Sep 10, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion (10) hits a two run single in the seventh inning against the Chicago Cubs at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Here we are! Pitchers and catchers have reported, and Spring Training is in full swing (pun intended). Most of us will start having fantasy baseball drafts very soon, and we here at Fantasy CPR are no different. It is time to dust off the notes from last season, and check out which players could have an impact on your fantasy league.
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For each team, I will rundown the projected lineup, players to watch, and a complete list of 2014 stats to get you prepared for your upcoming fantasy drafts. We will start in the American League East, home of two of the most polarizing forces in Major League Baseball, and home to three of the top five payrolls in baseball.
Toronto Blue Jays 2015 projected starting lineup:
C: Russell Martin (.290, 11 HR, 67 RBI, 4 SB) with Pittsburgh
1B: Justin Smoak (.202, 7 HR, 30 RBI, 2 SB) with Seattle
2B: Maicer Izturis (.286, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1 SB in 11 games)
SS: Jose Reyes (.287, 9 HR, 51 RBI, 30 SB)
3B: Josh Donaldson (.255, 29 HR, 98 RBI, 8 SB) with Oakland
LF: Michael Saunders (.273, 8 HR, 34 RBI, 4 SB in 78 games) with Seattle
CF: Dalton Pompey (.231, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 SB in 17 games)
RF: Jose Bautista (.286, 35 HR, 103 RBI, 6 SB)
DH: Edwin Encarnacion (.268, 34 HR, 98 RBI, 2 SB)
This is a very different lineup from last year. They traded for Donaldson and Saunders, and picked up Martin and Smoak via free agency. Should Izturis struggle or have lingering injuries again, they picked up prospect Devon Travis from Detroit. He was the heir apparent at second for Detroit until they traded for Ian Kinsler. Ryan Goins was solid last year, but Travis is the future, and those of you in keeper and dynasty formats should keep an eye on him.
Russell Martin has never been a guy that has really wowed anyone, but he led all catchers in stolen bases last year, and hit for one of the best averages at the position. A catcher that won’t hurt your batting average and who has decent power is hard to come by. Martin is not in the top tier, but he has been going later in drafts than he probably should. His numbers will likely increase a bit in Toronto with mashers Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, and Edwin Encarnacion in front of him.
Speaking of Bautista, he is still a first round talent. I would say he is still top ten, but some will shy away from him because of his injury history. That said, fantasy baseball might be the only sport where you can lose your first round pick to injury and still win your league. The draft is so deep that if you draft well, you can afford to take a risk. Honestly, I don’t think Bautista’s risk is all that bad. He played in 155 games last season, and though he may see a slight decrease in numbers at age 34, it shouldn’t be that significant.
I would honestly say that Encarnacion is a bigger risk. He played in 128 games last year, which was his lowest total since 2010. He has three straight years of over 30 home runs, and that has a good chance to continue. I wouldn’t take Edwin in the first round simply because 1B is such a deep position. If he is still around in the early second though, I’m taking him.
Speaking of risks, Jose Reyes is still one of the biggest ones. As you saw last year, he can still be a productive player. If he stays healthy, I could see him scoring 100 runs and stealing 30 bases again. For those of you in 10×10 leagues, he is even more valuable becuase of his triples. Only three shortstops (Troy Tulowitzki, Danny Santana, and Starlin Castro) had a better batting average that Reyes last year. I would still put him in the top five at the position. The only downside is that if you draft Reyes, you have to make sure that you have a good backup SS just in case.
Donaldson had a slow start last year, and was even dropped in some standard leagues before he got it going again. He still finished tied for the most homers by a third baseman and led the position in RBI. Because of this, Donaldson will likely go in the late first round. Third base isn’t quite the desolate wasteland that is was last year, but there are still plenty of injury risks at the position. Donaldson is not one of them, which makes him that much more of a valuable pick.
The Blue Jays have three, maybe four top 20 picks, but after that it gets sketchy. The team picked up Chris Collabello this winter, and along with Danny Valencia will be the safety nets for Justin Smoak. The Jays don’t have much faith in Smoak., nor should they after his awful numbers last season. Honestly, Smoak has never really showed the promise that he had in the minors. He is a career .224 hitter. I wouldn’t even recommend him in deep leagues. Maybe in AL only, but that’s it.
