Final Record: 73-89
RS/G: 4.38 (17th)
RA/G: 5.14 (26th)
SB: 47 (28th)
ERA: 4.85 (27th)
Saves: 39 (20th)
Strikeouts: 1298 (21st)
(RS/G - Runs Scored Per Game, RA/G - Runs Allowed Per Game)
The Toronto Blue Jays are entering the third year of their rebuild/retooling process. Being an American League East team, the cards are stacked against them in terms of competing soon. But with the best prospect in baseball knocking on the door for a Major League job, their offense could get a huge boost sooner rather than later. The Blue Jays will need to massively upgrade their pitching when the time comes if they hope to hang around with the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.
The Superstar: Vladimir Guerrero Jr
Little Vlad could have been included in the Prospect to Watch section of this post as well, but that’d be a lie. Without ever having taken a Major League at-bat, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is already projected to be the best player on the 2019 Toronto Blue Jays. Guerrero Jr. spent the majority of his 2018 season at Double-A where he hit .402/.449/.671 over 266 plate appearances. Upon moving to Triple-A, Guerrero Jr continued to rake with a .336/.414/.564 triple slash. The question now becomes when exactly do we see Guerrero Jr. in the big leagues? It seems pretty obvious that he’ll spend the first couple of weeks in the minor leagues for service time reasons. After that, will the Blue Jays do the right thing and call up the talented youngster? Steamer certainly thinks so and has Vladimir Guerrero Jr. projected to hit 22 home runs with a .306/.368/.511 triple slash over 550 plate appearances...at age 20! Guerrero Jr. currently has an NFBC ADP of 39th overall. You’ll need to pay up if you believe Guerrero Jr will be called up in late April and ready to produce like a Superstar from the jump.
The Sleeper: Billy McKinney
McKinney was acquired from the New York Yankees in the deal that sent J.A. Happ to the Bronx. McKinney, a former first round selection (2013) of the Oakland Athletics is now with the fourth organization of his young career. McKinney’s main skill that we hope translates to the big leagues is power. McKinney hit 16 home runs over 306 Triple-A plate appearances in 2018. During his time in the Major Leagues last season, McKinney added another six home runs in 132 plate appearances. Batting average could be a concern for McKinney, especially early on in his career. At the moment McKinney is penciled in as the strong-side platoon left fielder and leadoff hitter for the Blue Jays according to Roster Resource. If McKinney can continue to occupy that spot he’ll have deep league fantasy value—just make sure to plan ahead with additional batting average support throughout your roster.
The Guy to Avoid: Marcus Stroman
Marcus Stroman was limited to 102 1⁄3 innings pitched in 2018 due to right shoulder fatigue and a finger blister. While on the mound, Stroman was never really himself. While a 5.54 ERA certainly begins to tell us that fact, a 3.84 xFIP could lead some to believe that a return to form is just around the corner. Stroman continued to induce ground balls at a 60% rate last season, which is great when you factor in the ballparks of the American League East. Never known as a dominating pitcher, Stroman’s strikeout rate fell from 19.4% and 19.7% in 2016 & 2017 to 17.2% last season. Walks have also been slowly creeping up for Stroman, from 6.3% in 2016 to 7.4% in 2017 and finally 8.0% in 2018. Never a strong asset in WHIP, Stroman’s changing metrics have continued to hurt in that category, ballooning to 1.48 last season. At this point in early NFBC drafts it appears many fantasy owners feel the same way and are looking to avoid Stroman—his current ADP is 336th overall. This is a time to follow the herd and avoid.
The Prospect to Watch: Danny Jansen
With Vladimir Guerrero Jr. taking the Superstar section above, we’ll turn our attention towards the Blue Jays’ young catcher, Danny Jansen. As with any young catcher, the chance of a bust season is high in 2019. It’s hard to produce as a youngster at the Major League level, let alone learn how to guide an entire pitching staff and play passable defense. All of that said, the catcher landscape in the fantasy baseball universe is such that taking a chance on a talented hitter like Jansen becomes that much more appealing. In 360 Triple-A plate appearances last year, Jansen slashed .275/.390/.473 with 12 home runs. During his small cup of coffee (95 plate appearances) at the big league level, Jansen held his own with a .779 OPS. Jansen is the presumed starter for the Jays moving forward, which will make him a hot fantasy target. So far his early NFBC ADP is not out of control, however, as it currently sits at 261st overall (Round 17 in a 15-team mixed league). In two-catcher leagues Jansen is certainly worth taking a flier on as a late catcher one or early catcher two.