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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Toronto Blue Jays

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The Blue Jays went 81-81 last season, marking the sixth time in seven seasons that they won at least 80 games. And yet they haven't reached the playoffs in 18 years. Their tale isn't one of futility, though. By acquiring closer Sergio Santos in the offseason, general manager Alex Anthopoulos gave an optimistic assessment of the team's progress: After two years of purging bad contracts and accumulating draft picks, it's ready to take the next step forward.

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And somewhere in its tangled mess of arms and outfielders, it should have the pieces in place to do so. The Blue Jays' ongoing project this season will be to appraise the underachieving ex-prospects -- such as Colby Rasmus and Travis Snider -- and overachieving minor-leaguers -- such as Eric Thames and David Cooper -- to determine which ones are legitimate building blocks for the future.

If nothing else, their middle of the lineup is already intact. Jose Bautista followed up his fairy tale rise to superstar status in 2010 with an even better 2011. Joining him as a cornerstone of the franchise is third baseman Brett Lawrie, who lived out a fairy tale of his own last year by giving his best Mike Schmidt impression once he reached the big leagues. For Fantasy owners, the two should be among the hottest commodities on Draft Day, with Lawrie closing in on the elite class of third basemen and Bautista a possibility for the first overall pick.

The Blue Jays have as much to sort through in the starting rotation, where only Ricky Romero has established himself as a legitimate front-liner. Beyond Brandon Morrow and Henderson Alvarez, the questions abound, but with Kyle Drabek, Deck McGuire and Drew Hutchison waiting in the wings and a whole slew of higher-upside arms in the lower levels of the minors, the Blue Jays have the means to fill whatever holes develop.

The hard part is over. The talent is there. Now, they just have to figure out how to make the most of it.

Breakout ... Brandon Morrow, SP

By the most superficial accounts, Morrow took a step backward last year, his ERA rising from 4.49 to 4.72. But before you dismiss him as a lost cause condemned to perpetual mediocrity, consider all he did right. He lowered his WHIP to 1.29 by improving both his hit rate and, more importantly, his walk rate, which checked in at a palatable 3.5 per nine innings, and yet his strikeout rate was still tops in the AL. Best of all, he continued his steady accumulation of innings, putting him in a position to cross the 200 threshold for the first time this season. So why don't more Fantasy owners care? Apparently, somebody decided that last year was supposed to be Morrow's breakout year, inflating his draft value and setting up the Fantasy-playing world for disappointment. Coming off a 146-inning season and with the same control issues as always, he wasn't ready to make the leap to elite status last year. Now that he is, he's actually more affordable to Fantasy owners.

Bust ... J.P. Arencibia, C

Arencibia was one of five catchers to hit 20-plus homers last year, and he did it as a rookie. But before visions of Mike Piazza start dancing in your heads, keep in mind he was especially old for a rookie, turning 25 before the start of the season. He's 26 now, which means he's already in the thick of his prime, which means what you see with him might be exactly what you get. And it's even worse than it looks. Arencibia hit only .219 in 2011, which is discouraging enough, but when you consider he got worse over the course of the season, hitting .199 over the final four months, you have to wonder if his excessive strikeout rate makes him a sitting duck against major-league pitching. And considering the Blue Jays' top prospect is a catcher (Travis D'Arnaud) nearing major-league age (23), Arencibia might have a shorter leash than you think. He's fine as a second catcher in mixed leagues, but he'll get drafted in most as more.

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Sleeper ... Henderson Alvarez, SP

Alvarez wasn't considered a high-profile prospect at this time last year, so understandably, his 10 starts during a late-season trial weren't enough to put him on most Fantasy owners' radars. But consider just how impressive those 10 starts were. Better yet, consider how impressive his final eight were. He pitched at least six innings in each, posting a 3.06 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. He also issued only six walks during that stretch. Six. In 53 innings. And this isn't some soft-tosser who took the league by surprise simply by throwing strikes, a la Zach Duke in 2005. Alvarez throws in the mid-90s. He has top-of-the-rotation stuff to go along with a good feel for the strike zone and has already tasted success in the heavy-hitting AL East. The 21-year-old won't be a workhorse or anything -- not at this stage of his career -- but for the price of a late-round pick, he's a good bet to outperform his draft position.

