The Blue Jays gave it their best shot -- were fringe contenders for the better part of a decade, actually -- but in the end, they just couldn't compete with the big boys in New York and Boston. Coming off their second straight fourth-place finish and their first losing season since 2005, they had to face reality, replacing longtime general manager J.P. Ricciardi with Alex Anthopoulos and beginning the dreaded rebuilding process.
Fortunately, they did a good job of it, putting together a minor-league system overloaded with prospects -- none better than Brett Wallace and Kyle Drabek, the two main prizes in the Roy Halladay hullabaloo. Both appear capable of contributing right away, with Wallace perhaps getting his chance as soon as the Blue Jays find a taker for free-agent-to-be Lyle Overbay.
Drabek's situation is a little more complicated. The Blue Jays had already accumulated plenty of depth in their starting rotation thanks to the arrival of Ricky Romero, Marc Rzepczynski, Brett Cecil, Bobby Ray and Brad Mills, the continued development of Scott Richmond, David Purcey, Brian Tallet and Jesse Litsch, the acquisition of Brandon Morrow, Shawn Hill, Dana Eveland and Zach Jackson, and the return of Shaun Marcum from Tommy John surgery. Throw in Dustin McGowan, who was perhaps the best of the bunch before hurting his shoulder in 2008, and the Blue Jays have a whopping 16 candidates for five rotation spots. After Marcum and Romero, it's pandemonium.
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Not to mention a one-stop shop for sleepers in AL-only leagues.
At the plate, Adam Lind and Aaron Hill have emerged as two legitimate middle-of-the-order threats, making up for Ricciardi holdover Vernon Wells' all-too-frequent deficiencies. The two represent the Blue Jays' only legitimate early-rounders in Fantasy. Travis Snider should eventually join them, but at age 22, he might need a couple years.
One of Scott Downs, who pitched well early, Jason Frasor, who pitched well late, and Kevin Gregg, who pitched for Chicago, has to step up as the team's closer, but with the team out of contention, none of the three would be more than a last-ditch option for saves on Draft Day.
Breakout: Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
Considering Encarnacion was clearly on the rise when he hit 26 homers in 2008, the Reds and Fantasy owners pulled the plug on him awfully quickly last year. Of course he struggled: He had a bone floating around in his left wrist. The Reds eventually discovered the problem, but by then, the damage was done, at least as far as his batting average went. Little do most people know he rebounded to hit .274 with seven home runs over his final 95 at-bats, picking up where he left off in '08. He has improved his walk rate over the last couple years and only needs to improve his consistency to become a potential 30-homer guy. Why not in his age-27 season? He'll probably go undrafted in mixed leagues, but you'll want to keep your eye on him out of the gate.
Bust: Aaron Hill, 2B
Whenever a second baseman hits 36 homers, it's cause for celebration. That's Chase Utley territory -- beyond it, even, considering the perennial first-rounder has a career high of 33. So naturally, Hill earned his place in Fantasy lore with his performance last year. But that jump from 17 homers to 36 was a little much, wasn't it? Let's say Hill declines to 30 this year -- still a generous projection. What effect will that have on his already unspectacular .829 OPS, a casualty of an alarmingly low walk rate? What about his standing in Head-to-Head leagues, where he finished a mere 13 points out of fifth place at his position? Second base is deeper than in the past, and if you lump Hill with Utley just because of his homers, you're overlooking the effect of those other numbers, not to mention banking on something unsustainable. He's good, but not early-round good.
Sleeper: Shaun Marcum, SP
Before he needed Tommy John surgery in 2008, Marcum looked like one of the biggest breakout pitchers in Fantasy, posting a 2.65 ERA with 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings over his first 15 starts. But, well, he needed Tommy John surgery, and that was that. What he had was an incomplete breakout, the kind that causes Fantasy owners to forget all about him instead of waiting on pins and needles for his return. But it wasn't an isolated incident -- he first began to appear on the scene in 2007. He might have to shake off some rust over the first month or two, like most pitchers returning from Tommy John surgery, but when he finds his form, he'll matter in mixed leagues. You might want to beat the rush to the waiver wire by simply investing a late-round pick in him.
| ||Pos.|| |
|1||Jose A. Bautista||RF||1||Shaun Marcum||RH|
|2||Aaron Hill||2B||2||Ricky Romero||LH|
|3||Adam Lind||DH||3||Brandon Morrow||RH|
|4||Vernon Wells||CF||4||Marc Rzepczynski||LH|
|5||Edwin Encarnacion||3B||5||Brett Cecil||LH|
|6||Lyle Overbay||1B||Alt||Dustin McGowan||RH|
|7||John Buck||C||Top bullpen arms|
|8||Travis Snider||LF||CL||Jason Frasor||RH|
|9||Alex Gonzalez||SS||SU||Scott Downs||LH|
|Top bench options||RP||Kevin Gregg||RH|
|R||Randy Ruiz||DH||RP||Jeremy Accardo||RH|
|R||Joey Gathright||OF||RP||Shawn Camp||RH|
|Came over from A's after Cardinals dealt him for Matt Holliday. Could start at 1B if Overbay is traded.|
|Prize of Halladay deal overcame injuries to live up to pedigree. Long shot this spring, but close.|
|Free swinger might not hit for average, but offers HRs at weak position. Could start by midseason.|
|Former college closer succeeds with hard sinker. Will start for now, but could move back to 'pen.|
|Gap hitter, but might improve power. Could replace Overbay next year if Jays keep Wallace at 3B.|
|Best of the rest: Chad Jenkins, SP; Henderson Alvarez, SP; Brad Mills, SP; Bobby Ray, SP; Travis d'Arnaud, C; Justin Jackson, SS; Carlos Perez, C; Scott Campbell, 2B; Kevin Ahrens, SS; Brian Jeroloman, C; John Tolisano, 2B; Brad Emaus, SS; Luis Perez, SP; Josh Roenicke, RP; Tyler Pastornicky, SS; Moises Sierra, OF; Tim Collins, RP; Jacob Marisnick, OF; Ryan Goins, SS; and Dirk Hayhurst, RP.|
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