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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
Duquette: If O's advance, 'possibility' Chris Davis added to roster
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:43 am ET) If Orioles advance to the AL Championship Series, executive vice president Dan Duquette said it is a "possibility" the team keeps a roster spot open for infielder Chris Davis, who is serving a 25-game suspension for testing positive for amphetamines, according to MASNsports.com.

Starling Marte picks up a hit Wednesday
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(12:26 am ET) Pirates outfielder Starling Marte collected one of the few hits for his club Wednesday against the Giants. 

Marte finished 1 for 4, singling in the seventh inning. He was one of three Pirates to notch a hit against Madison Bumgarner during the contest. Bumgarner gave up just four hits during a complete game shutout. Marte also struck out once and stranded two runners. 


Tim Hudson to start Game 2 of NLDS
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:25 am ET) Giants pitcher Tim Hudson has been tabbed to face the Nationals Saturday in Game 2 of the National League Division Series.

Hudson has delivered an ERA under 4.00 for eight straight seasons, but he was rocked this September, going 0-4 with an 8.72 ERA and 14:5 K:BB ratio in 21 2/3 innings over five starts. Hudson has pitched in six postseason series (four with Oakland, two with Atlanta), finding himself on the losing side each time. He owns a 3.46 ERA postseason ERA in 54 2/3 innings. Hudson faced the Nationals twice during the regular season, earning a win each time.


Jake Peavy to start Game 1 of NLDS vs. Nationals
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:19 am ET) Giants pitcher Jake Peavy will take the mound for Game 1 of the National League Division Series in Washington against the Nationals Friday.

Peavy excelled after returning to the NL West this summer, going 6-4 with a 2.12 ERA and 58:17 K:BB ratio in 78 2/3 innings over 12 starts. Prior to joining the Giants, he delivered a 4.48 ERA in 30 starts with the Red Sox after posting a 4.00 ERA in 84 games (83 starts) with the White Sox. He's posted a 3.77 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 14:3 K:BB ratio in 14 1/3 innings in two starts at Nationals Park.


Report: Justin Smoak likely to hit free agency this offseason
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:06 am ET) Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak will likely reach free agency this offseason, as the team is expected to pay the $150,000 buyout of his 2015 option, the Seattle Times reports.

Smoak has a $3.65-million club option for next season, but the Mariners figure to pay the buyout and decline to tender the first baseman a contract. The option would have vested if he made 525 plate appearances in 2014. Instead, he hit .202/.275/.339 in 276 plate appearances.


Russell Martin collects one hit Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:02 am ET) Pirates catcher Russell Martin picked up one hit Wednesday against the Giants.

The Pirates only mustered four hits against Madison Bumgarner, so Martin was one of the standout performers during the contest. During his last at-bat, the fans chanted for Martin to re-sign with the club during the offseason. The team continued to chant even after Martin flew out. He gave the fans a tip of the cap before going into the dugout. Martin is set to be a free agent during the offseason.


Andrew McCutchen goes hitless Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen went hitless Wednesday against the Giants.

The entire Pirate offense was shut down by Madison Bumgarner, who allowed just four hits all night. McCutchen struck out, flew out and grounded out in three at-bats. He did reach base once, walking in the fourth inning. McCutchen hit .314/.410/.542 over 548 at-bats during the regular season.


Joe Panik delivers three hits in wild-card win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) Giants second baseman Joe Panik enjoyed a fantastic postseason debut Wednesday, going 3 for 5 in his team's 8-0 wild-card win over the Pirates.

Panik plugged a hole in the infield in the middle of the season, hitting .305/.343/.368 in 269 at-bats during the regular season. He figures to continue to occupy the second spot of the lineup in the National League Division Series, starting with Game 1 Friday in Washington.


Brandon Belt drives in three runs in wild-card win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) Giants first baseman Brandon Belt went 2 for 3 with two walks and three RBI in his team's 8-0 wild-card victory over the Pirates Wednesday.

Belt was on base when Brandon Crawford opened up the scoring with a fourth-inning grand slam, and the first baseman tacked on a run in the sixth and two more in the seventh on a pair of singles. Belt and the Giants face the Nationals in Washington Friday in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.


Josh Harrison the only bright spot Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) Pirates infielder Josh Harrison was the lone bright spot Wednesday night.

Harrison was the only player on the club to collect two hits during the outing. In his final two at-bats, Harrison hit two singles. The Pirates managed just four hits off Madison Bumgarner during the contest. Half of those came from Harrison's bat. Harrison enjoyed a breakout during the regular season, hitting .315/.347/.490 over 520 at-bats. 


 
 
 
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