March baseball can get tedious. The games are slow and full of players most of us will never see or hear from ever again. Thankfully, there is something to break up all the split-squad games, designated hitters in the National League, and Goose Gossage rants. If, like me, you think you know more about running a Major League team than some general managers (even with Ruben Amaro out of office), spring brings with it the enjoyment of fantasy baseball draft season. Here at BP, the local sites have decided to band together to help provide you with some fantasy insights into the players from your favourite teams (find links to other team sites here)
The 2016 Fantasy Baseball Toronto Blue Jays are going to be a lot like the 2015 FBTBJs. As you would expect, there are going to be a lot of hitters on this list, and not much on the pitching side. The key is to know when they’re going to be picked, when they should be picked, and how they can help your team. So without further ado, here is your 2016 Toronto Blue Jays Fantasy Guide:
Note: All of the draft rounds below are based on a standard 5×5, 12-team rotisserie league with one catcher.
WORTH THEIR DRAFT SPOT
2016 PECOTA Projection – .276, 30HR, 90RBI, 97R, 6SB
Expected Draft Round: Mid 1st
JD should be the first Blue Jay off the board this season and is being drafted sometime in the middle of the first round. Depending on your league’s format, and how you value Clayton Kershaw, Donaldson could be worthy of a pick as early as 4th overall and no later than 10th. While there is nothing to suggest that Donaldson shouldn’t have a great follow up to his MVP campaign, remember that last year was a career year and most projection systems have him regressing in home runs and other counting stats. Even with this regression, Donaldson should be a fantastic fantasy option. He has the longest track record of the third basemen being drafted in the first round, and should be a tremendous source of both runs and RBI, with the hitters surrounding him in the Jays lineup. He should be the first third base eligible player draft, unless you play in a league where Manny Machado retains his shortstop eligibility (as he does in Yahoo leagues). Feel good about taking Donaldson anytime after Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Paul Goldschmidt come off the board.
2016 PECOTA Projection – .262, 36HR, 103RBI, 96R, 7SB
Expected Draft Round: Mid 2nd
Jose is the second highest ranked Blue Jay, and is usually being drafted in the second round. He is as reliable as they come in the power categories, with 100 runs/RBI and 40 HR not remotely out of the question, and will even throw in a few stolen bases. Just beware that you may need to make up some ground in batting average, as Jose is one of the few top twenty players who may hit under .260. He is also entering his age 35 season, so there could be a small step backwards, but Bautista has shown no signs of decline the last couple of years. It is also a free agent year, so you can expect him to do everything he can to stay on the field.
If you are playing in a points league that counts strikeouts and walks, move Bautista up the rankings a little further, as he is one of the rare sluggers that doesn’t strikeout very much. Combine his lack of K’s with his high walk rate and you have a player that is a borderline top 10 pick in points leagues.
2016 PECOTA Projection – .267, 34HR, 101RBI, 89R, 5SB
Expected Draft Round: Late 2nd
Much like Bautista, Edwin is a slugger that posts relatively low strikeout rates for someone with his power, making him a star in points leagues. He’s no slouch in roto though, as he is a solid bet for another 100 RBI and 35-40 HR season. Edwin should probably taken sometime around the back of the second round, but there are still a few very solid first base options in his tier: Chris Davis could hit 45 HR and has outfield eligibility, and Jose Abreu is a much safer batting average play, and Joey Votto could hit .320 with decent power. Edwin is probably the most well-rounded of this group, with a an average that won’t hurt you and reliable power production, but you can wait to select the last man standing here. There is also a minor risk that all of the nagging injuries that he suffers could potentially limit Encarnacion’s playing time. He has yet to play in a spring training game, and may run out of time to avoid a trip to the disabled list. Like Bautista, Edwin is in a contract year, so expect him to try and tough things out to stay on the field once he gets back. That beind said, if he hasn’t played yet by the time you begin your draft, drop him down a pick or two.
