As opening day quickly approaches and many drafts take place, I thought it would be important to note which Jays players you may want to target this season. Many Jays players have been a little undermined when it comes to fantasy baseball in recent years, and that’s due to many different reasons. Jays pitchers have been avoided because their stats are usually beaten up as a result of facing AL East opponents (aside from Roy Halladay of course), and many of the Jays hitters were not consistent enough to be prominent in fantasy rankings.
Well, folks, this is the year where Jays pitchers and players begin to take a step forward in fantasy rankings. I’ll cover the pitchers in a future post, but here’s a breakdown of which players you should target by position:
J. P. Arencibia could become a prominent fixture in fantasy circles if he can come out swinging in April. Sure, he won’t provide you with average, but he’s surely going to outdo the majority of catchers in the league when it comes to hitting HRs and driving in runs. He’s even been spotted stealing bases in spring training (ok, 1 base since he was caught stealing the other time), so he could even add you a few SBs in 2011. If he can manage to hit anywhere between .230 and .250, he’s a top 15 catcher and a great buy-low candidate. Just make sure you get your hands on him before he hits many HRs, because he could be hard to get after that. (draft after the 2 top tiers, but ahead of catchers like Carlos Ruiz and Rod Barajas who provide very little upside. I picked JPA up in my auction fantasy league for $4)
Adam Lind could rebound and make you look like a genius for waiting to pick him up in the middle rounds of the draft, or for a minimal investment in auction leagues. To expect him to hit above .300 again could be a very big stretch, but with his talent and experience there’s no reason to believe he won’t be able to reach .280 with 30 HRs and 100 RBI in 2011 or 2012. So, if you’re willing to wait on 1B and want to grab guys like Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki early on in the draft, due to the evident weakness at SS in MLB fantasy, you could do well by picking Lind up. The only issue with Lind right now is that we don’t know when he’ll come out of his slump and if there are better young options available (like Freddie Freeman, Brandon Belt, Gaby Sanchez, and others). Still, with the young guys needing to learn so much and having to go through slumps of their own, you may be much better off targetting Lind, particularly when he’ll be hitting in the middle of an American team lineup – something I recommend targetting when looking to increase your RBI chances and overall offensive numbers. That makes Lind a 2nd tier first baseman, behind Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Teixeira, and Prince Fielder.
Aaron Hill is the most unpredictable asset to covet within the Jays lineup. Everyone seems to have an opinion about his health and whether or not he’ll bounce back to form in 2011. You may be able to grab him in the lower rounds of the draft if extremely lucky, but there always seems to be one owner that may or may not believe in him, but grabs him early simply because the Brandon Phillips and Dan Uggla types have gone by and that owner doesn’t want to be left without a good second base option. Personally, for fantasy purposes, I really like Danny Espinosa‘s potential at second base and I’ve stayed away from Aaron Hill and Brian Roberts. All I want from my 2B in fantasy is slightly above average power with good speed numbers. With the way Hill’s legs are going, I can only really count on power to be present, and even then his quad could eliminate part of those numbers. Expect a reduction in power but a better average than 2010 from Hill in 2011, something that puts him in the middle of the pack for fantasy purposes. Still, if you can get him for a good auction price (less than $10) or a good spot in the snake drafts, he can definitely help you win your league.
I actually grabbed Yunel Escobar in my auction league after everyone had locked up their 2B, SS, and MI spots for $1 and I’m very happy about it. It’s not because I believe he’ll win me the league on his own, but I fully believe that he has the potential to provide me with above-average stats in terms of runs in particular, as well as average. Runs are one of the hardest categories to target in fantasy. If you can grab a high OBP player who’s hitting 2nd in any lineup, not only will that player get more RBI chances than the leadoff guy (in part due to leadoff guy’s speed that allows him to score from 1B on a double), but you also increase the chances that you won’t finish at the bottom of the runs category. With the comfort level Escobar has shown thus far in Toronto and his spring training performance, he is more than capable of hitting 10-15 HRs to go with 85-100 runs and a .280-.310 average. That’s nothing to shake a stick at when speaking of such a weak position in fantasy baseball. If you grab him, I recommend you make sure that you have some real speedsters in the OF or at 2B, because he won’t help you at and plays a position where you usually expect at least some help. He should be grabbed behind the usual suspects. (Han Ram, Tulo , Jose Reyes)
Here is where the Jays have 2 moneymakers for you to grab. Jose Bautista, in my mind, is right there after Evan Longoria (only due to ceiling and average) and Alex Rodriguez. After those 2 are gone, you should be jumping on Bautista because there isn’t much more left and most have major question marks associated with them. Jose will hit 3rd or 4th in what should be a very productive lineup and should get you 30 HRs, 100 RBI, and 100 runs at a minimum. Add in the fact that he also qualifies in the OF and a more aggressive running game that could see him add 10-15 SBs to those stats, and you’ve got a 3B stud on your hands, even if he doesn’t reach 54 HRs again or hits below .270.
Another 3B eligible guy you could, and probably should, target is Edwin Encarnacion. Not only will he have new found versatility in 2011 by qualifying at 1B, but with full playing time he could reach the 35-40 HR range. That should put him ahead of other 3B power options like Mark Reynolds, because he should hit for slightly better average. Instead of gambling on guys like Russell Branyan or Juan Miranda in Arizona, target Edwin. But, he should still be well behind the likes of Pablo Sandoval and others who offer the possibility of a higher ceiling long term and likely won’t hurt your chances in the average category.
