With the start of the major league season quickly approaching, many of us will be drafting our fantasy baseball squads over the next couple of weeks.
Assessing players on your favorite team can be tricky – we can sometimes overvalue players we see every day and undervalue players we don’t. Just because you as a Blue Jay fan think that Marco Estrada and Aaron Sanchez can bounce back doesn’t mean the rest of your fantasy league does – so don’t pay a premium to get them. On the other side of the coin, if you are playing in a league made up of Blue Jays fans, there might be a Blue Jay tax that pushes Blue Jay players further up draft boards than they should be.
With this in mind, below is a fantasy baseball guide to your 2018 Toronto Blue Jays – where and when to draft your favorite Blue Jays so you have the best chance at winning your league. Good luck, and happy drafting!
PECOTA Projection: .273 AVG/104 R/31 HR/92 RBI/5 SB
Donaldson could put up first-round numbers if he stays healthy. Right now he’s being drafted in the third round, which is great value if you can get him there. The problem with playing in a Toronto home league is that Blue Jay fans may push to overdraft him. Don’t go crazy – there are a lot of elite hitters available in the first two rounds, and most of them don’t come with the health and age risk that Donaldson does.
PECOTA Projection: 4 W/31 SV/2.38 ERA/86 K/1.07 WHIP
Despite posting the worst ERA and highest blown save totals of his young career, Osuna took a step forward in all of his peripheral statistics – he increased his strikeout and groundball rates and cut his walk rate, changes that could be tied to his increased cutter usage. Osuna could provide near-elite closer value a few rounds after Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel are off the board. He’s good value if you decide you’re going to pony up for a closer this early in the draft.
PECOTA Projection: 12 W/ 3.83 ERA/147 K/1.37 WHIP
Stroman’s value can swing depending on format. Because his strikeout rate isn’t particularly high and his WHIP typically is, he is less valuable in roto leagues. Because he is a good bet to log 200 innings a season, though, his value in points leagues (or any league that values bulk innings) goes up. Last season may have been a high-water mark in terms of his ERA – split the difference between 2017 and 2016 and expect something in the mid to high 3’s.
PECOTA Projection: 9W/4.49 ERA/108 K/1.38 WHIP
Thanks to missing nearly all of 2017 with blister issues, Sanchez is being forgotten about in fantasy drafts this season. Sanchez should easily beat his PECOTA projections in both ERA and WHIP (his career WHIP is 1.21). Because of Sanchez’s nasty stuff and mid-90s velocity, there’s always the chance he can miss more bats this season than he has to this point in his career. He is currently being picked around the same time as Jameson Taillon, Kevin Gausman and Taijuan Walker – similar pitchers with upside and some MLB track record. If some Blue Jays fan wants to take him before the 150th pick though, let them.
PECOTA Projection: 10 W/4.15 ERA/131 K/1.37 WHIP
J.A. Happ the fantasy pitcher is a lot like J.A. Happ the real-life pitcher: very consistent and often under-appreciated. According to ADP, he is currently being drafted around Jordan Montgomery, Sean Manaea, and Felix Hernandez. Happ should produce a line very similar to his PECOTA projection. If you’re in a shallow league, you may want to pass on Happ for a pitcher with greater upside (say Manaea or Montgomery), but in anything deeper, Happ is a low-risk option that can help fill out your pitching categories without costing as much as several pitchers being drafted higher than him.
PECOTA Projection: .242 AVG/65 R/25 HR/76 RBI/6 SB
Grichuk is being selected around the same time as guys like Curtis Granderson, Joc Pederson and Keon Broxton. Grichuk should get more playing time and offer more upside than all of those outfielders. He could hit 30-plus home runs and chip in a few stolen bases here and there. Just be careful of format. In addition to the batting average risk, he could hurt you in OBP and points leagues — his career walk rate is under six percent and he strikes out a ton.
PECOTA Projection: .271 AVG/22 R/5 HR/22 RBI/3 SB
There is definitely value to be had with Travis if you can get him this late. Unfortunately, if you are playing in a league full of Blue Jay fans, that isn’t likely. Travis is currently the 43rd second baseman off the board, being drafted after guys like Josh Harrison, Jose Reyes and Starlin Castro. He provides more upside than all of those players. The health issues are a huge risk for Travis, but if he is able to remain somewhat healthy and your league has adequate disabled list spots, he should provide good value if he’s anywhere around pick 300. Just remember not to reach too much for Travis — second base is one of fantasy’s deeper positions this season.