2016 PECOTA Projection – .276, 24HR, 74RBI, 80R, 1SB
Expected Draft Round: Late 3rd – Early 4th
Tulo had been the number one shortstop in fantasy baseball for years, but a combination of injuries, a poor 2015, and the rise of Carlos Correa has moved him down the draft board. 2015 was Tulowitzki’s worst offensive season in the Majors, but there is still far too much of a track record here to assume he has fallen off a cliff. After all, as recently as 2014, Tulo was hitting .340 with a .603 slugging percentage. If he does indeed rebound, Tulo is a very good producer in average and home runs for a shortstop, and he should get plenty of run and RBI opportunities hitting fifth for the Blue Jays. In fact, depending on your league mates, he could be a major bargain this year. Of course, he is still an injury threat – he is already dealing with a very minor bone bruise on his knuckle – and there is a chance that he won’t rebound to his previous offensive heights. So Blue Jays fans beware – you need to be careful that you are not overpaying for Tulo, as there is likely to be increased optimism and demand for the slugger in a league full of Toronto baseball fans. Don’t pay full price because he’s developed a new leg kick, we don’t know what that means just yet. Take him if you can get good value, but he is too risky to reach for any earlier than pick 40.
Neither Storen or Osuna should be in the upper tier of closers. They aren’t quite as unhittable as the Wade Davis/Aroldis Chapman/Kenley Jansen class, and the Jays’ powerful offense tends to win games by too many runs to generate save chances. That being said, both have the ability to post decent saves and rate stats (ERA and WHIP), so whoever wins the closer job should be a viable fantasy closer. Unfortunately for those of you drafting early, the Jays haven’t made the decision yet. PECOTA is projecting Osuna to get the job, but recent comments from John Gibbons may suggest it goes the other way. Keep a close eye on this situation as your draft approaches. If nothing has been decided, you should probably grab both guys as a handcuff.
2016 PECOTA Projection – .273, 11HR, 52RBI, 59R, 18SB
Expected Draft Round: 13th – 15th
While Kevin Pillar may not be an overly valuable hitter in real baseball, his kills definitely play up in the fantasy world. Pillar’s free-swinging ways are not an issue in standard leagues that count batting average. In fact, it’s actually quite the opposite; due to his apparent disdain for walks, if Pillar hits .280 again it will have more value due to the increased number of at-bats. He is also going to be hitting atop the Blue Jays lineup, at the very least until Devon Travis returns, so he should score a lot of runs. Even if he gets on base at a .310 clip, having Donaldson, Bautista, Encarnacion, and Tulowitzki immediately following him in the order should ensure Pillar touches the plate quite a few times.
Pillar also offers value with his legs. In recent years, we have seen a drastic decline in stolen bases across the league, making speed all the more valuable. Pillar was 10th in all of baseball with 25 steals last year if you can believe that, and was running at a higher clip as the season went on. Combine that with the increased plate appearances at the top of the order, and a 30 steal season isn’t out of the question. When you add in the potential to hit 10-15 home runs, and put it all together, Kevin Pillar is a decent bet to provide the value of a top 10 round pick, and he is going much lower than that in drafts.
2016 PECOTA Projection – 12W, 3.77ERA, 1.29WHIP, 135K
Expected Draft Round: 8th – 9th
This sounds crazy, right? Stroman is a sleeper? The Blue Jays righty was dominant in his return from knee surgery last September, but the one thing he didn’t do was post the strikeout numbers (6.0 K/9) to be a premier option in fantasy baseball. So, even though he should be a lock to help in ERA and WHIP, Stroman is sliding in drafts. He is a known commodity and he will be a common target in the back end of the top 10 rounds, but he has the skills to be much better than that. What people are failing to realize is he has registered high strikeout rates in the past, and that his command simply had not come all the way back following injury. In 2014 as a starter, Stroman posted a K/9 of 7.8, and had a K/9 of 10.8 in the minor leagues. So the potential is clearly there for a breakout. Pitching for the Blue Jays offense should also get him a lot of run support, and pitching in front of that defense, especially up the middle, should help him keep opposing teams off the board. Add in a vastly improved bullpen to hold leads and Stroman could be a real candidate for 18-20 wins if he can stay healthy.
