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2016 Team Previews: Toronto Blue Jays

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Throughout the long, cold offseason, I am doing team by team previews to get you ready for the 2016 fantasy baseball season. Today it's the Jays.

What, you didn't think I would post a piece about the Blue Jays and NOT use the BAT FLIP pic did you?
What, you didn't think I would post a piece about the Blue Jays and NOT use the BAT FLIP pic did you?
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to my 2016 fantasy team previews. I will be breaking down 2016 prospects for the relevant fantasy players on all 30 teams, one team at a time. Check back throughout the offseason for new team previews. You can catch up on old ones in my archive (here) or in the section (here). Because there are 30 teams to cover in limited time, I have to get started now, even though there will certainly be some trades that move players around and open up larger roles for existing players. Also, free agents and guys that moved midseason will be analyzed with one of the teams they played for, even though they likely (or definitely) won't be on that team in 2016 so they don't get missed. Hopefully you can bear with me on those issues and remember that these were written before those trades occurred.

I am starting at the bottom of the standings and working my way up. In each team preview, I will attempt to follow the same layout. First, there will be two tables of stats for hitters (showing stats acquired while playing for this team; traded players will be missing some stats) followed by quick analysis of the most fantasy relevant of those hitters (relevance at my discretion). After that, two tables for the pitching stats and some pitcher analysis. I will then present one breakout player (aka sleeper) and one breakdown player (or bust, if you prefer) for the team. Got it? Ok, let's get started.

Toronto Blue Jays

Hitters

Name Position PA HR R RBI SB CS BB% K% AVG OBP SLG
Edwin Encarnacion 1B 624 39 94 111 3 2 12.30% 15.70% 0.277 0.372 0.557
Justin Smoak 1B 328 18 44 59 0 0 8.80% 26.20% 0.226 0.299 0.47
Chris Colabello 1B, OF 360 15 55 54 2 0 6.10% 26.70% 0.321 0.367 0.52
Devon Travis 2B 238 8 38 35 3 1 7.60% 18.10% 0.304 0.361 0.498
Ryan Goins 2B, SS 428 5 52 45 2 1 9.10% 19.40% 0.25 0.318 0.354
Josh Donaldson 3B 711 41 122 123 6 0 10.30% 18.70% 0.297 0.371 0.568
Danny Valencia 3B, OF 173 7 26 29 2 1 5.20% 23.10% 0.296 0.331 0.506
Russell Martin C 507 23 76 77 4 5 10.50% 20.90% 0.24 0.329 0.458
Dioner Navarro C 192 5 17 20 0 0 8.90% 15.10% 0.246 0.307 0.374
Ezequiel Carrera OF 192 3 27 26 2 1 5.70% 23.40% 0.273 0.321 0.372
Jose Bautista OF 666 40 108 114 8 2 16.50% 15.90% 0.25 0.377 0.536
Ben Revere OF 246 1 35 19 7 2 5.30% 11.40% 0.319 0.354 0.381
Kevin Pillar OF 628 12 76 56 25 4 4.50% 13.50% 0.278 0.314 0.399
Dalton Pompey OF 103 2 17 6 5 1 6.80% 22.30% 0.223 0.291 0.372
Jose Reyes SS 311 4 36 34 16 2 5.50% 12.20% 0.285 0.322 0.385
Troy Tulowitzki SS 183 5 31 17 1 0 7.70% 23.00% 0.239 0.317 0.38

