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The Toronto Blue Jays have nestled a spot in the bottom of AL East standings for close to two decades and the prospects of them remaining there in 2011 look promising.
Toronto has finished above third place in the AL East just once (2006) in the last 17 seasons. Well, the Blue Jays could sport the best record for a team that finishes fifth in its own division this season, as the Baltimore Orioles look to get out of the AL East cellar after having made vast improvements to their lineup.
Toronto has found ways to bolster its lineup by moving Adam Lind to first base and Jose Bautista to third. That enabled the team to add Juan Rivera and Rajai Davis to its outfield while bringing back slugger Edwin Encarnacion to be the primary designated hitter. Letting John Buck test free agency has also freed up at-bats behind the plate for uber prospect J.P. Arencibia.
An area of concern for Toronto is in its rotation, where youth rules. Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow and Brett Cecil are going to get drafted in the majority of Fantasy formats, but all are far from finished products. The final two spots in the rotation will likely be merely AL-only Fantasy options to begin the season, but prospect Kyle Drabek is an intriguing sleeper. Drabek is a strong candidate for a spot in the team's rotation and is projected as a frontline starter down the road.
It's not out of the realm of possibility that Toronto could finish with 80-plus wins for the fifth time in six seasons. Sadly for the Jays and their fans, barely finishing with more than 80 wins in the AL East isn't good enough to punch a ticket to the playoffs.
Late-round flier ... Juan Rivera, OF
Call me crazy, but I think Rivera is going to fit perfectly in Toronto. He is a guy that subscribes to Toronto's power philosophy and the Blue Jays are lucky that he still has some plate discipline. He is not an all-or-nothing slugger despite boasting 25-homer potential. The thing to like most about Rivera is the work ethic he has displayed this offseason as he looks to bounce back. Rivera played winter ball for the first time since 2006 and did quite well. He batted .343 with two homers, six doubles and 17 RBI in 25 games. It's also very intriguing that the trade out of Los Angeles likely means regular at-bats again. Not to forget that he is in the final year of his contract, so he will have the extra motivation for a big season looking for that next payday. If he can get past his durability issues, Rivera could end up paying huge dividends with little investment.
Bounce-back player ... Aaron Hill, 2B
You can pick on Hill all you want for his career-low .205 average a year ago, but we can blame his struggles on an injury. Hill said it was mentally tough for him to deal with a lingering hamstring injury he suffered early in the season. He's added that he is back at 100 percent and has learned to cope with injury. Prior to last season, Hill boasted a career .285 average. Despite the low average last year, Hill still bashed 26 homers, which was good enough for fourth among second basemen. In the last three seasons in which Hill has played at least 138 games, he has averaged 26 homers. Hill's batting average should be much improved in '11 and there is little doubt he still has what it takes to be a No. 1 Fantasy second baseman.
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Can't-miss prospect ...
The only reason Arencibia appeared in only 11 games last season was general manager Alex Anthopoulos promised Buck regular at-bats after signing him to a one-year deal and he kept his word. Well, now that Buck is out of the picture it becomes the Arencibia show in Toronto. Don't worry if Arencibia's numbers don't look great off the bat. Most rookie catchers struggle to hit as they learn the defensive intricacies of the majors. But this kid can rake. Arencibia hit .275 with 83 homers, 121 doubles and 290 RBI in 409 minor-league games. He was named Pacific Coast League MVP (Triple-A) last season and hit two bombs in his MLB debut against the Rays. He also possesses power to all fields. Arencibia is a very intriguing Fantasy option at a thin position.
|Projected Lineup||Pos.||Projected Rotation|
|1||Rajai Davis||CF||1||Ricky Romero||LH|
|2||Yunel Escobar||SS||2||Brandon Morrow||RH|
|3||Jose Bautista||3B||3||Brett Cecil||LH|
|4||Adam Lind||1B||4||Marc Rzepczynski||LH|
|5||Aaron Hill||2B||5||Kyle Drabek||RH|
|6||Juan Rivera||LF||Alt||Jesse Litsch||RH|
|7||Travis Snider||RF|| |
|8||Edwin Encarnacion||DH||CL||Frank Francisco||RH|
|9||J.P. Arencibia||C||SU||Octavio Dotel||RH|
|Top bench options||RP||Jon Rauch||RH|
|R||Jose Molina||C||RP||Shawn Camp||RH|
|R||John McDonald||INF||RP||Jason Frasor||RH|
|His deceptive curveball could make him frontline starter down the road.|
|Power-hitting backstop that flashed 30-homer ability in the minors.|
|Burgeoning power-speed combo middle infielder but needs more seasoning in minors.|
|4||Deck McGuire||21||SP||N/A||Class A|
|2010 first-round pick that could reach the majors by 2012 with solid four-pitch arsenal.|
|5||Anthony Gose||20||OF||Class A||Class A|
|A work in progress at the plate, but Gose has speed to die for on the base paths.|
|Best of the rest: Travis D'Arnaud, C; Zach Stewart, SP; Asher Wojciechowski, SP; Carlos Perez, C; Aaron Sanchez, SP; Jake Marisnick, OF; Eric Thames, OF; Noah Syndergaard, SP; Richard Thon, SS; Kellen Sweeney, 3B; Griffin Murphy, SP; Chad Jenkins, SP; Adeiny Hechavarria, SS; Marcus Knecht, OF; Henderson Alvarez, SP; David Cooper, 1B; Brad Mills, SP.|
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