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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
Hunter Pence goes yard Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:52 am ET) Giants outfielder Hunter Pence hit his 20th home run Saturday against the Padres.

Pence struck in the ninth inning. With the bases empty, Pence smashed an 84 mph changeup from Andrew Cashner out to left. He finished 1 for 4, with one run scored and one RBI. 


Albert Pujols hits 27th home run
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:29 am ET) Angels first baseman Albert Pujols clubbed his 27th home run Saturday against the Rangers.

Pujols struck in the fifth inning. With a man on, Pujols belted a 90 mph fastball out to center for the two-run shot. He would also single twice during the game. Pujols finished 3 for 4, with one run scored and two RBI. 


Mike Trout clubs 35th home run
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:26 am ET) Angels outfielder Mike Trout clubbed his 35th home run Saturday against the Rangers.

Trout struck in the third inning. With a man on, Trout belted an 89 mph fastball out to center for the two-run shot. Trout also walked and tripled during the appearance. He finished 2 for 3, with three runs scored and two RBI. 


Huston Street notches 39th save
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:22 am ET) Angels closer Huston Street notched his 39th save Saturday against the Rangers.

Street entered with a three-run lead, and had no issues nailing down the save. He tossed a perfect inning, striking out one during the appearance. Street threw 12 pitches, 10 of which were strikes. 


Colby Lewis knocked around Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:20 am ET) Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis got knocked around Saturday against the Angels.

Lewis allowed eight runs, seven earned, on nine hits over five innings. He struck out three and walked one during the outing. After giving up a run in the first inning, home runs became a big issue for Lewis. After Kole Calhoun reached on an error to start the third inning, Lewis gave up a two-run shot against Mike Trout. Things got worse in the fifth inning. After a Trout triple, Albert Pujols clubbed a two-run shot. After two singles, David Freese added a three-run shot.

With the loss, Lewis dropped to 10-14. He’ll take on the Athletics in his next start. 


Jered Weaver wins No. 18 Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:19 am ET) Angels pitcher Jered Weaver turned in a strong start against the Rangers.

Weaver allowed two runs on five hits over seven innings. He struck out seven and walked one during the outing. He was excellent to open the game, tossing six scoreless frames to start things off. He gave up his first run in the seventh inning. With men on second and third, Weaver gave up a run on a groundout. He gave up his final run in the eighth inning. After giving up two straight singles to open the inning, Weaver left the game. One run would come around to score, and was charged to Weaver.

With the win, Weaver improved to 18-8. He’ll take on the Mariners in his next start.


Abraham Almonte leaves with injury Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:17 am ET) Padres outfielder Abraham Almonte left Saturday's game with an ankle issue.

Almonte hit a ground-rule double in the third inning. He had trouble getting the second base, and appeared to injury his ankle. He was replaced by a pinch-runner. Almonte finished 1 for 1, with a double. 


Steve Pearce to miss a few days
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:12 am ET) Orioles designated hitter Steve Pearce will miss a few days after receiving a cortisone shot, according to MASN. 

Pearce was scratched Saturday with a wrist issue. He received a cortisone shot, and will miss the next few days as the shot kicks in. 


David Ortiz goes yard Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:09 am ET) Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz belted his 35th home run Saturday against the Orioles. 

Ortiz struck in his first at-bat. With a man on, Ortiz took a 75 mph knuckle curve from Chris Tillman out to left center for the two-run shot. He finished 1 for 4, with one run scored and two RBI. 


Adam Jones clubs two home runs Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:06 am ET) Orioles outfielder Adam Jones belted two runs Saturday against the Red Sox.

Jones first struck in the third inning. With a man on, Jones sent a 95 mph fastball out to right center for a two-run shot. He did it again in the fifth. Jones stepped to the plate with a man on again, and managed to take an 83 mph slider out to left for another two-run shot. He finished 2 for 4, with two runs scored and four RBI. 


 
 
 
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