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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
Blue Jays' Aaron Sanchez inching closer to return, role uncertain
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(7:47 pm ET) Blue Jays right-hander Aaron Sanchez is on the mend and is close to returning from a strained lat muscle that has had him on the disabled list since June 5. Sanchez threw off flat ground on Monday, and is expected to throw bullpen sessions on Wednesday and Saturday. 

But the question of his role upon his return remains in question. Will he rejoin the rotation, or will he be sent to the bullpen?

"I really loved what he was doing when he was starting," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said, per MLB.com. "He was picking up steam, he was moving the right direction, he was really turning into a dominant pitcher. But this setback, it could be a one-time thing we think, and now we have to build him up.

"We've also looked at the 'pen, we have to make it stronger. We like the way it's starting to set up, but you can always make it stronger, and he's a guy we definitely think can do that."

Sanchez owns a 3.55 ERA through his first 11 starts this year. He was particularly strong in his last four starts, with a 2.57 ERA over 28 innings of work. 


Rays pitcher Drew Smyly throws bullpen session Tuesday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7:45 pm ET) Rays pitcher Drew Smyly threw his second bullpen session Tuesday since suffering a shoulder injury in May, reports MLB.com.

Smyly has been sidelined since May 5 because of a shoulder injury.


Mariners pitcher James Paxton extends throwing program
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7:24 pm ET) Mariners pitcher James Paxton has started playing catch from 60 feet, reports the Seattle Times.

Paxton has been out since May 28 with a sprained finger on his left hand. Despite the progress, manager Lloyd McClendon said Paxton won't be back anytime soon.

"This is going to be a slow process for Paxton," McClendon said. "Pax is going to be out for a while."


Rockies clear pitcher Jorge De La Rosa to start Tuesday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(6:56 pm ET) Rockies pitcher Jorge De La Rosa will make his start Tuesday at Oakland, reports MLB.com.

De La Rosa left his last start after experiencing an issue with his finger. De La Rosa also missed two starts in May because of a cut on his left middle finger.

The Rockies are the underdogs (+155) at Oakland on Tuesday.


Yankees' Jacoby Ellsbury held out of minor league rehab game
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(6:38 pm ET) Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury was scratched from what would have been the second game of his minor league rehab assignment. 

Ellsbury is on the 15-day disabled list with a knee injury that has kept him out since May 19. He began his rehab at Class A Tampa on Monday. He was scheduled to play on Tuesday but was held out. 

Ellsbury is suffering from "general fatigue" in both legs, manager Joe Girardi said, per the Daily News. The team is hopeful he'll play on Wednesday. 


D-Backs C Oscar Hernandez (wrist) could be back this weekend
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(6:37 pm ET) Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale said catcher Oscar Hernandez could be activated from the disabled list as soon as this weekend, according to Fox Sports Arizona. Hernandez, who is recovering from a wrist injury, has played in 10 rehab games so far, amassing six hits in 28 at-bats.

It is unclear exactly when Hernandez will be activated, and what his role will be with the Diamondbacks upon his return. Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Welington Castillo seem to be entrenched as platoon-mates behind the plate. 


D-Backs' Josh Collmenter top candidate to start this Saturday
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(6:35 pm ET) Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale said that pitcher Josh Collmenter is the favorite to start this Saturday's game against the Rockies, according to FOX Sports Arizona. 

Collmenter could draw the nod with Allen Webster being optioned to Triple-A on Tuesday. Webster struggled in his four starts with Arizona, postin ga 7.11 ERA. 

Collmenter, for the 2015 season, is 3-6 with a 5.09 ERA. 


Athletics call up Chris Bassitt
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(6:28 pm ET) The Athletics recalled pitcher Chris Bassitt from Triple-A Nashville to start Tuesday's game in place of an ailing Sonny Gray. 

Bassitt was 2-6, 3.71 at Nashville. He has a 3.38 ERA in five relief appearances with the A's this season. He made five starts with the White Sox last year. 


Mariners 1B Logan Morrison returns to the lineup on Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(6:22 pm ET) Mariners first baseman Logan Morrison is returning to the starting lineup for Tuesday's matchup with the Padres. Morrison is at first base and batting leadoff against right-hander Ian Kennedy.

Morrison was given the day off on Sunday due soreness in his back. But with the scheduled day off on Monday, Morrison was able to shake off the ailment and return on Tuesday. 


Padres 3B Will Middlebrooks is out of Tuesday's lineup
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(6:21 pm ET) Padres third baseman Will Middlebrooks was held out of Tuesday's lineup against the Mariners, the team announced. He was replaced at third base by Yangervis Solarte, who will bat fifth.

Middlebrooks suffered a sprained right ankle during Sunday's contest. The Padres are favored (-120) over the Mariners on Tuesday.


 
 
 
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