Name BABIP LD% GB% FB% HR/FB SwStr% Soft% Med% Hard% ESPN Player Rater
Edwin Encarnacion 0.267 19.30% 36.10% 44.50% 19.90% 9.30% 20.20% 44.30% 35.50% 8.98
Justin Smoak 0.254 23.70% 42.70% 33.60% 25.40% 11.10% 13.30% 50.20% 36.50% 0.83
Chris Colabello 0.411 25.20% 47.90% 26.90% 23.40% 14.40% 16.40% 52.50% 31.10% 4.18
Devon Travis 0.347 21.60% 50.00% 28.40% 16.00% 7.60% 15.90% 56.30% 27.80% 1.21
Ryan Goins 0.304 18.00% 54.10% 27.90% 6.10% 7.50% 23.00% 52.50% 24.60% 0.16
Josh Donaldson 0.314 17.30% 44.80% 37.90% 21.80% 11.00% 14.60% 48.30% 37.10% 12.33
Danny Valencia 0.353 15.40% 52.00% 32.50% 17.50% 11.70% 13.70% 53.20% 33.10% 4.00
Russell Martin 0.262 16.40% 50.60% 33.00% 20.70% 8.40% 16.80% 54.10% 29.10% 3.84
Dioner Navarro 0.262 21.90% 37.00% 41.10% 8.30% 8.00% 14.40% 55.50% 30.10% -2.09
Ezequiel Carrera 0.349 16.70% 60.80% 22.50% 11.10% 11.10% 20.20% 56.70% 23.10% -0.96
Jose Bautista 0.237 13.90% 37.30% 48.80% 18.40% 7.50% 17.30% 47.60% 35.10% 9.00
Ben Revere 0.355 26.30% 50.50% 23.20% 2.20% 4.90% 17.70% 61.30% 21.10% 8.04
Kevin Pillar 0.306 21.90% 41.40% 36.70% 6.60% 8.50% 24.70% 50.60% 24.70% 6.80
Dalton Pompey 0.275 16.90% 43.10% 40.00% 7.70% 14.10% 25.40% 43.70% 31.00% -2.33
Jose Reyes 0.315 23.00% 40.70% 36.30% 4.40% 7.10% 27.00% 52.70% 20.30% 5.01
Troy Tulowitzki 0.291 27.00% 42.60% 30.30% 13.50% 9.30% 12.30% 56.60% 31.20% 4.41

*Will lose this eligibility in 2016

**The ESPN player rater is based on a player's standard 5 x 5 category performance relative to average. A score of 0 is replacement level and negative values mean the player is actually hurting your team. Values in the 1-2 range generally are for your worst starting player, unless you are unlucky. There are no positional adjustments, though, so shortstops and catchers will often have very low scores relative to everyone else. It is normalized so that guys with little playing time can be compared to guys that played all year.

Analysis

Jose Bautista continues to defy aging, like David Ortiz. He has shown no signs of slowing down or losing power yet. One of these years, his body could start to break down or his power could decline, but I won't believe it until I see it. Expect elite power and OBP, lots of runs and RBI in a devastating lineup and an OK average. He is still a no doubt second round pick. Edwin Encarnacion is about the same. I expect similar production as 2015 and he should be a second round pick. He's been doing this for a while now, so there isn't much analysis needed.

Josh Donaldson is the top 3B in baseball right now, in my humble opinion. I don't expect that to change in 2016. He still hits in the middle of a great lineup, still has 30+ HR power, a very good average, and league-leading R and RBI totals. I happily took him at #10 in our Fake Teams Mock Draft. I expected him to be gone at 7 or so. There are four elite third basemen in baseball right now (Josh, Machado, Bryant, Arenado), but Donaldson is still the clear leader for now.

Devon Travis exploded in the early season showing more power than he ever had before. Unfortunately, he missed most of the late season with shoulder problems. He looked so promising and then those complex shoulder problems came up and he never really got healthy again in 2015. He missed half of May and most of June and then all of August and September. It is expected that he will miss some time in April and have a delayed start to 2016 recovering from shoulder surgery. This is all very unfortunate because he looked like he was in the middle of a breakout and now he is a huge risk. Shoulder injuries can sap power or change mechanics and we don't know how the surgery will affect him yet. He could be a top 7 2B in 2016 or he could be #20. This all depends on how much risk you are comfortable with. It could be a gamble that pays off for you. Looking at his stats, he had a very high BABIP and GB%, with a poor hard hit %. This tells me that his power and average were artificially boosted and I would expect a line more like 0.270/0.330/0.450, even without the shoulder concerns.

