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2018 MLB Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

A look at the Toronto Blue Jays with fantasy baseball in mind.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Basic Stats:

Final Record: 76-86
Runs: 26th
Home Runs: 10th
Stolen Bases: 29th
ERA: 14th
Saves: 6th
Strikeouts: 10th

The Blue Jays had playoff hopes in March but went on to have a very disappointing season. The usually high powered offense was near the bottom in runs scored. Josh Donaldson struggled early and Jose Bautista fell off a cliff hitting just .203 on the year. This team still hit home runs (a top 10 finish) but they finished with the 2nd worst stolen base total. The short of it is that the Blue Jays are looking to put 2017 in the rear view mirror as quickly as possible.

Let’s take a look towards 2018.

The Superstar: Josh Donaldson

Donald had a roller coaster season in 2017. The final numbers are solid with a .270 average 33 HR and 78 RBI but this was a huge disappointment for owners who drafted Donaldson in the first 3 rounds. This is was the worst of his 3 seasons with Toronto. The positive is how strong Donaldson finished 2017. Over his last 60 games, Donaldson hit .290 with a 1.062 OPS and 24 HR and 49 RBI. This is much more what his owners expected when they drafted the former MVP. I expect Donaldson to get back to around 40 HR 110 RBI and a .290 average, which is what he averaged the two seasons prior to 2017. The only question is if Donaldson will even be a Blue Jays player come Opening Day.

The Sleeper: J.A. Happ

Speaking of strong finishes! Over his final 6 starts, Happ put up a 1.91 ERA with a 8.12 K/9 while going 4-1. If we stretch this sample out to his final 11 starts, Happ had a 7-3 record with a 2.81 ERA and a 9.62 K/9. Happ had a 3.53 ERA over the full 2017 season and did so while increasing his K rate to the highest it’s been since 2012. Happ is underrated in fantasy. Most rankings right now have him outside the top 250. Happ is certainly roster worthy in my opinion.

The Guy to Avoid: Justin Smoak

After 7 years in the bigs averaging 15 HR 47 RBI and a .223 batting average, Smoak had a career year in 2017. In his age 30 season, Smoak hit .270 with 38 HR and 90 RBI. I’m going to side with his previous 7 seasons rather than this more recent outlier. Sure, Smoak had a monster first half. He was hitting .300 with a .974 OPS and 30 HR through July. Over the final 2 months of the year, however, Smoak hit just .213 with 8 HR. I’m just not buying that a career .223 hitting can have the extreme turnaround that Smoak had. And I’m certainly not spending a top 100 draft pick to find out.

The Prospect To Watch: Anthony Alford

Alford isn’t the top name in Toronto’s farm system. Both Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette are ranked higher by MLB Pipeline. The difference is Alford will have value in 2018. Both Guerrero Jr. and Bichette are still teenagers and will likely spend all of 2018, if not some of 2019, in the minors. Alford is the Blue Jays prospect worth mentioning here. The value he brings to fantasy comes in the form of steals. A 70 grade runner, Alford has 84 SB over 4 seasons in the minors. This number comes with Alford playing in just 343 games in that stretch. This kind of pace makes him a 30-40 steal guy over a full 162 game season. Alford is also a solid hitter. He hit .310 with a .406 OBP last year during 68 games in AA. He also had 5 HR and 18 SB. Alford could put up numbers comparable to Delino Deshields in 2017, .269 75R 6HR 29SB. This made DeShields a top 50 outfielder last season.