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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Toronto Blue Jays

Senior Fantasy Writer
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After almost 20 years of continually building up and tearing down, all the while settling for a middle-of-the-division finish, the Blue Jays finally made their move in 2013, selling the farm for what appeared to be a mass influx of high-end talent. But while adding R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle to the starting rotation and Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera to the starting lineup looked good on paper, the Blue Jays finished in last place for just the fourth time in 32 years.

With their hand already played, they've mostly stood pat this offseason. Johnson is the Padres' problem now, and J.P. Arencibia will do his swinging and missing for the Rangers. But the Blue Jays' only notable acquisition so far is Dioner Navarro, a former All-Star catcher who appeared to rediscover his stroke in a part-time role for the Cubs last season. He'll play every day in Toronto, but outside of two-catcher leagues, you won't find too many Fantasy owners willing to bet on those numbers translating.

2014 Fantasy Outlooks
A.L. East N.L. East
Orioles Braves
Red Sox Marlins
Yankees Mets
Rays Phillies
Blue Jays Nationals
A.L. Central N.L. Central
White Sox Cubs
Indians Reds
Tigers Brewers
Royals Pirates
Twins Cardinals
A.L. West N.L. West
Astros Diamondbacks
Angels Rockies
Athletics Dodgers
Mariners Padres
Rangers Giants

You'd think the lack of activity would give us a better idea what to expect from this bunch, and for the most part, that's true. Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista will offer early-round production, but with some risk given their injury histories. Colby Rasmus and Adam Lind will provide cheap power late while failing to meet the full extent of their potential. Brett Lawrie will tempt people with his top-prospect pedigree but most likely underwhelm with a middle-round pick. We've seen it all before.

A handful of Blue Jays still leave something to the imagination, though. Is Dickey the Cy Young contender he was in 2012, the underrated innings-eater he was in 2010 and 2011, or on the verge of collapse at age 39? Was Cabrera's decline simply a case of him going off "the juice," or did the tumor on his spinal cord have something to do with it? Is Brandon Morrow a lost cause? Most mixed-league drafts will end before the latter two enter the discussion, but both remain in the periphery.

So what if they falter? Does Anthony Gose, a former top prospect whose stock has fallen the last couple years, get his shot? What about Moises Sierra, who compiled an .827 OPS in 107 at-bats last year? Can any of Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison, Todd Redmond, Dustin McGowan and everyone else competing for the fifth starter role make a worthwhile contribution, or are they just placeholders until the Blue Jays find something better?

But again, outside of AL-only leagues, it's just a bunch of noise. Mixed-leaguers can limit their focus to the early rounds, where Encarnacion, Bautista and Reyes all have the potential to make or break their teams.

Head-to-Head hero ... Jose Bautista, outfield

2014 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Jose Reyes SS
2. Melky Cabrera LF
3. Jose Bautista RF
4. Edwin Encarnacion 1B
5. Adam Lind DH
6. Colby Rasmus CF
7. Brett Lawrie 3B
8. Dioner Navarro C
9. Ryan Goins 2B
Bench Anthony Gose OF
Bench Moises Sierra OF

Bautista has been a fixture at the top of drafts since breaking out with 54 homers in 2010, but his value has taken a hit with his season-ending injuries the last two years. In Rotisserie leagues, it's understandable. He doesn't help in batting average, and you could get similar power from players like Mark Trumbo and Brandon Moss later. But in Head-to-Head points leagues, where batting average doesn't have the direct impact that peripheral numbers like walks do, the reward still outweighs the risk. Only nine hitters averaged more Head-to-Head points per game than Bautista's 3.58 last year -- a group that includes Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Hanley Ramirez, Edwin Encarnacion, Paul Goldschmidt, David Ortiz, Chris Davis, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Gonzalez. Other than Ortiz, who limits lineup flexibility as a DH and is perpetually on the verge of collapse at age 38, Bautista is the only one not in the discussion for a first-round pick. Given the risk, a third-rounder is most appropriate, and a late second-rounder isn't so bad. But if you nab Bautista with a fourth- or fifth-rounder, you may have already won your league.

Buyer beware ... Jose Reyes, shortstop

For all the flak Troy Tulowitzki gets about injuries, Reyes is just as susceptible. Only once in the last five seasons has he played even 140 games, averaging 109.6 during that stretch. That alone should make you think twice about investing a third-round pick in him. But health isn't the only factor working against him. He's entering his age-30 season -- or what has become the danger zone for middle infielders in the post-steroids era. It hits hardest for players whose main attribute is speed, and it may have already begun for Reyes, who not only ran less last year, projecting for just 26.1 steals over a full 162 games, but succeeded on just 71.4 percent of his attempts, by far the lowest of his career. His Head-to-Head production was still among the best at his position on a per-game basis, but between the injury risk and the potential for another step back, he's scary. Considering you're guaranteed bunches of steals with Jean Segura a round or two later -- and with the potential for growth at that -- why take the chance on Reyes?