Justin Smoak and Chris Collabello are two part time players that got about a half season of playing time each. They both crushed expectations by hitting for a higher average (Collabello) or power (Both) than anyone expected. I put them together here for two reasons: they are both part time 1B/DH types (even though Collabello played the OF some), and they are both headed for some big regression. Smoak posted one of the highest HR/FB ratios in baseball. That drove his HR total. He hit a ton of ground balls and struck out too much. He did have a very high hard hit %, so his power wasn't all fake, but he's really been more of a 25 HR guy in his career, not a 35 HR guy. Knock his HR/FB back to near league average or just above, and he would have had something like 13 HR last year, I'm guessing. Collabello has both a sky-high HR/FB ratio like Smoak and a 0.411 BABIP. You read that correctly. It starts with a 4. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that comes down. He's not fast and he hit nearly 50% grounders in 2015. His hard hit % was above average, but not enough to justify his average or power. Expect big drops in both in 2016, as his peripherals normalize.

I covered Danny Valencia with my A's preview.

Russell Martin put up another great season for a catcher. He finished with the second most homers among catchers and put up a pretty good slash line and counting stats. He stayed healthy and racked up an impressive 507 PA, which was #8 among catchers. He is getting old in catcher years, but 33 isn't the end of his value just yet. I think he will put up another top 5 catcher season and you should value him accordingly.

Ben Revere is now in D.C., but I covered him in my Phillies preview.

I wrote Kevin Pillar off as a no-power, poor average guy, but I was wrong to avoid him in my leagues. He actually put up good numbers overall. His main asset is speed, which he demonstrated with 25 steals, but his power was good enough to add some value. His slugging and OBP are still below average for an OF, but his low strikeout rate and speed mean his 0.303 BABIP might be a touch too low and maybe his batting average could go up some. With speed at such a premium, he's a good late option in drafts to fill your last OF spot and many don't even know who he is, so he should be cheap to acquire. He's more valuable in leagues with batting average than in OBP leagues or OPS leagues.

Dalton Pompey's surface stats don't look good, but dig a little deeper and there are some positive signs in his very small sample. Both his fly ball % and hard hit % were above average, he had a 0.275 BABIP (which is low for a fast guy like him), he scored lots of runs and had 5 steals in just 103 PA. The bad news is he didn't show off his great plate discipline and had a very high swinging strike rate and a below-average walk rate. Both of those were supposed to be strengths for him. After spending most of 2015 back down in the minors, Pompey will have to earn a starting spot in LF by beating out Michael Saunders. I still believe in his skills and would not be surprised to see him win the job and eventually turn into a top of the order hitter (good speed and OBP, 0.260-ish average). His value is very low right now, so don't pay much to get him, but I think there is some upside here for a 30 steal guy in the best lineup in baseball.

Michael Saunders has been teasing fantasy owners for years with a potential power/speed combo. Unfortunately, he's never healthy long enough to show us what he can do over 162 games. In 2012, he put up a 19/21 (HR/steals) season and a 12/13 season in 2013 in 2/3 of a season. I apologize for the number of "2s" and "3s" in that last sentence. It was just too many. Anyway, Steamer projects him for 9/5 season and I might go with 10/10, but that's about the most you can expect. If a guy with 10/10 capability that will almost certainly get hurt has value in your league, go for it, I guess. He might not even beat out Pompey, anyway.

I covered Jose Reyes and Troy Tulowitzki (he spent most of the season there) in my Rockies preview, so I won't cover them here. Because Tulo is such a big fantasy name, I'll go ahead and paste in my comments from that preview.

Tulo is in Canada now, but he had a surprisingly healthy (until September) season with production that wasn't his usual excellence. His second half was especially bad. I think his health and adjustments to the AL played a role in his poor play. He is still a top 3 SS in fantasy when healthy, so I expect a 20 HR season with a 0.280 average in 2016.

All of Toronto's top prospects are in the low minors and aren't expected to debut in 2016.

