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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
RHP Belisario opts for free agency after assigned by White Sox
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:42 pm ET) Reliever Ronald Belisario has chosen free agency over a minor league assignment from the White Sox.

Belisario struggled in 2014 to the tune of a 5.56 ERA and 78 hits allowed in 66 1/3 innings.


White Sox sign OF Tony Campana
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:35 pm ET) The White Sox have signed speedy veteran outfielder Tony Campana to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training.

Campana spent brief periods of time with the Diamondbacks and Angels this season and managed just 14 hits in 75 at-bats.


Report: Nats, Doug Fister not making progress in extension talks
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:52 pm ET) The Nationals made pitcher Doug Fister an extension offer in the spring after acquiring him in a trade with the Tigers. Both sides weren't able to agree to terms at the time. According to James Wagner of the Washington Post, both have not made any progress in extension talks "for months"

Fister is entering a contract year after going 16-6 with a 2.41 ERA in 25 starts. He'll make $7.2 million in 2015.


Report: Royals trade RHP Crow to Marlins for lefty Flynn
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:24 pm ET) The Royals have swapped right-hander Aaron Crow to the Marlins for southpaw Brian Flynn, according to Fox Sports Insider Ken Rosenthal, who has further reported that minor league righty Reid Redman is also heading to Kansas City in the trade.

Crow, who had been pitching for Kansas City since 2010, struggled at times in 2014 despite a 6-1 record. His 4.12 ERA was nearly a point higher than what he compiled the previous year. Flynn has pitched in just six major league games over the past two seasons.


RHP Anthony Swarzak opts for free agency
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:04 am ET) Right-handed reliever Anthony Swarzak has declined an assignment by the Twins to Triple-A Rochester in favor of free agency, a team source has told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Swarzak had been a mainstay since 2009 in Minnesota, but struggled in 2014, compiling a 4.60 ERA and allowing 100 hits in 86 innings pitched.


RHP Michael Kohn dispatched by Rays to Durham
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:59 am ET) The Rays have outrighted right-hander Michael Kohn to Triple-A Durham a week after designating him for assignment.

Kohn has twice cleared waivers, but could get a chance in spring training to earn a spot on the 40-man roster or land with the big club.


RHP Jason Frasor staying with Royals
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:46 am ET) The Royals have maintained strength and depth in their bullpen by re-signing right-hander Jason Frasor to a one-year contract with a mutual option for 2016. The deal guarantees Frasor $1.7 million

Frasor, who was added in July, sported a 3-0 record and 1.53 ERA in 23 appearances for Kansas City in 2014. He won both his decisions in the postseason.


Report: Melky Cabrera not interested in playing on artificial surface
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:48 am ET) The chances of free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera returning to the Blue Jays aren't looking good, and it may be because of Toronto's playing surface.

According to Buster Olney of ESPN on Thursday, Cabrera's preference is to sign with a team other than the Blue Jays so he doesn't have to play his home games on artificial surface. The Blue Jays play in Rogers Centre, which uses Astroturf Gameday Grass. At home last season, Cabrera slashed .304/.352/.454 with seven home runs and 38 RBI over 273 at-bats.


Shane Victorino: 'I should be the starting right fielder' for Red Sox
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:33 am ET) Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino believes he should be the team's starting right fielder in 2015 amidst a crowded group of contenders, WEEI.com reports.

"If you think there’s somebody better in right, be my guest," Victorino said. "Obviously health will dictate that. But if I’m healthy if there’s a better outfielder in right field then show me and go out there and do it. I’m not saying that in a cocky or arrogant way. It’s just how confident I am to know I should be the starting right fielder. There are things to come into play and situations to be discussed.

"I plan on being healthy and out there and ready to go. Like I said, it’s my job. I don’t think there’s anybody can tell me differently. If they feel there is from an organization’s standpoint it is what it is. As I’ve said, whatever uniform it may be I’m going to go out there and give 100 percent and be the best I can be. Obviously I want it to be a Red Sox uniform and be a right fielder, but I can’t control decisions that are made from up top."

Victorino will swing a bat Monday for the first time since undergoing back surgery. "Everything feels great," he said. "There hasn't been any setbacks."


Report: Tigers, White Sox show interest in Justin Masterson
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11/27/2014) The Tigers and White Sox have joined the Royals, Twins and Cubs as teams to show interest in free-agent pitcher Justin Masterson, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

Masterson's agent is scheduled to meet with teams over Thanksgiving weekend. The pitcher struggled in 2014, going 7-9 with a 5.88 ERA in 25 starts.


 
 
 
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