2012 Toronto Blue Jays outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Yunel Escobar SS 1 Ricky Romero LH
2 Eric Thames LF 2 Brandon Morrow RH
3 Jose Bautista RF 3 Henderson Alvarez RH
4 Brett Lawrie 3B 4 Brett Cecil LH
5 Adam Lind 1B 5 Dustin McGowan RH
6 Edwin Encarnacion DH Alt Kyle Drabek RH
7 Colby Rasmus CF
Bullpen Breakdown
8 J.P. Arencibia C CL Sergio Santos RH
9 Kelly Johnson 2B SU Francisco Cordero RH
Top bench options RP Jason Frasor RH
R Rajai Davis OF RP Darren Oliver LH
R Ben Francisco OF RP Casey Janssen RH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 Travis D'Arnaud 23 C Double-A Triple-A
Unfortunately, D'Arnaud broke out in the minors the same year that Arencibia broke through to the majors. D'Arnaud is better, but he'll need help to debut in 2012.
2 Anthony Gose 21 OF Double-A Triple-A
Gose's numbers finally began to live up to his unbelievable tools last year. His blazing speed will make him a Fantasy asset even if he never refines his approach.
3 Deck McGuire 22 SP Double-A Double-A
The 2010 first-rounder doesn't profile as a Cy Young winner, but he's about as safe as pitching prospects get. He could arrive midseason, so stay tuned, AL-only owners.
4 Jacob Marisnick 21 OF Class A Class A
Marisnick is still a ways away, but he's looking like an offensive force, hitting for average and power with plenty of speed. He's sort of an under-the-radar keeper.
5 David Cooper 25 1B Majors Double-A
Cooper hit .364 in the minors last year, but his major-league showing wasn't so hot. His lack of power limits his appeal, but he'll be in the DH discussion this year.
Best of the rest: Noah Syndergaard, SP; Justin Nicolino, SP; Drew Hutchison, SP; Aaron Sanchez, SP; Asher Wojciechowski, SP; Adeiny Hechavarria, SS; Joel Carreno, RP; A.J. Jimenez, C; Danny Farquhar, RP; Chad Beck, RP; Chad Jenkins, SP; Moises Sierra, OF; and Michael Crouse, OF.

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Player News
Mariners pitcher J.A. Happ working on his changeup
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11:31 am ET) Mariners pitcher J.A. Happ is working on his changeup and hoping to use it more this season, pitching coach Rick Waits said Saturday.

Happ went 11-11 with a 4.22 ERA in 158 innings pitched in 2014 with 133 strikeouts.


Rays hopeful Alex Colome will join team next week
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11:15 am ET) Rays president of baseball operations Matthew Silverman said Saturday Alex Colome is currently throwing at a Dominican Republic complex and is hopeful he will join the team next week after his visa gets approved, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

Colome posted a 2.66 ERA over 23 2/3 innings in 2014.


Reds' Price: No competition between Zack Cozart and Eugenio Suarez
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11:11 am ET) Reds manager Bryan Price said Saturday there is no competition at shortstop between Zack Cozart and Eugenio Suarez, reports the Cincinnati Inquirer.

Cozart was the starting shortstop for the team most of last season, hitting .221 with four home runs and 38 RBI in 506 plate appearances. While Suarez hit .242 with four home runs and 23 RBI in 244 plate appearances. 


Tigers' Victor Martinez expected to report to spring training Monday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:53 am ET) Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez was in town for photo day Saturday and is expected to report to spring training Monday, manager Brad Ausmus told reporters.

