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2011 Fantasy outlooks: Toronto Blue Jays

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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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.

However, it's not time for Fantasy owners to turn their back on the Jays. They still have a lot of Fantasy-worthy candidates despite selling off Vernon Wells and Shaun Marcum.

One area the Blue Jays improved this offseason was at the back end of their bullpen. They added Frank Francisco, Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch, who will all battle for the closer's job this spring.

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 ... J.P. Arencibia , C

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.

Toronto Blue Jays Fantasy Outlook
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
Bullpen Breakdown
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
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2010 high Destination
1 Kyle Drabek 23 SP Majors Majors
His deceptive curveball could make him frontline starter down the road.
2 J.P. Arencibia 25 C Majors Majors
Power-hitting backstop that flashed 30-homer ability in the minors.
3 Brett Lawrie 21 2B Double-A Triple-A
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.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com . Be sure to put Team outlooks in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.

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Player News
Veteran outfielder Ichiro Suzuki on Orioles radar
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:07 pm ET) The Orioles are showing some interest in signing 41-year-old outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

The Orioles are looking for an outfielder after losing Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis in free agency. Ichiro is 156 hits shy of 3,000 career hits and looking to extend his MLB career.


Germano, Lowe, Rivero sign minor-league deals with Mariners
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:41 pm ET) The Mariners announced Monday they signed pitcher Justin Germano, pitcher Mark Lowe and infielder Carlos Rivero to minor-league deals, which included invites to spring training.

Dodgers acquire Matt Long from Angels, then deal him to Brewers
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:38 pm ET) The Dodgers announced Thursday they acquired minor-league infielder/outfielder Matt Long from the Angels to complete the Dec. 9 trade for catcher Drew Butera.

However, Long wasn't with Los Angeles for long, as they traded him and pitcher Jarret Martin to the Brewers for minor-league catcher Shawn Zarraga.


Rockies sign trio of players to minor-league contracts Thursday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3:37 pm ET) The Rockies have signed left-handed pitcher John Lannan, right-handed pitcher Justin Miller and catcher Audry Perez to minor-league contracts. Each of the players also received an invitation to the team's spring training. 

Lannan made five appearances in 2014 with the Mets, going 1-0 with a 15.75 ERA. He was also a member of the Nationals from 2007-2012, where in 2009 he threw 206 1/3 innings, going 9-13.

Miller made eight appearances for the Tigers in 2014, posting a 5.11 ERA with five strikeouts while Perez appeared in just one game last year with the Cardinals.


Agent: Outfielder Delmon Young hoping to remain in Baltimore
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3:27 pm ET) Outfielder Delmon Young is reportedly not close to making a decision on where to play in 2015, but his agent said the Orioles "absolutely" remain in play, according to MASN.com.

The 29-year-old veteran is hoping to get a multi-year extension with the club, but is still keeping his options open, his agent said.

"Everything has been very positive," said Joel Wolfe of Wasserman Media Group, who met with the Orioles during the Winter Meetings in San Diego. "They value Delmon and realize what he brings to the table, and hopefully it's just a matter of getting it right."

Young hit .302 in 83 games, with 11 doubles, seven home runs and 30 RBI.


Jason Grilli's reps still talking to the Yankees
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:27 pm ET) Free agent reliever Jason Grilli and the Yankees are still open to discussions about the veteran reliever being part of the team's bullpen, one of Grilli's agents told NJ.com on Thursday.

"We last spoke during the (Winter Meetings) and the door is still open to discussions," said Xavier D. James, who co-represents Grilli with retired outfielder Gary Sheffield. "We will be patient."

The 12-year vet Grilli spent the 2014 season with the Pirates and Angels, going 1-5 with a 4.00 ERA and 12 saves in 62 appearances. He was an All-Star closer for the Pirates in 2013.


Kris Medlen lands two-year deal with Royals
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:15 pm ET) The Royals announced Thursday they signed pitcher Kris Medlen to a two-year contract, which includes a mutual option for 2017.

Medlen missed all of the 2014 season with the Braves due to Tommy John surgery. He became a free agent after he was non-tendered in early December. 

Medlen is 30-13 with a 2.96 ERA in 61 career starts and 4-7 with a 2.92 ERA in 91 relief appearances. Since the start of 2010, Medlen's .674 winning percentage (31-15) ranks third in MLB among pitchers with 40-plus decisions.


Report: Dodgers trade for Phillies shortstop Rollins remains in place
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:01 pm ET) The Dodgers acquisition of Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins has yet to be finalized because of another Dodgers trade with the Padres is being reportedly held up due to an issue with Matt Kemp's physical. One of the players in the Kemp deal the Dodgers are acquiring -- Zach Eflin -- is expected to be part of the trade for Rollins.

However, whether or not Eflin eventually is part of the trade with Philadelphia, the Rollins deal remains in place, sources told CSNPhilly.com. The Phillies and Dodgers have discussed other players as part of the deal in case the Kemp trade to the Padres doesn't go through.

Although, despite the issues with Kemp's physical, CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman reported Thursday the trade with the Padres likely won't be derailed.


George Kottaras nets minor-league deal from White Sox
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:48 pm ET) The White Sox have agreed to a minor-league deal with catcher George Kottaras, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training.

Report: Red Sox in 'active' trade talks regarding Allen Craig
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:39 pm ET) The Red Sox are in "active" trade talks with at least one team regarding first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig, sources told FOX Sports. Craig is said to be fully recovered from a left foot injury that has bothered him since 2013.

Craig had a down season in 2014, batting .215 with eight home runs and 46 RBI in 126 games between the Cardinals and Red Sox. He really struggled with the Red Sox, batting .128 with one home run and two RBI in 29 games.


 
 
 
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