Pitchers

Name Position IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BABIP LOB% GB% SwStr%
Brett Cecil RP 54.1 2.48 2.34 2.39 0.96 0.28 76.50% 51.60% 15.00%
Liam Hendriks RP 64.2 2.92 2.14 2.8 1.08 0.322 72.30% 46.30% 11.30%
Bo Schultz RP 43 3.56 4.86 4.21 1.07 0.208 75.30% 48.80% 10.70%
Aaron Loup RP 42.1 4.46 3.72 2.89 1.28 0.339 69.80% 55.20% 9.80%
Steve Delabar RP 29.1 5.22 4.84 4.38 1.43 0.291 66.70% 42.20% 12.70%
Jeff Francis RP 22 6.14 4.36 3.86 1.64 0.364 64.00% 42.00% 9.30%
Roberto Osuna RP, SP* 69.2 2.58 3.02 3.45 0.92 0.238 79.70% 34.30% 14.70%
Aaron Sanchez RP, SP* 92.1 3.22 4.61 4.27 1.28 0.247 79.30% 60.60% 7.00%
Ryan Tepera RP, SP* 33 3.27 5.77 4.27 0.88 0.169 86.50% 45.40% 9.90%
Marcus Stroman SP 27 1.67 3.54 3.34 0.96 0.237 90.90% 64.10% 7.20%
David Price SP 74.1 2.3 2.22 2.89 1.01 0.283 79.30% 42.30% 12.90%
Mark Buehrle SP 198.2 3.81 4.26 4.46 1.24 0.285 69.00% 45.90% 5.20%
R.A. Dickey SP 214.1 3.91 4.48 4.72 1.19 0.257 73.30% 41.90% 9.10%
Felix Doubront SP 22.2 4.76 3.35 3.82 1.63 0.383 62.80% 64.60% 6.80%
Drew Hutchison SP 150.1 5.57 4.42 4.21 1.48 0.343 64.50% 39.60% 9.70%
Marco Estrada SP, RP* 181 3.13 4.4 4.93 1.04 0.216 79.20% 32.20% 9.90%
Daniel Norris SP, RP* 23.1 3.86 5.06 5.54 1.5 0.294 79.30% 30.00% 8.90%

Name SV HLD K% BB% Soft% Med% Hard% ESPN Player Rater
Brett Cecil 5 9 32.70% 6.10% 14.70% 53.50% 31.80% 3.09
Liam Hendriks 0 5 27.20% 4.20% 21.50% 50.30% 28.30% 2.00
Bo Schultz 1 4 17.90% 8.10% 14.20% 48.00% 37.80% -0.36
Aaron Loup 0 9 24.70% 3.80% 22.10% 52.00% 26.00% -0.84
Steve Delabar 1 5 23.30% 10.90% 16.90% 54.20% 28.90% -1.49
Jeff Francis 0 0 21.00% 9.00% 17.40% 46.40% 36.20% -2.36
Roberto Osuna 20 7 27.70% 5.90% 18.40% 56.40% 25.10% 4.80
Aaron Sanchez 0 10 16.10% 11.60% 17.00% 62.00% 21.00% 1.47
Ryan Tepera 1 0 17.20% 4.70% 17.50% 51.60% 30.90% -0.15
Marcus Stroman 0 0 17.50% 5.80% 24.40% 53.90% 21.80% 0.68
David Price 0 0 29.40% 6.10% 19.40% 57.10% 23.60% 10.77
Mark Buehrle 0 0 11.00% 4.00% 17.00% 54.60% 28.50% 3.61
R.A. Dickey 0 0 14.30% 6.90% 19.80% 56.60% 23.60% 3.69
Felix Doubront 0 0 12.90% 5.00% 14.60% 57.30% 28.10% -2.36
Drew Hutchison 0 0 19.40% 6.60% 21.30% 47.90% 30.80% -0.77
Marco Estrada 0 0 18.10% 7.60% 21.40% 51.40% 27.20% 6.71
Daniel Norris 0 0 17.50% 11.70% 23.90% 42.30% 33.80% 0.05

*If they were outside the top 550 pitchers on the player rater, they will show up as #N/A

Analysis

This rotation has one potentially great pitcher and then some slightly interesting, but likely mediocre pitchers, and then some very old guys or guys that wouldn't start for most teams.

