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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
White Sox reliever Jake Petricka (forearm) has put injury behind him
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(10:31 pm ET) Jake Petricka, who was activated from the disable list on Monday and called up by the White Sox, said his right-forearm strain injury was minor and that he's ready to go for the whole season, per MLB.com.

"It was a matter of getting rid of that soreness, and time wasn't on our side in spring and now we are here," Petricka said. "It was a matter of getting it feeling good again .. But it's over and now let's have a good long season."

Petricka is in his third season as a reliever with the White Sox.

Reds shortstop Zack Cozart cracks second homer of the year
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:21 pm ET) Reds shortstop Zack Cozart went 1 for 4 at the plate in Cincinnati's 6-1 win over the Brewers Monday. 

His one hit was key though, as he broke the game wide open with a three-run home run over the left field wall in the sixth inning off Wily Peralta to give the Reds a 4-0 lead. It was Cozart's second home run of the year and now boasts a .326 average with five RBI in 46 at-bats.


Tigers DH Victor Martinez says he's fine to play on Tuesday
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(10:20 pm ET) Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez told manager Brad Ausmus that he was fine after crossing the plate for the Tigers' winning run Monday and that he wants to play on Tuesday against the Yankees, per the Detroit Free Press.

Martinez went 0 for 2 with a walk in the win.

Mariners pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen still not cleared to begin throwing
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:17 pm ET) Mariners pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen has still not been cleared to begin throwing since suffering a hyperextended elbow April 11, according to MLB.com.

Wilhelmsen, who is currently on the 15-day DL with the injury, doesn't have any structural damage and is waiting for the dye from the MRI to clear out of his system and the pain to go away before resuming throwing.

"I'm feeling loads better," Wilhelmsen said. "All the fluid from the MRI is finally out of my arm. I was expecting to throw about a week after it happened, but they put the ink in there, and that lingers. Today is the first day where I haven't had any aches or anything due to it."

He is hoping to throw Friday.

"Structurally, everything is strong and secure, and I'm good to go," he said. "The plan now is to throw maybe Friday."


Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke to start Friday, not Thursday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:04 pm ET) Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke will make his next start Friday instead of Thursday against the Giants, manager Don Mattingly said per the L.A. Times.

Mattingly wants to be able to keep Greinke fresh early in the season and has nothing to do with San Francisco's early struggles, according to the report.

"It's too early for any of that," Mattingly said. "This is really just our guys getting rest."

Greinke is 2-0 in three starts this season with a 1.83 ERA and 14 strikeouts.


Rockies' Wilin Rosario still adjusting to first base
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:56 pm ET) Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario is still looking to figure things out at his new position, first base. Rosario misplayed a couple of ground balls Friday, but manager Walt Weiss still has faith in him figuring it out, according to the Denver Post.

"Both plays at first were not routine plays," Weiss said. "The ball down the line was a difficult play. ... The other was a throw in the dirt that he didn't pick. But he's working really hard and has a great attitude. I haven't backed off that all — having him at first."

Rosario is hitting .333 in 12 at-bats this season.


Mark Teixeira connects for fourth HR, ties A-Rod for Yankees' lead
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(9:54 pm ET) First baseman Mark Teixeira provided the only offense for the Yankees in their loss on Monday, a solo home run in the second inning.

Teixeira now has four homers on the season which ties him with Alex Rodriguez for the team lead.

Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun cracks first home run Monday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:47 pm ET) Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun went 1 for 4 at the plate in Milwaukee's 6-1 loss to the Reds Monday. Braun was kept quiet by starter Anthony DeSclafani, but found success in the ninth on Burke Badenhop. He ripped the first shot he saw from Badenhop over the center field wall for his first home run of the year.

Braun is now hitting .238 with three RBI in 42 at-bats this season.


Reds first baseman Joey Votto rips fifth home run of the year
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:46 pm ET) Reds first baseman Joey Votto went 2 for 4 at the plate Monday in Cincinnati's 6-1 win over the Brewers.

Votto struggled in his first two at-bats but was able to reach base in the sixth with a single. He was called out at home when trying to score on a grounder in the infield with the bases loaded. Votto then crushed the first pitch he saw from Wily Peralta over the left center field wall for a two-run blast, scoring Billy Hamilton.

It was Votto's fifth home run and 12th RBI of the year, leading the team in all offensive categories.


Brewers pitcher Wily Peralta allows six runs in losing effort Monday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:46 pm ET) Brewers pitcher Wily Peralta allowed six runs on eight hits in Milwaukee's 6-1 loss to the Reds Monday. 

Peralta worked efficiently through his first five innings of work before finding trouble in the sixth. He allowed the first three runs to reach base safely in the inning before getting Marlon Byrd to ground into an out at home plate. Then, Brayan Pena hit a sacrifice fly to center to bring in the first run of the game.

Then, Zack Cozart opened the flood gates with a three-run home run over the left field wall, driving in Byrd and Jay Bruce. Peralta also allowed a two-run shot to Joey Votto in the seventh before being pulled in the eighth.

Peralta, now 0-2, boasts a 5.68 ERA and will look for his first win of the year Saturday against the Cardinals.


 
 
 
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