If there’s one place where the Jays look entirely different in 2011 than they did in 2010 it’s the outfield. All of them will be different than what we saw in 2010, even if Travis Snider is returning. I believe that the Snider we see in 2011 will blow people away and will provide the first taste of his full potential now that he is set to play full time and higher in the lineup. I have no qualms about saying that I am extremely optimistic about his chances to finish the year with an average above .290, with more than 90 runs driven in, and a minimum of 25 HRs and 10 SBs to go along with that. That, as his floor, should put him well within the 15-30 best outfielders to target in 2011, and he should be a little higher than that if it’s a keeper league. Take him ahead of Grady Sizemore and other injury prone stars, and just after guys like Mike Stanton and Jason Heyward who show slightly higher ceilings.
Juan Rivera could surprise many people, although it may not be as a Jay for very long. He seems very comfortable playing with Jose Bautista and Yunel Escobar, and has performed well above expectations this spring. He has 25 HR capability, and unlike Encarnacion, he can maintain a nice .270-.290 average. If you need a buy-low option for your bench or play in a deep league, he could be a nice surprise addition that is much more likely to produce and play than other options like Carlos Beltran or Matt Diaz. Remember that 25 HRs and a .280-.290 average puts him in Andre Ethier category, so don’t overspend for Ethier, just wait and grab other weaker positions first and grab Rivera instead!
Rajai Davis, the fantasy stud of this outfield in my opinion, will turn heads at every corner. While others will overpay big time for guys like Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury – this year’s sexy picks – Davis sits on the sidelines and offers just as much speed. With the Jays this season, a healthy Davis could lead all of MLB in SBs and has shown this spring that expecting 5-15 HRs from him may not be out of the question. I got him in my pool for $19, while Crawford was kept for $39 and Ellsbury went for $31. To me, he may be the best bargain of your draft as he has potential to hit in the .285 zone, steal 60+ bases, score 100+ runs, and still help you with 5-15 HRs (more likely 7-9). That’s a fantasy stud for the 2011 season, and one that should be a very attainable target in this year’s draft.
The only bench players you should target from the Jays are Scott Podsednik and Corey Patterson, and that’s only if you play in a very deep league and are in need of an OF backup that can provide you with some speed and won’t hurt your other numbers (like average and OBP). Podsednik carries more risk due to his injury, so if you have to target one, you may be better off early on in the season with Patterson while keeping an eye on Podsednik’s progression. Mike McCoy could be a nice versatile addition to your team if you want a utility player, but he still has to prove he can hit MLB pitching consistently before he becomes a real fantasy baseball asset.
Minors Players With Fantasy Potential in 2011
The Jays have kept Eric Thames and Adam Loewen around for a long time this spring, and have offered both a good amount of playing time. While Thames started off hot, he has gotten cold as the spring has progressed and has shown he needs more time in the minors. However, with the amount of time that both he and Loewen got with the Jays this spring, I’d put them in order of Eric Thames – Adam Loewen – Darin Mastroianni in terms of potential callups if injuries or trade provide for more playing time. If Mastroianni were to be traded to another team, particularly to an NL club, he could be in the majors very quickly and be a very nice source of SBs for your team. Thames would provide the most power potential, and Loewen may have a combination of speed and power if he ever gets much playing time in the show, but he’s the unlikeliest of the 3 to do so in 2011 in my opinion.
As for the infielders, Adeiny Hechavarria could make a late season appearance, but he’s so raw right now that he may not help your squad out very much in terms of fantasy numbers. Therefore, the only 3 players I see as potentially helping your squad out as big time surprises would be David Cooper (not with the Jays), Brian Jeroloman (probably not with the Jays), and Travis d’Arnaud. After seeing what we’ve seen from Cooper this spring, it’s very likely that Alex will get some calls about his availability.
The Jays have Adam Lind locked up for quite a good stretch, so surely he’d be available in trade. If obtained from a club like the Mariners or Indians, Cooper could provide you with Danny Valencia style numbers from the mid-point of the season onwards.
Jeroloman, meanwhile, may not get his shot in The Show with the Jays, but he could appeal to many teams due to his strong defensive capabilities and his ability to get on base. Teams like the Royals or Diamondbacks could call for his services and he could provide you with a nice average and RBI for a short period at the end of the year. You shouldn’t expect too much from him if you’re forced to grab him, but he shouldn’t hurt your chances in any category while other catchers could drag your average and OBP down if grabbed.
Finally, d’Arnaud has gained a ton of fans this spring from the Jays brass. IF he hits as he can in 2011 while in AA, he could replace Jose Molina before (or even after) the trade deadline. The Jays could get a nice return from Molina who would be an excellent backup for any team making a playoff push. Unless the Jays are that team, he could make way for d’Arnaud. If he does get promoted to The Show, you should target him as aggressively as you would a catcher like Kurt Suzuki.
That’s my take on the Jays players in fantasy circles. I see a ton of potential in their 2011 and have drafted guys accordingly in my leagues. Hopefully you’ll target a few of your own and will be a success in 2011 as a result.