PECOTA Projection: .244 AVG/13 R/4 HR/12 RBI/3 SB
Hernandez has become somewhat of a deep sleeper in the fantasy world this spring based on his performance in September of 2017. The biggest problem for Hernandez is his indirect path to playing time. Kevin Pillar, Randal Grichuk, Steve Pearce and Curtis Granderson are all ahead of Hernandez on the depth chart. Top prospect Anthony Alford (and Dalton Pompey for that matter) are lurking at triple-A to compete with him if an opportunity arises at the big league level. If there’s a more direct path to playing time he might be worth a flyer, but don’t take that chance until then.
PECOTA Projection: .240 AVG/74 R/25 HR/83 RBI/1 SB
It’s not that Justin Smoak shouldn’t be a productive fantasy hitter this season. Sure, PECOTA doesn’t believe Smoak can hold the reduced strikeout rate and power gains that he showed in 2017. But even in a worst-case scenario, with an average in the .240 range and a reduced home run total, Smoak’s production can be valuable. The problem is where he is going in drafts. Because of his monster season, Smoak is currently being drafted around 135th overall. That’s well before Josh Bell, Carlos Santana, Greg Bird and Logan Morrison – all of whom could provide similar production far later in the draft.
Deeper League Picks
PECOTA Projection: .265 AVG/51 R/12 HR/51 RBI/2 SB
Solarte’s multi-positional eligibility (2B, 3B, SS) makes him valuable, especially if you want to run a short bench. Solarte is projected to make 449 plate appearances, but given the rest of the Jays’ roster, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get over 500. He won’t excel in any specific category, but he won’t hurt you either, contributing a little bit in everything except stolen bases. Don’t pay too much for him, though — Asdrubal Cabrera or Hernan Perez could give you similar versatility and production several rounds after Solarte is coming off the board.
PECOTA Projection: 10 W/5.09 ERA/130 K/1.38 WHIP
Estrada could provide sneaky value in 2018 based on his current draft position. If Estrada’s 2017 struggles were indeed health related and he is able to locate his fastball/changeup combo, he is a solid bet to beat his PECOTA projection. Estrada could post an ERA in the mid to high 3’s with a solid WHIP and a higher strikeout rate (8.52 K/9 last season) than you’d expect for someone who throws 89 mph. He’s being drafted around the same time as CC Sabathia and Jimmy Nelson. I’d take Estrada over both of those pitchers.
PECOTA Projection: .235 AVG/57 R/15 HR/53 RBI/3 SB
Martin is being drafted after pick 300. Martin is still capable of popping 20 home runs in full season’s worth of at-bats, but his strikeout rate has increased as he has moved into his 30s and his batting average might be a drain on your team as a result. It’s not crazy to see Martin out-performing a bunch of the catchers drafted ahead of him — after the top five catchers are off the board it’s as close to a free for all as any fantasy position gets. Don’t draft him before Evan Gattis, Salvador Perez or JT Realmuto (numbers 4-6 at the position), but after that, Martin is as likely as any of the other catchers to finish top-12. Don’t take him too early, but don’t shy away from him after pick 200 either.
PECOTA Projection: .267 AVG/62 R/10 HR/54 RBI/16 SB
Kevin Pillar enters 2018 as the only real source of stolen bases on the Jays’ opening day roster. Despite his terrible approach at the plate, he was still able to hit 16 home runs and steal 15 bases in 2017, making him a more valuable fantasy hitter than a real-life one. Despite his offensive shortcomings, if you play in a five-outfielder roto league, he’s someone worth considering. Personally, I’d rather take some of the other outfielders being drafted after him – Brandon Belt, Hunter Renfroe, and even Randal Grichuk — but he can be helpful if drafted in that range.
Potential Rookie Impact
PECOTA Projection: .222 AVG/7 R/1 HR/6 RBI/2 SB
Alford is only projected to get 62 plate appearances according to PECOTA. If he continues to hit like he did in spring training, he will likely force his way into the Blue Jays outfield before September. Alford’s advanced approach (he’s walked over 10 percent of the time at every minor league stop, aside from a three-game sample at triple-A) should make him an asset in points/OBP leagues and he could help contribute in fantasy baseball’s scarcest category – stolen bases. Health has been an issue thus far in Alford’s young career (he’s out with a hamstring strain right now), so a call-up is not certain. But he could be an impactful player if he is able to crack the roster.
Lead Photo © Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports