Team Previews in a Fantasy Nutshell: Toronto Blue Jays
Projected Starting Lineup
C Russell Martin—If you are looking for a solid catcher, then look no further than Martin. His batting average is never going to be spectacular, but he is capable of hitting home runs and always seems to have more runs scored than most other catchers.
1B Justin Smoak—I am so done with Smoak. In fact, I dislike him so much that I would rather draft his backup, Steven Pearce, instead of him. At least Pearce qualifies for multiple positions.
2B Devon Travis—Travis might actually be one of the top second basemen in baseball, but you would never know it because he cannot seem to stay on the field. Between his shoulder and his hand, Travis only had 410 at bats last season. If he can miraculously get 550+, he is a top ten player at this position.
SS Troy Tulowitzki—He’s not the Colorado Rockies Tulo, but he still is an effective hitter who should be able to hit 20-25 HR. He offers little else these days, but I do like him in AL-only formats especially.
3B Josh Donaldson—Donaldson is a surefire first round pick and is even better in OBP leagues. I would happily take him anywhere from pick 8 onward. Lock him in for another great Fantasy season!
OF Kevin Pillar—Pillar is a very underrated Fantasy player. If we take him at his word that he played injured last season in the second half (torn ligament in his thumb), then it reasons to believe that he will improve significantly on last year’s overall numbers. I think 15 HR and 30 SB is not out of the question and Pillar is a nice sleeper in Fantasy drafts.
OF Melvin Upton Jr.—I can never endorse picking Upton simply because he might be the most frustrating Fantasy player on the planet. One year he hits for power, another year for speed, and another year he doesn’t hit at all. I expect him to platoon with Ezequiel Carrera this year in LF. Look for Upton to get the at bats against the RHP and Carrera vs. LHP.
OF Jose Bautista—He’s back for another year and although he might be “slowing down” he still is one of the top power hitters in baseball. Because the team seems down on him overall, Fantasy owners have dropped him on their draft boards. This should present a nice buying opportunity for him this season.
DH Kendrys Morales—Morales is taking the place of Edwin Encarnacion in the Blue Jays lineup (not an easy task), but he might just be Encarnacion-lite. I think Morales should have a big year in Toronto and a season of 30/90 is not out of the question. Call him out early in your auction as people hate to lock up their utility spot at the beginning of a competitive auction.
SP Aaron Sanchez—I am all in on Sanchez this season, and I encourage you to do the same. He looks primed to build on last year’s numbers, and I can easily see him eclipsing 200 IP and possibly 200 Ks. The Jays know how good he can be and will do everything they can to ensure he is healthy and raring to go every 5th day.
SP J.A. Happ—There is no way I am selecting J.A. Happ this season. I cannot imagine how he will match last year’s numbers and I am expecting at least a 25% regression in his stats. My strategy this year is to call his name out for a buck at my auction and watch all the guys who love to pay for last season’s numbers fight for him.
SP Marcus Stroman—Stroman’s epic game in the finale of the WBC showed the world what he can do on the mound. Often criticized for his size, Stroman pitches much larger than his height. He is occasionally inconsistent, but for the most part, he is a bulldog on the mound and is a perfect SP3 for any Fantasy staff.
SP Marco Estrada—Estrada is not a sexy name at the draft table, but look at his WHIP—his numbers are sensational! So while everyone is overspending on J.A. Happ, I encourage you to take Estrada. You will get similar numbers, and he will come six or seven rounds later at your draft.
SP Francisco Liriano—How many guys actually leave Pittsburgh and play better? Seems crazy to think, but that is exactly what Liriano did in 2016. He is still a high strikeout guy, but he gives up too many walks. 85 in 163 IP last year. At 34 in the AL, I can’t foresee him on any of my teams this year.
Closer Roberto Osuna—Osuna has cemented his role as the stopper in the Blue Jay bullpen and best of all he is the 8th or 9th closer that goes off the board in drafts. There is nothing I don’t like about him, and he is a target of mine in all of my leagues.