Martinez is still rehabbing from a knee injury and has yet to be cleared to participate in baseball activities. The 36-year-old hit .335/.409/.565 over 561 at-bats last year. 


Red Sox outfielder Daniel Nava hitting only left-handed this spring
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:23 am ET) Red Sox outfielder Daniel Nava is planning to only hit from the left side during this spring after hitting from both sides of the plate for most of his career, reports the Providence Journal.

"I'm definitely trying it out," Nava said. "I'm just really trying to see what becomes of it. I still have the right-hand swing; it's not in the garbage. Just knowing how the left-right splits are, I thought it would be a good shot to see with my approach if it could work."

Nava has hit .293 with a .385 slugging percentage from the left side in his career while hitting just .209 from the right.

"I just need more time to really get an idea. I might as well at least commit to it as long as I can, and we'll see what happens," Nava said. "I'm very realistic right now that it's going to be a challenge, but hopefully later down the road it might get a little easier."


Tigers catcher Alex Avila expected to be back Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:18 am ET) Tigers catcher Alex Avila is still dealing with a back injury and will not participate in practice Saturday, reports MLive.com. It is the second consecutive day Avila will miss with the back injury.

Manager Brad Ausmus said he'd be shocked if Avila is not practicing Sunday. 


Yankees' CC Sabathia expected to wear knee brace this season
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:11 am ET) Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia is planning to pitch this year with a brace on his right knee to stabilize when he is on the mound this year.

Sabathia had multiple platelet-rich plasma injections in his knee during the offseason and is hopeful to avoid more injections by wearing the brace, reports the New York Daily News.

"You're really not going to know until we get into the season and he's going every fifth day, how his leg is going to do," manager Joe Girardi said. "I've said all along, it’s a concern of mine. The fact that he’s wearing a brace or not wearing a brace doesn't concern me anymore."

Sabathia said the wearing the brace was "nothing out of the ordinary."


Goryks Hernandez expected to arrive at camp Saturday after visa delay
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:01 am ET) Pirates outfielder Gorkys Hernandez is expected to arrive at spring training Saturday after being delayed by visa issues, reports MLB.com. Hernandez, 27, last played in the majors in 2012 and hit .192 with three home runs and 13 RBI. 

Rays pitcher Belisario out at least two weeks with fractured shoulder
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:56 am ET) Rays pitcher Ronald Belisario is expected to miss at least two weeks with a fractured left shoulder, reports the Tampa Bay Times. Belisario was involved in an accident before he reported to camp and has been seen with his arm in a sling.

Rays president of baseball operations Matthew Silverman said Belisario was injured getting out of a swimming pool a few weeks ago and won't be ready for the start of the season.

Belisario posted a 4-8 record with eight saves in 2014 with a 5.56 ERA in 66 1/3 innings pitched.


Yankees' Garrett Jones ready for position battle with Alex Rodriguez
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:51 am ET) New Yankees infielder Garrett Jones knows third base currently belongs to Alex Rodriguez. However, the 33-year-old is envisioning a scenario where he and A-Rod are both able to play equally throughout the season.

"That's what it comes down to," Jones said to NJ.com. "When he's getting his opportunity, he'll do his thing. And when I'm getting my opportunity, I'm going to do what I do. In a perfect world, we're both swinging the beat well and we're both in their on a regular basis."

Jones struggled to hit the ball well in 2014, hitting .246 with 15 homeruns and 53 RBI.

"It can mess with you," Jones said. "As a hitter, do I need to do extra? Do I need to change my swing? Do I not have as much power as I used to? A lot of things are going through your head. You try to not let it bother you but for a guy that's supposed to be driving the ball and having home runs, it's part of my game. ... I was trying to pull everything and it turned getting around too much on the ball and I just lost. I was getting pounded (with) sinkers away and I lost that approach to drive the ball to left-center."


 
 
 
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