Marcus Stroman returned in September after missing most of the year with a torn ACL. Since it wasn't an arm injury, I didn't expect it to affect his pitching at all. He was rusty and his K%, swinging strike rate, and FIP don't look great, but it was just a few starts at the end of the year and he maintained his excellent ground ball rate. His 2014 stats show that he is a young pitcher that could be poised for greatness and last year was taken from us with the early injury. He has the type of skills to put together a 2015 Dallas Keuchel-type season at his peak. Stroman's 2014 line isn't all that different than Keuchel's 2014 numbers and they both have OK strikeout rates with elite ground ball rates. Stroman is right handed and throws harder, but both have about average velocity for their handedness.  Both have two-seam fastballs that don't get many swinging strikes but get over 75% ground balls. I'm not going to say that Stroman is going to have a Cy Young season in 2016, but even a lesser version of Keuchel's 2015 is worth drafting in the top 20 of starters.

There are two new comers to the rotation. I covered "Uncle" Jesse Chavez in my A's preview and he's basically an average to slightly above starter, but I liked him much better in Oakland. J.A. Happ is the other new addition and Ray Searage worked his magic on him in Pittsburgh because he was a completely different pitcher late in the season.

In Seattle: 4.64 / 4.12 / 4.15 ERA / FIP / xFIP, 17.5 K%, 6.8% BB%

In Pittsburgh: 1.85 / 2.19 / 2.90, 27.7%, 5.2%

That is as night and day as it gets. Who is the real J.A. Happ that will show up in Toronto? The answer, as always in these cases, is somewhere in between. I think his previous stint in Toronto in 2012-14 gives us a good idea. That means an ERA around 4, a 3.95 xFIP, 20% K%, and a 9% BB%. Steamer projects a 3.95 ERA, which is very possible. Just don't expect the Pittsburgh version to be around in 2016.

Things start to look uglier now. Marco Estrada somehow kept his ERA down despite an awful FIP and xFIP. His WHIP was elite and he got a metric ton of fly balls, but he kept them in the ball park for the most part. He didn't get many strikeouts and his walk rate was just average (he used to be great at keeping that down). His flyball ways keep his BABIP down, but there's just way too much risk here for me. If you want to believe he can continue to beat his FIP and xFIP by this much and keep the fly balls from becoming homers in Toronto, then pick him up, but I'm staying away.

I liked Drew Hutchison going into 2015 as a sleeper. Unfortunately, he was just very hittable throughout the year. He allowed way too much hard contact. He was a little unlucky, however, as he had a very high BABIP and low strand rate. Normalize those values and give him is above average K%-BB% and decent swinging strike % and you've got a potential above average pitcher, not the disaster we saw in 2015. I expect an ERA around 3.8 in 2016, with good strikeout rates.

Deep leagues are the only place where guys like Dickey will have any value. I covered the now-elsewhere Norris and Price in the Tigers preview.

The bullpen has some good talent. The very young Osuna was the closer for most of the season and did very well. However, the team had already said that newly-acquired, former Nationals closer Drew Storen will be in the mix for the closer's job. Both guys are good relievers with lots of strikeouts and I wish I knew more about which one to invest in right now. Whoever wins the job will likely be a top 13-ish closer if they have job security, lower if there is some back and forth. This team should win lots of games and there should be many saves to collect. The loser of the closer battle will be a very good setup man in holds leagues. Aaron Sanchez's stats are misleading because he wasn't very good as a starter, but he has the stuff to do well in relief. Brett Cecil will battle Sanchez for that 7th inning role, and both are better than average middle relievers. That gives this 'pen four legitimate strikeout artists and lots of depth for fantasy leagues that use middle relievers.

Breakout

Marcus Stroman

He was a popular pick back in spring of 2015 before his injury and nothing has really changed. He still possesses an elite skill (ground ball generation) and enough other stuff to be poised for a breakout, just like Dallas Keuchel was before 2015. Dalton Pompey gets honorable mention, as he could certainly break out if he's given enough playing time.

Breakdown

Chris Colabello

The regression monster is coming for this guy and will eat him alive. Both his BABIP and HR/FB should drop like a rock in 2016 and with them, his fantasy value. Justin Smoak and Marco Estrada get to share honorable mention here.

Check back soon for the next team preview as we keep moving up the standings. Tschus!