Saunders and Pompey are the wild cards. Pompey swiped 52 bases in the minors last year in his meteoric rise to the majors. In keeper and dynasty leagues, he will be a hot commodity. In standard leagues, use caution. 50 steals is not a realistic expectation in his first full season. 30 is definitely reachable, and if he can lock down the one or two spot in the lineup, he will score a lot of runs in this lineup. The potential is definitely there, but you can’t draft on potential alone in standard leagues. He is worth a later round pick, but nothing else.
Saunders has shown flashes of being a productive player throughout his career. He has always had 20-20 potential. He has never actually realized that, but at age 28, he finally has locked down his first full time starting gig from the beginning of the year. He hit 19 homers and stole 21 bases in 139 games with Seattle in 2012. He could definitely pull off 20-20 this year, which could make him a sneaky middle round pick.
Next: Let's Check Out The Pitchers
Sep 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (54) celebrates the win at the end of a game against the Chicago Cubs at Rogers Centre. The Toronto Blue Jays won 8-0. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
2015 Toronto Blue Jays Projected Pitching Rotation:
R.A. Dickey (14-13, 3,71 ERA, 173K)
Marcus Stroman (11-6, 3.65 ERA, 111K)
Mark Buehrle (13-10, 3.39 ERA, 119K)
Drew Hutchison (11-13, 4.48 ERA, 184K)
Aaron Sanchez (2-2, 1.09 ERA, 27K in 24 relief appearances)
Brett Cecil (2-3, 2.70 ERA, 5/7 saves, 76K)
Rubber-armed knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is still the ace of the rotation. He has a much better year last year than he did his first season in the AL East in 2013. Another crafty veteran in Mark Buehrle helps anchor the rotation for the youth movement.
Dickey is a serviceable option in all leagues because he still racks up a decent amount of strikeouts. His ERA is a little on the high side for standard leagues, but it is not so bad that he will keep you from being competitive in that category. He is a nice back-end of the rotation option in standard leagues.
Buehrle is probably not worth owning in standard leagues because of his low strikeout totals. He remains a good streaming option because of his solid ERA. He is worth owning in any league of more than ten teams that doesn’t count K/9. There you really have to think about if the ERA help is really worth it.
Marcus Stroman had a nice first full season in the majors. He could come close to 200 strikeouts as he averaged 8 K/9 innings last year. He still has some upside, and his win totals should rise as well. Stroman will likely be the first Blue Jay pitcher off the board because of his upside.
Speaking of upside, Drew Hutchison is practically a lock for 200 strikeouts. He struck out 184 batters in 184.2 inning pitched. His ERA will hurt you in standard leagues, so he may be a streaming-only option until he settles down. The fact that he was almost at a strikeout per inning and averaged three strikeouts per walk says that the ERA could go down. He is a great late round option in standard leagues. Of course, there is a chance that he could be the next Bud Norris. You know, the guy that showed flashes of brilliance and piled up the strikeouts, but couldn’t keep his ERA on the right side of 5.
Aaron Sanchez was brilliant out of the bullpen last year, and could wind up back there if top prospect Daniel Norris breaks camp with the team. Norris was 12-2 with a 3.55 ERA in the minors last year with 163 strikeouts in just 124.2 innings pitched. If he pitches well in the Spring, the job could be his right away. At any rate, he will likely start the season at AAA until they need a fifth starter.
Norris is worth drafting in all leagues if he breaks camp with the Jays. Of course, he will be taken higher in keeper and dynasty leagues, but in the last three rounds of your standard league draft, he could turn out to be a real gem for you.
As for Sanchez, if he does not win the fifth starter job, there is a good chance that he will get a shot at closing. His arsenal is more conducive to success as a closer than Cecil’s is. Last year’s save leader, Casey Janssen is now in Washington, so the closer role is a little up for grabs. Cecil led the team with 25 holds last year, and will get first shot at it provided Sanchez doesn’t wind up in the bullpen. Don’t reach for either option early in your drafts. This could be a fluid situation for most of April until one of them locks down the job.
Make sure to stay tuned to Fantasy CPR for the rest of the team rundowns!