Injury-risk sleeper ... Brandon Morrow, starting pitcher

2014 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. R.A. Dickey RHP
2. Mark Buehrle LHP
3. Brandon Morrow RHP
4. J.A. Happ LHP
5. Kyle Drabek RHP
ALT Drew Hutchison RHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Casey Janssen RHP
2. Sergio Santos RHP
3. Brett Cecil LHP
4. Steve Delabar RHP
5. Dustin McGowan RHP

In truth, Morrow could fill this category every year. Now seven years into his big-league career, he still has yet to throw 180 innings in a season, mostly because he has only once held up long enough to make 30 starts. What makes this year different from previous years is that no one expects anything. Morrow was limited to 10 starts in 2013, none after May 28, and they weren't exactly his best. Most likely, the nerve issue in his right forearm that ended his season and ultimately required surgery had something to do with it. He also pitched with neck and back stiffness for that period he was "healthy." A couple months at less than his best doesn't negate the progress he made in 2012, when he went 10-7 with a 2.96 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 21 starts. The stuff that has made him a strikeout-per-inning guy for most of his career hasn't changed since then, but early results show Morrow going undrafted in mixed leagues. You may not need to draft him yourself, but don't forget about him on waivers.

Prospects Report

The Blue Jays mostly depleted their farm system in the deals that landed them R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle last offseason, but they do have at least two impact prospects in Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman. Sanchez is the safer bet long-term, profiling as an ace -- or close to it -- with his high-90s fastball and unquestioned aptitude, but Stroman is already on the verge of reaching the majors at age 22. He has good stuff as well -- averaging well more than a strikeout per inning at Double-A last year, and with fantastic control to boot -- but at 5-feet-9, he may not hold up in the starting role long-term. Still, he's a sleeper for AL-only leagues, given how close he is. About the only hitter worth mentioning in the Blue Jays system is D.J. Davis, the 17th overall pick in the 2012 draft. In a best-case scenario, he's a Carlos Gomez type, but maybe not until 2018. At age 19, he's too much of a project even for some dynasty league owners.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott at @CBSScottWhite .

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Player News
Red Sox add LaHair, Paulino and Quintero on minor-league deals
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:32 pm ET) The Red Sox have added Bryan LaHair , Felipe Paulino and Humberto Quintero on minor-league deals, according to the Boston Globe

All three players will receive invites to spring training. LaHair, 32, spent last season in the minors. He hit .223/.309/.318 over 453 at-bats. He was an All-Star with the Cubs back in 2012.

Paulino spent last season with the White Sox. After four starts in the majors, he was demoted. It was revealed Paulino was dealing with a shoulder injury. He missed most of the season recovering from the issue.

Quintero, 35, hit .290/.311/.425 in Triple-A last season. He received just two at-bats in the majors.


Braves sign pitcher Eric Stults to minor-league deal
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:49 pm ET) The Braves announced Thursday they signed pitcher Eric Stults to a minor-league deal, per MLB.com. He also was invited to spring training.

The 35-year-old Stults went 8-17 with a 4.30 ERA in 32 starts last season for the Padres. He is 4-2 with a 4.26 ERA in four career outings (two starts) at Turner Field.


Red Sox's Daniel Nava agrees to $1.85M salary to avoid arbitration
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:43 pm ET) The Red Sox announced Thursday they agreed to terms with outfielder Daniel Nava, avoiding arbitration. Nava's 2015 salary will be $1.85 million, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

Nava is in his first year of arbitration. He made $556,500 in 2014.


Rockies SP prospect Tyler Anderson will be limited at start of camp
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:39 pm ET) The Rockies announced Thursday starting pitcher prospect Tyler Anderson will not be ready to pitch when spring camp opens Feb. 21, per The Denver Post.

"We are taking our time with this and we think it's best to take a conservative approach," trainer Keith Dugger said. "He will participate in camp, but he won't pitch. He'll take part in PFP (pitchers' fielding practice) and other activities. We think the prognosis is good for the long term."

Anderson had his season end in the Double-A playoffs last season due to elbow soreness. General manager Jeff Bridich said in December that Anderson's rehabilitation was going well and said it was "conceivable" he would be in the mix for a roster spot this spring. However, his slow recovery from the elbow injury could hinder his chances of making the opening day roster.

Anderson had a great year in 2014 before getting hurt. He went 7-4 with a 1.98 ERA in 23 starts for Double-A Tulsa. The 2011 first-round pick is 23-10 with a 2.39 ERA in 59 minor-league starts.

"We are going to do what's best for Tyler's long-term future with our club," Bridich said of having no specific timetable for Anderson.


Twins OF Torii Hunter plans to mentor Aaron Hicks, Byron Buxton
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:38 pm ET) Twins veteran right fielder Torii Hunter said one of his goals this season will be to mentor outfielder Aaron Hicks and top outfield prospect Byron Buxton, per MLB.com.

"I know Hicks can play, but with Buxton -- I haven't seen video or seen him play, but every word I hear is good about him," Hunter said. "I definitely think when we get to spring training we'll sit down and I'll work out with them and evaluate what they're doing right and what they're doing wrong."

Hicks said he will lean on Hunter this spring, as he competes with Jordan Schafer for the starting job in center field.

"I'll be all in his ear the whole time," Hicks said. "He might get annoyed I'll be in his ear so much. He's definitely a guy I'm going to go to.

"I believe that I have the ability to play center field here for a long time. I've just got to go out there and show people that I can be the center fielder that everybody wants me to be and also that I want myself to be."


Latest MRI on Jurickson Profar's shoulder comes back clean
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(3:43 pm ET) The latest MRI on Rangers second baseman Jurickson Profar’s shoulder appears to show the shoulder is healing properly and Profar can increase his workload, reports FOXSports.com/southwest

Profar has been throwing from 60 feet, but will begin throwing from 75 feet starting next week. He'll also begin taking dry swings from the right side.


Free-agent pitcher Brandon Beachy delays contract decision
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:31 pm ET) Free-agent pitcher Brandon Beachy has decided to delay his decision on which team he'll pitch for in 2015, his agent told FOXSports.com.

The former Braves pitcher is recovery from Tommy John surgery and wants to wait until closer to spring training before making his decision. Beachy did not pitch in 2014 because of the injury.


Nationals' Jayson Werth pleads guilty, sentenced to 5 days in jail
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(12:24 pm ET) Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth will serve five days in jail after pleading guilty to reckless driving, reports The Washington Post.

Werth was pulled over in July by Virginia State Police after driving 105 mph in a 55 mph zone and Werth did not necessarily disagree with the assessment.

"It's possible I exceeded 90 miles per hour," Werth said in court.

Werth was initially convicted of reckless driving Dec. 5, but appealed the verdict. He was originally sentenced to 10 days in jail, but it was reduced to five after Werth's guilty plea.

The prosecutor said Werth will turn himself in Friday and begin serving his sentence, according to NBC4's Northern Virginia Bureau. 


White Sox DFA Dayan Viciedo to see if any trade interest remains
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:07 am ET) White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said putting outfielder Dayan Viciedo on waivers could be the final step to trading him, which is something the team has explored all offseason. Viciedo was designated for assignment Wednesday, which means Chicago has 10 days to trade, release or outright him to the minors.

"It got to the point where Dayan didn’t very likely fit on this club in a meaningful way for 2015,"  Hahn said, per CSNChicago.com. "The thought with designating him was flesh out any interest over the next 10 days or so and find him a better home going into the next season."

Viciedo, who will turn 26 years old on March 10, has hit more than 20 homers in two of the last three seasons. But he has yet to reach his full potential, batting just .254 with a .424 slugging percentage in five MLB seasons. 

The White Sox seem OK if they deal Viciedo and he finally reaches his full potential with another team.

"He's still young and he still has a world of talent and a great deal of power that we’ve all seen on display over a number of years," Hahn said. "It's not going to surprise any of us in the least if he goes on to have a very successful career elsewhere."


Reds' Price 'realistically' targets Mesoraco to catch 145 games
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:54 am ET) Reds manager Bryan Price indicated catcher Devin Mesoraco could see a lot more time behind the plate in 2015, per the Dayton Daily News. He appeared in 114 games in 2014, starting 109 at catcher.

“I’ve been asked that question a lot about Mesoraco playing first base,” Price said. “How much would he play? Only if (Joey) Votto was injured. Realistically, I see him as a Yadier Moilina-type guy, who is going to catch 145 games a year, more so than I see him catching 110 a year and playing 20 or 30 at first base.

“It stood out more last year because I linked up Johnny Cueto with (Brayan) Pena catching. I anticipate Mesoraco catching a lot more games this year, especially if he stays healthy. We won’t pair Pena with Cueto as much. Devin did a real nice job with Johnny the times he caught him.”


 
 
 
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