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Hot Stove Season: Toronto Blue Jays News and Fantasy Analysis


After wheeling and dealing, moving and grooving by the hot stove one year ago, this winter the Toronto Blue Jays sat in the corner telling people they didn't like what the DJ was playing. To date, three fantasy-relevant players have moved on to different clubs, and there's been just one new arrival. Of course, there're plenty of top players remaining, like Jose Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, R.A. Dickey and Casey Janssen, but it appears the Jays will largely rely on players already on their 40-man roster to fill roles, leaving fantasy owners scrambling to find out whether any of these guys can cut it and help them win a championship. Here's my breakdown of what's transpired this offseason and what you should take note of.

 

rotoballer-fantasy-baseball-advice-toronto-blue-jaysWho's new?

To date, the only fantasy-relevant addition the Jays have made is catcher Dioner Navarro, who will be handed the first starting gig in his MLB career with the hopes that his good stats with the Cubs can hold up over a full season of playing time. Navarro hit .300 with 11 home runs in 240 at-bats, leaving fantasy owners wondering if he can crack the top-10 fantasy catchers in 2014. He doesn't have much competition from either Josh Thole (.175 BA in 120 AB) or Erik Kratz, who is currently projected by multiple outlets to start the season in Triple-A (Kratz hit .213 in Philadelphia last season), so Navarro has some value as the clear number one guy at the top of the depth chart.

 

Who's gone?

Three significant players have left the Jays: Josh Johnson, Rajai Davis and J.P. Arencibia.

Owners will rightly recoil at Johnson's 16 starts and 6.20 ERA in 2013, but there's a fair amount to feel optimistic about: he had surgery this offseason to clean out a bone spur in his elbow, and so he should bring a healthier wing with him to San Diego, where he likely receives a bump in production as a strikeout pitcher in the National League; he also gets to pitch in the spacious Petco Park. Johnson made 31 starts in 2012 and had a respectable 3.81 ERA. While a repeat of his 2010 season is unrealistic, 2012's stats are a decent idea of what he could provide you in 2014.

Davis goes to the Tigers where he's likely to be the team's fourth outfielder and the weak-side platoon mate of lefthanded hitting Andy Dirks. Davis, who had 360 plate appearances with the Jays in 2013, should earn roughly the same amount of chances with Detroit. Davis's speed is still some of the best in the game (45 SB, 6 CS in 2013) and at worst, he should be a stolen base streamer in all leagues. But if he's hot more times than he's not, he could hit near .270 and produce more extra-base hits in Comerica Park. He remains a solid late-round pick outside of shallow leagues.

Arencibia, who hit 21 home runs but batted a horrendous .194, will play behind the Rangers' Geovany Soto. Soto's a more complete hitter, but lacks the upside that the 27-year-old Arencibia has. They are both similar in their ability to stop the running game, but Soto made a big jump forward in receiving in 2013 and should be considered the better of the two defensively. That means more playing time for Soto.

 

Jays competitions

The greatest debate takes place at second base where Ryan Goins and Maicer Izturis will state their cases come Spring Training. While Izturis is a good utility player at the MLB level, he holds little fantasy value with a career .703 OPS and just a hint of speed. Goins hit .252 in 119 at-bats in 2013, but mostly struggled through September. At 25 years old, Goins has been a career .273 hitter over five minor league seasons, so it's not likely that he will produce much more than he did in 2013 for at least a few more years. Neither Goins nor Izturis has much power to speak of. Other than his youth, Goins will have to use his glove to get into the starting lineup. While Izturis has always been a good defender, Goins was great in 2013 and holds an edge in this regard. I think you can expect Goins to win the starting job and remain a dark horse for AL-only and deeper mixed leagues.

Right now, Esmil Rogers (4.77 ERA/1.44 WHIP) and J.A. Happ (4.56 ERA/1.47 WHIP) are projected as the fourth and fifth starters, but Kyle Drabek bounced back nicely from a lost 2012 season (Tommy John surgery) to pitch well in the minors, so he's going to get his shot in Spring Training. And then there's Marcus Stroman, the organization's top prospect according to Baseball America, who will most likely start 2014 at Triple-A. Stroman is a player that should be on your radar for all formats, but particular in dynasty leagues.

Another young player who will get his shot at playing this season is Anthony Gose, whose plus speed and defense make him attractive as a fourth outfielder and as a possibility in deep dynasty leagues. But it's the Division-III standout Kevin Pillar who has impressed the most as a prospect at the Jays' top minor league levels. Pillar jumped two levels in 2013 after hitting .313 in Double-A and .299 at Triple-A. While it's true he hit .205 in 36 games in the bigs, you can expect Pillar to have a shot once more come Spring Training.  Pay close attention to what he does, because we will likely see him in a Toronto uniform again sooner than later.

 

Summary

The Jays have not been as aggressive in the offseason as they were last year, but as with any team, there's plenty to consider for your fantasy preparations. I think you can expect the back end of the starting rotation to be one of the biggest question marks heading into the last week of Spring Training, with possible high upside if they go with either one of the young guns Drabek or Stroman. Then again, there's likely to be a fair amount of upside with the Jays' position players, too, as they collectively and individually try to bounce back from a disappointing 2013 season.

Up next, we'll look at some of the players that had Jays fans so hopeful heading into 2013, and determine whether those guys can bounce back to give fans and fantasy owners alike some enjoyment in 2014.




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