Thursday, March 24, 2011

Finding Keepers: Toronto Blue Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays are a team filled with question marks about many of their young stud players and what type of production they will contribute in 2011. This could be a year where fantasy owners catch lightning in a bottle but only if they are willing to accept the risks associated with that happening. Let's take a look at all this lineup has to offer.

3B/OF Jose Bautista exploded on the fantasy baseball scene in 2010 with an MVP-caliber season, producing the following line, .260/109/54/124/9, and added 100 walks with a .378 OBP. Okay, 54 home runs are an unreal number and we all have to be expecting a regression, right? Well if he has a 20% regression in his home run numbers, that still projects him in the low 40's. The third base eligibility alone makes Bautista a "must-have" if you miss out on the proven elite.

1B/DH Adam Lind had a very productive 2009 (.305/35/114) and a disappointing 2010 (.237/23/72). Most 2011 projections have him sort of splitting the difference (.270/26/92). I think there's way too much uncertainty to lock him up as a keeper but definitely target him late in drafts as a DH until he gains his 1B eligibility, giving you a little more wiggle room to get him into your lineup.

If fantasy baseball has taught us anything, it's that there are tiers of players at each position and those tiers are used to determine if a position is deep or shallow. 2B Aaron Hill is projecting 20+ HR, 70+ RBI, 70+ R but an average in the .250's, .260's and .270's. So the question to ask yourself when deciding whether or not to keep Hill should be, "Can I live with an unpredictable average if it means getting at least 20/70/70 out of my second baseman?". I can live with that.

While preparing to write this article, I was teetering on whether to make a case for keeping SP Brandon Morrow or not when I saw this tweet appear in my updates. It took a few hours for the Blue Jays to issue an update on his condition and it looks like he may only miss one start. So Morrow's potential to reach 12+ Wins and 200 K's is still there but at what cost to your ERA (4.00+) and WHIP (1.40+)? His 10.9 K/9 ratio draws you in but his 4.1 BB/9 causes concern. I don't think Morrow is ready to be your fantasy ace but should be a nice middle-of-the-rotation starter with plenty of upside.

OF Travis Snider is another young Blue Jays hitter that has the potential to put up .270/20/70/70 numbers but hasn't proven it yet. I'm not a fan on using my keeper selections on young, unproven players with lots of potential. I hope the Jays commit an entire season to Snider so evaluating him as a keeper for next season is clearer.


Best of the rest but not keepers:
  • OF Rajai Davis will lead off for the Jays to start the year and could steal 50 bases again. Definitely worth targeting late in drafts as a source for steals, runs and a .280 batting average.
  • C J. P. Arencibia is being targeted by many fantasy owners passing on the top and middle tiers of catchers for his home run power. That power may come at the cost of a very low batting average and a 60/40 playing time split (think 100 games) with Jose Molina.
  • SP Kyle Drabek should start the season in the rotation and will have every chance to prove he belongs there long term. He definitely has dynasty league keeper value now.
  • SP Ricky Romero is slated to be the ace of this staff but not ready to be an ace on your fantasy roster.
  • 3B Edwin Encarnacion is simply a place holder until ├╝ber-prospect Brett Lawrie learns how to field his new position at AAA. Lawrie is also worthy of a keeper in deep dynasty leagues for his eventual 2012 arrival, if not sooner.
I'm sure after reading this article and scanning their roster, the word "potential" jumps out over and over again. This team may be competitive in 2011 but the 2012 season seems to be when these young players could show their true keeper values.

The entire series of "Finding Keepers" is now complete. It certainly has been a labor of love for me to commit to and complete the series. I think the quality and depth of the evaluations got stronger as I did more and more teams and believe I have the structure in place to do these again next offseason in a much more timely fashion. My goal will also be to get guest writers that cover each team regularly to chip in on some of the articles to truly get a perspective on the entire organization, rather than just at the major league level. I will admit that knowledge of team prospects is an aspect of the keepers where I was lacking and tried to incorporate more "dynasty league keepers" as I went along. My hope is that you, the readers, take the time to search for your favorite team and use the comments section to help fill in the gaps on players I may have missed or on how to make this series better come November 2011.

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