2016 PECOTA Projection – .236, 18HR, 63RBI, 66R, 6SB
Expected Draft Round: 10th
Martin’s 2016 bust potential is more about where he is currently being drafted than the production he is going to offer. While Martin is typically the fifth or sixth catcher off the board, it is often impossible to differentiate the fantasy production between catchers not named Posey. So don’t pay the premium price it may take to get the Toronto backstop. Give him a slight boost if you’re drafting in an OBP league, but 2014’s .290 batting average is looking more and more like an outlier. With the wealth of similar options and the inherent injury risk of catching, don’t take Martin early in a standard league. You can get the same production fifty-plus picks later if you take select Yan Gomes, Yasmani Grandal, or Devin Mesoraco.
Deeper/Keeper League Options
2016 PECOTA Projection – .268, 12HR, 47RBI, 48R, 7SB
Expected Draft Round: 22nd – 24th
With the depth that exists at second base and Travis’ injury keeping him out through the end of May, he may be flying under the radar in drafts this season. The boost you could receive in a deeper league if he hits anything close to the way he did last year would make Travis worth stashing in a DL spot, but don’t reach for him before the 20th round. There are too many other options at second base and middle infield.
2016 PECOTA Projection – .250, 5HR, 24RBI, 30R, 11SB
Expected Draft Round: 25+
Aside from the lack of playing time that hinders Pompey’s fantasy upside this season, his skill set as a major leaguer may not be one that translates to fantasy results this just yet. While he does possess fantastic speed and stolen base potential, he has yet to demonstrate the ability to get on base or hit for average in the bigs. Right now, a full season from Pompey (which won’t happen with him in the minors) could look a lot like Anthony Gose, and Gose is going somewhere after the 350th pick. If you are in a single-season league, don’t entertain Dalton in any league without very deep benches or NA slots. His keeper league value is a different story. If you have unlimited keepers, the tools that made Dalton a top prospect last year still exist. He could eventually be leadoff hitter who contributes strongly to four categories, including those elusive stolen bases.
2016 PECOTA Projection – 4W, 4.58ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 52k
Expected Draft Round: 25+
Aaron Sanchez’ value is entirely tied to him winning the fifth starer job in Toronto. He has a ton of upside, but you need to remember that compared to other late options Sanchez pitches in a homer friendly ballpark and has a history of walking batters (4.29 BB/P last year). His issues with free passes (and his inability to get lefties out) could become a WHIP killer for your fantasy team. That said, if you can stash him on your bench and wait to see if he has figured things out, he could help you win a league. He’s a pure upside play. If you want less upside but a bit more stability at the end of a draftdeep pitching options like Jesse Hahn, or Kyle Gibson could have an easier go of things this year.
Blue Jays starting pitchers not named Stroman are only relevant in very deep leagues, each offering marginal help in one or two different categories. In leagues that place a premium on bulk innings pitched (usually points formats), RA Dickey may be of help, although his ERA will be around league average and he doesn’t strike people out anymore. Marco Estrada may be the best bet to help in WHIP and ERA, but expect regression from last season’s performance. In leagues that count K/9 or strikeouts, JA Happ may be of some help; make sure to keep an eye on him early on, if he is able to keep any of the gains made late last season he is worth an early season add in most formats. In any case, draft these pitchers knowing the risks and never before pick 250.
One of the most complicated elements of creating your fake team is how to evaluate, handle and approach players from your favorite MLB team. If you’re not careful, this can result in overvaluing or over drafting players you’re rooting for in real life. On the flip side, some fantasy owners will go as far as to never draft a player from their favorite team, which is equally detrimental. Use this guide to help place the 2016 Blue Jays in their proper fantasy baseball context, and ensure that you aren’t kicking yourself for making Dalton Pompey your 4th round pick or waiting till the 19th round to draft Marcus Stroman. And, most of all, remember to have fun. Baseball is back!
Lead Photo: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports