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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
Rays' Cash: Desmond Jennings been on fire offensively all spring
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(8:15 am ET) It took 12 games for Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings to hit his first home run this spring, but despite the lack of home run power, the 28-year-old outfielder is still doing pretty well in Grapefruit League games.

Jennings, who hit a solo home run Thursday against the Yankees, is batting .483 (14 for 29) with two RBI, four runs, four walks and two stolen bases.

“He’s been on fire all spring, his at-bats, everything,” manager Kevin Cash said, per The Tampa Tribune. “The impressive thing is, the other day he didn’t have his best day, looked a little lot of sorts, but he came back two days after that and just erased it. He’s knocking balls all over the place.”


Athletics' Jesse Chavez happy with spring showing
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:55 am ET) Athletics pitcher Jesse Chavez allowed four runs (two earned) on seven hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings while striking out one in Thursday's 6-4 win over the Giants.

Chavez, who was on the mound just two days after the birth of his daughter, is happy with his performance this spring, the Bay Area News Group reports.

"I feel good," Chavez said. "I’ve put some men on, but I’ve pitched out of some jams. I’ve showed them I won’t let it snowball."

Chavez believes he needs to improve at changing the eye level of batters.

"I’ve got to get them to change eye levels better," Chavez said. "The last two or three starts, I haven’t been able to do that. The pitches that I’m trying to elevate they’re fouling off (instead of swinging and missing) and that runs up my pitch count."

Chavez has posted a 4.50 ERA in 16 innings as he competes for a spot in the rotation.


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(1:09 am ET) Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Thursday that while infielder Joe Panik might be pressing, he remains the team's starter at second base without reservations, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

Panik is just 8 for 50 this spring after going hitless in four at-bats Thursday, though he has delivered three doubles and two home runs. He's looking for a strong follow-up to an impressive rookie season in which he hit .305/.343/.368 in 269 at-bats.


Pirates P A.J. Burnett changes tune about shifting
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(12:38 am ET) Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett has not had the highest of opinions when it comes to infield-shifting in the past. In 2013, he let some reporters know what he thought about shifting at the time.

When asked about a shift of shortstop Clint Barmes that year, Burnett stated, “I do not have a problem with (Barmes), I had a problem with the (expletive) shift. We play people in the wrong spot.”

But Burnett seemed to change his tune when reflecting upon the subject.

“As much as I complained about the shifts, they helped,” Burnett said. “They really did. It's that one a game, you've got a no-hitter for four or five innings and one gets through, and where you're like … ‘(expletive) shift.'

“But (shifts) saves you more than anything, and that's the truth.”

The 38-year-old has lost some steam on his fastball at this point in his career and he knows that.

“It took me getting a little older to realize that I'm not able to blow it by guys anymore and ground balls are just as good,” he said.

Burnett has posted a 6.39 ERA with nine earned runs, eight walks and 12 strikeouts in four starts this spring.


Time running out for Matt Lindstrom to win spot with Angels
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(12:35 am ET) Angels pticher Matt Lindstrom can opt out of his contract if he's not placed on the active roster five days before the regular-season opener, and he believes he may not have an opening to fill in the bullpen, MLB.com reports.

"There's a ton of guys in here that have shown they can compete at this level," Lindstrom said. "I just hope I can be one of those guys that breaks camp with the team. It'd be fun to be on a team like this, that has so much potential, especially with how many games they won last year. The pitching staff's going to be solid no matter which way they go, but I'm hoping to be a part of that."

Lindstrom has given up seven runs in 4 2/3 spring innings but is excited about how his arm feels this spring.

"I can just tell the ball's coming out better," Lindstrom said. "Hopefully, that can just translate to outs."


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"It comes down to one or two pitches per inning," Lincecum said on alternating good and bad innings, per MLB.com. "I just have to keep my pitches down. The ones that they're hitting are the ones that are up. Leadoff batters are locking in to some of the first pitches."

Lincecum has dealt with neck issues and mediocre performances but has looked much better over the last week, following a one-run outing Saturday by matching his seven strikeouts in his previous four outings. He appears on track to open the season as the team's No. 5 starter.


Rockies' Brandon Barnes displays new swing this spring
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:16 am ET) Rockies outfielder Brandon Barnes brought a brand-new swing to spring training that features a high leg kick as he looks to cut down the strikeouts and "be the best version of me," the Denver Post reports.

"I tried to refine who I am and what type of player I am in the box," Barnes said Thursday. "I'm not a guy who's going to hit 30 home runs. I know that. I'm the big guy who needs to be a pest, drive the ball into gaps, hit doubles, use my speed to my advantage, bunt, all those things."

Barnes lost 10 pounds this offseason as he looked to come to camp more athletic and less stiff in the batter's box.

"We have this tremendous athlete, and you see him in the outfield and it shows up daily," manager Walt Weiss said. "But you saw him in the box last season, and there was some stiffness to his approach. And I'm saying, 'Be that guy in the box.' It made sense to him."

Barnes indicated that he's committed to the new approach that pulls the focus away from home runs.

"I had to go back and do some soul-searching to figure out who I was," Barnes said. "I'm the guy who goes out and plays really hard."


Rangers' Shin-Soo Choo goes hitless in return Thursday
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(3/26/2015) Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo (triceps) returned to the lineup Thursday, going 0 for 4 while serving as the designated hitter in his team's 6-3 win over the Rockies.

Choo had been sidelined since March 15 due to a triceps injury and was reported to be targeting a return Saturday, but he was able to remain in for the entire game Thursday, picking up four at-bats in his role as DH. He's managed just four hits in 22 at-bats this spring.


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(3/26/2015) Rangers pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa is scheduled to pitch Friday, and the Rangers will be keeping a close eye on the pitcher to determine if he has fully recovered from Tommy John surgery or if he'll need time in the minors to open the season, MLB.com reports.

Fujikawa hasn't allowed a run in four Cactus League outings but has struggled a bit in two camp games. He remains confident his recovery is on track.

"This is still spring training, not the regular season," Fujikawa said. "It's only going to get better. Coming into spring training, the surgery was out of my mind. As a player, I am really confident. I am not sure what my role will be, but I'll be confident whatever the situation is."

Manager Jeff Banister is looking for the pitcher to build off his spring success.

"The guy is coming off Tommy John," Banister said. "There are good days and bad days. He has logged a couple of good ones. Let's see that continue."


Twins Trevor Plouffe wants to cement his place at third
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/26/2015) Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe is completely aware of the threat that Miguel Sano brings when it comes to the third base spot. Sano is considered by many to be a can't-miss player. But Plouffe is trying not to let that affect him or his play. 

“You can’t think about anything like that,” Plouffe said. “You can’t worry about what other people are saying about you. I’m more focused on getting this organization out of this rut that we’ve dug ourselves over the last four years.”

After moving around the infield for years, Plouffe seems to have found his place at third. The 28-year-old has a batting average of .245 with 62 home runs, 224 RBI and 398 strikeouts in five seasons.


 
 
 
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