And I think that’s a big component of it. I am not saying that Stroman is going to be the worst pitcher in the world. I just don’t think he is going to hold that much of an impact in the world of fantasy.

      We don’t get points (or categories for that matter) for GB% which is excellent and he isn’t going to get you any saves. So if he sits in the mid to high 3 ERA (which I believe he is best suited for) than in the low 3s / high 2s like his 6 game sample showed last year (including playoffs) he is really only good for two of the five categories.

      Wins are way too hard to predict in this game and to think that he will turn into a 16 – 19 game winner (which I know no one has brought up) is a better lock for the #1 pitchers I’d want on my team.

      I just don’t see him being the starting pitcher that I want to hang my season on.