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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
Rangers C Robinson Chirinos receives injection in shoulder
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(6:07 pm ET) Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos received a PRP injection in his strained left shoulder Monday to help speed up the healing process, reports FoxSportsSouthWest.com. Chirinos was placed on the disabled list Saturday after suffering the injury.

Giants CF Angel Pagan scratched Monday due to knee issues
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:45 pm ET) Giants center fielder Angel Pagan was scratched from Monday's lineup against the Braves due to issues with his knees. Manager Bruce Bochy said Pagan's left knee is inflamed and his right one is sore.

Since July 1, Pagan is batting .265 with four doubles, six RBI, 12 runs, three walks, 21 strikeouts and two stolen bases in his last 24 games.


Pirates add 1B/OF Michael Morse to roster; OF Jaff Decker optioned
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:40 pm ET) The Pirates have added first baseman/outfielder Michael Morse to the active roster on Monday. Morse was acquired from the Dodgers in exchange for outfielder Jose Tabata just before Friday's trade deadline.

Morse was slashing a disappointing .213/.276/.313 with four home runs and 12 RBI in 53 games with the Marlins, before being dealt to Los Angeles in a three-team deal last week. 

To clear room on the 25-man roster, outfielder Jaff Decker was optioned to Triple-A Indianpolis, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune


Cubs call up Matt Szczur; DFA Clayton Richard
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(5:40 pm ET) The Cubs promoted outfielder Matt Szczur from Triple-A on Monday, reports ESPNChicago.com. Szczur hit .211 with one home and eight RBI in 32 games earlier this season.

To make room for Szczur, the team designated pitcher Clayton Richard for assignment. Richard went 2-0 with a 4.29 ERA over three starts this season.


Counsell: Kyle Lohse scheduled to start Friday vs. Cardinals
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:39 pm ET) Brewers starting pitcher Kyle Lohse remains on track to start Friday against the Cardinals, manager Craig Counsell told reporters Monday. Counsell indicated Sunday that Lohse's spot in the rotation was in jeopardy following a third straight loss. 

The veteran right-hander has struggled all season, compiling a 5-13 record and 6.31 ERA through 22 starts. He is winless in his last five starts, going 0-4 with a 6.58 ERA in that span.


A's recall RP Arnold Leon from Triple-A; Dan Otero sent down
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:33 pm ET) The Athletics have recalled right-handed reliever Arnold Leon from Triple-A Nashville. Leon has made seven appearances for the A's across several trips between the big leagues and Triple-A. In those seven games, Leon owns a 3.72 ERA over 9 2/3 innings.

He is taking the roster spot of Dan Otero, who was optioned to Triple-A on Monday. Otero has pitched frequently over the last few weeks, throwing 8 1/3 innings over his last six appearances. So it appears Oakland is making a move to get a fresh arm in the bullpen.


Mariners 1B Logan Morrison remains sidelined Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(5:28 pm ET) Mariners first baseman Logan Morrison was held out of Monday's lineup at Colorado, reports the Seattle Times. Morrison was replaced at first base by Jesus Montero, who will bat sixth.

Morrison is dealing with a thumb injury and has not started a game since last Wednesday. He is hitting .158 with one double and four RBI in his last 14 games (10 starts).


A's RF Josh Reddick (back) unable to start on Monday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:27 pm ET) Athletics right fielder Josh Reddick is indeed out of the starting lineup for Monday's game against the Orioles. Reddick was forced to exit Sunday's game in the fifth inning with lower back tightness. The injury is not considered serious at this point, but it will cost him at least on start.

Sam Fuld is getting the start in right field while Reddick recovers.


A's option OF Jake Smolinski to Triple-A on Monday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:24 pm ET) Athletics outfielder Jake Smolinski has been optioned to Triple-A Nashville. Smolinski, who was acquired as a waiver claim from the Rangers, was batting .320 (8 for 25) with two home runs and seven RBI over his first 11 games with Oakland.

His demotion clears a spot on the 25-man roster for Coco Crisp, who is returning from the disabled list on Monday.


Coco Crisp activated from DL, starting in LF on Monday for A's
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:21 pm ET) The Athletics activated outfielder Coco Crisp from the 15-day disabled list prior to Monday's game against the Orioles.

Crisp has been on the DL with a neck injury since around Memorial Day. He hasn't played a big-league game since May 19, and he has just two hits in 45 at-bats this season. However, he is in Monday's starting lineup, batting second and playing left field. 

In a corresponding move, Jake Smolinski was optioned to Triple-A to clear room on the 25-man roster.


 
 
 
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