Wednesday, March 5, 2008

2008 Toronto Blue Jays Fantasy Team Preview

The Toronto Blue Jays are coming off a modest 83-79 campaign in 2007 which saw them finish third in the powerful AL East despite dealing with a myriad of injuries. The Blue Jays hopes in 2008 rest primarily on their pitching. The starting rotation is strong up front and features 3 talented youngster on the back-end while the bullpen ranks as one of the best in baseball, especially if BJ Ryan returns to old form.


Key Acquisitions

David Eckstein, SS - Signed 1 year contract
Scott Rolen, 3B - Acquired in a trade for Troy Glaus

Projected Positional Starters


C - Gregg Zaun/Rod Barajas
1B - Lyle Overbay
2B - Aaron Hill
SS - David Eckstein
3B - Scott Rolen
LF - Reed Johnson/Shannon Stewart
CF - Vernon Wells
RF - Alex Rios
DH - Frank Thomas

Starting Pitching Rotation

Ace - Roy Halladay
#2 - AJ Burnett
#3 - Dustin McGowan
#4 - Shaun Marcum
#5 - Jesse Litsch

Bullpen

Middle Relievers - Casey Janssen, Jason Frasor, Scott Downs, Brandon League
Setup Man - Jeremy Accardo
Closer - BJ Ryan

Hitters To Draft

Alex Rios, RF - Rios' combination of power and speed make him a genuine 20/20 threat. Suprisingly however, he has yet to steal 20 bases in a season. 2007 was most certainly a breakout year for Rios as he finally stayed healthy for a full season playing in 161 games and compiling 643 ABs. He set career highs across the board slugging 24 homeruns to go along with 85 RBIs, 114 runs, 17 steals and a .297 average. Rios enters 2008 having just turned the golden age of 27 and if he can stay on the field has the potential to post a .300-30HR-100RBI, 100R and 20SB season in the near future.

Vernon Wells, CF - Wells is coming off a forgettable 2007 season which saw his numbers regress substantially from his 2006 output. Wells batting average dropped 58 points while his OPS was down nearly 200 points in 2007. Additionally, he only managed 16 HR and 80 RBIs. In Wells' defense he did play through a shoulder injury for much of the season which required offseason surgery. The recovery from surgery has gone well; however, Wells may miss a few games in April. I am a big believer in Wells' abilities and think he will bounce back to form as the season wears on. When he is right, VW is a good all-around fantasy player contributing in HR, RBI, R and SB. Wells has lost a good amount of fantasy value due to his poor 2007 and the injury so he might end up being an excellent value pick in the middle rounds.

Frank Thomas, DH - Even as he approaches 40, Thomas still has pop in his bat. As a DH the past two seasons, he has topped 25 homers and 90 RBIs providing fantasy owners with solid power production. Thomas will open the season as the Blue Jays' cleanup hitter and should continue to be a solid contributor in homeruns and RBIs. When drafting Thomas don't expect much in the way of batting average or runs scored and understand that Thomas is going to miss some time due to injury.

Pitchers To Draft

Roy Halladay, SP - A legitimate ace and one of the finest pitchers in the game, Halladay is a threat to pitch a complete game on any given outing. Unfortunately, he might also get hurt in the process. Despite being a virtual lock for at least 1 DL stint over the course of the season, Halladay will win a lot more games then he loses and post solid ERA and WHIPs while going logging 200+ innings. One thing to remember is that Halladay is not a great source of strikeout as he averages around 4-5 an outing.

AJ Burnett, SP - Can you say contract year? AJ Burnett is certainly not the toughest pitcher alive and has missed plenty of time over the past 2 years in Toronto for a myriad of reasons but there is no denying his talent. Burnett consistently posts solid ERA and WHIP numbers while compiling an abundance of strikeouts. In his last walk year with the Marlins back in 2005, Burnett eclipsed 200 innings posting an ERA of 3.45 and striking out nearly 200 batters. Pitching for his last big payday, Burnett is a solid pick once the elite pitchers are off the board.

BJ Ryan, CL - After saving 38 games and posting a ridiculously low ERA of 1.37 in 2006, the highest paid closer in MLB history abruptly missed most of the 2007 season with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. According to most accounts, Ryan looks on track to be the Blue Jays opening day closer. Like Wells, Ryan's fantasy value has dipped substantially following his lost 2007 campaign and he looks to be an excellent value pick in the middle rounds. Remember folks, it was only a year ago he being hailed a top 3 closer in fantasy.

Players To Avoid
Lyle Overbay, 1B - Overbay had some productive years in Milwaukee before peaking with the Blue Jays in 2006 at the ripe age of 29 and enjoying a career year. Last year he missed 40 games due to injury and saw his numbers fall substantially across the board posting a .245 batting average and only 10 homeruns. Overbay's walks have decreased each year while his strikeouts remain high and now coming off injury at the age of 31, he should continue to slip into fantasy anonymity.

Scott Rolen, 3B - Rolen is far from the player he used to be. He is constantly injured and last year was a strong indication that his days as a power hitter are long gone. At this point in his career Rolen is a steady fielder at third baseman with fringe power and difficulty staying on the field. In other words, he's a poor fantasy option.

David Eckstein, SS - I have to admit Eckstein is a winner as he played key roles in championships won by the Angels in 2002 and Cardinals in 2006. Unfortunately, Eckstein's winner label only holds true in real life as in fantasy his lack of power and base stealing ability make him a below average shortstop. Eckstein is a decent stopgap option for desperate teams looking to bolster their batting average in season but should not be selected on draft day.

Sleepers

Jeremy Accardo, Setup - Accardo was dominant as the closer last year after being obtained from San Francisco for next to nothing. Accardo has always been a hard thrower with promise but lacked control in San Francisco which lead to the Giants bascially giving him away to make room for some young arms. Accardo has flourished in Toronto, saving 30 games last season with a 2.14 ERA and excellent WHIP of 1.14. Accardo will be the primary setup man in Toronto this year and should accumulate a good amount of holds. Additionally, he will be the first option to close should BJ Ryan get hurt.

Dustin McGowan & Shawn Marcum, SP - Two of the Blue Jays talented young starting pitchers who will slot into the 3 and 4 slots in the rotation this season. Much of Toronto's success depends on this young pair who pitched well in the second half of last season. Both have the ability to post ERAs in the high 3-low 4 range along with solid WHIPs and strikeout totals. Take a chance on these kids in the middle to late rounds.

Aaron Hill, 2B - Hill enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2007 hitting .291 with 17 homers and 78 RBIs. He will be 26 on opening day and should hit towards the the front of the Blue Jays lineup in 2008 as the unquestioned starter at second base. I would say that a .300-20HR-80+ RBIs are a definite possibility for Hill this season making him a solid under the radar option at second base.

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