Saturday, November 17, 2012

Blue Jays Overhaul

As a Blue Jays fan, I found myself a little depressed after another disappointing season in 2012, marking the 19th straight year in which the Jays finished out of the playoffs. Their starting rotation was a huge question mark after a terrible year from supposed staff ace Ricky Romero and very little depth behind him and Brandon Morrow. On the hitting side, the Jays had a lot of talent, but struggled to stay healthy in 2012. They already had one of the best tandems in the league with two-time Home-run king Jose Bautista paired with budding star Edwin Encarnacion. However, even if Bautista was healthy all season, the rest of the lineup had proven to not be strong enough to compete with the beasts in the American League.

However, the Blue Jays had two extremely valuable things in their favor....

  1. One of the best and brightest GMs in MLB: Alex Anthopoulos
  2. An extremely deep farm system, ranked MLB's 3rd best entering 2012 by Keith Law
On Tuesday, Anthopoulos used that deep farm system to ransack the Marlins, acquiring Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck in exchange for Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez, Jake Marisnick and Justin Nicolino. 

The Blue Jays became playoff contenders by adding three impact players: Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle

Anthopoulos didn't stop there, also signing Melky Cabrera to a two-year, $16 million contract on Friday. 

Sure signing Melky fresh off his PED suspension is a huge risk, but I believe that the steroids didn't make Melky into the hitter he has become over the past two seasons. He had become more disciplined, making better contact and therefore, was able to post back to back .300+ seasons after 6 seasons in which he never posted better than a .280 average. This is quite evident when you look at his peripheral stats in which one can see he reduced his fly ball rate and was generating more line drives.

Here's how the Jays shake out now:

Projected Lineup (with 2012 fantasy stats - Runs/HR/RBIs/SB/AVG)
  1. Jose Reyes, SS (86/11/57/40/.287)
  2. Melky Cabrera, LF (84/11/61/13/.346 in 113 games)
  3. Jose Bautista, RF (64/27/65/5/.241 in only 92 injury plagued games)
  4. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B (93/42/110/13/.280)
  5. Brett Lawrie, 3B (73/11/48/13/.273)
  6. Adam Lind, DH (28/11/45/0/.255 in 93 games)
  7. Colby Rasmus, CF (75/23/75/4/.223)
  8. J.P. Arencibia, C (45/18/56/1/.233)
  9. Emilio Bonifacio, 2B (30/1/11/30/.258 in only 64 injury plagued games)

Key Subs: Rajai Davis, Maicer Izturis

Assuming that nothing changes here (which is very unlikely - there is a good chance that Lind and/or J.P. will be replaced in the lineup) a couple things stand out here:

Firstly, with guys like Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion batting behind them, it would be almost impossible for Reyes and Melky to finish 2013 without 100 runs scored, barring injury/suspension. Similarly, Jose and Edwin should be considered locks to surpass 100 RBIs each.

Secondly, assuming Bonifacio holds off Izturis for the starting 2B job, he should be a great fantasy sleeper. If he is able to play close to a full season, 75 runs and 60 steals even from the 9th spot are definitely attainable.

Thirdly, Rasmus and Lawrie are also very good sleepers. I don't think that Rasmus will be able to put it together this season, but batting in the bottom half of the order will take a lot of the pressure off a guy that has shown that he performs better in non-pressure situations. Lawrie should move into the 5-hole, a spot in the lineup that will allow him to post much better RBI totals than last season's 48. As a result, he could easily break into the top 10 at 3B.

Lastly, Rajai Davis loses a little bit of his fantasy appeal. Last season, he stole 46 bases in almost 500 at-bats. With all the speed added to the lineup, his playing time will be greatly cut back in favor of the power hitting Lind (except vs lefties). As a result, he could be a valuable add in deeper leagues due to his speed but will likely not get more than 300 ABs this season.

Projected Rotation (with 2012 fantasy stats - ERA/WHIP/Ws/Ks)

  1. Josh Johnson (3.81/1.28/8/165)
  2. Brandon Morrow (2.96/1.11/10/108)
  3. Mark Buehrle (3.74/1.17/13/125)
  4. Ricky Romero (5.77/1.67/9/124)
  5. J.A. Happ (4.79/1.40/10/144)
 As one would expect, the move to the AL will likely result in increases to the ERA and WHIP for  Johnson and Buerhle because of the better lineups that they will be facing. However, with that great offense behind them, both should see a great increase in their win totals. Buehrle's 2012 numbers are pretty much in line with his career numbers of 3.82 ERA and 1.27 WHIP that he's posted over his 12 seasons with the White Sox so don't expect his ERA to skyrocket with the move back to the AL.

Ricky Romero is the big wildcard. He is a 6th overall pick in 2still only 28 and two years removed from his first all-star berth (2.92 ERA and 1.14 WHIP with 15 wins and 178 Ks) so the talent is clearly there. He underwent arthroscopic surgery to clean up his left elbow immediately following the 2012 season and will likely be opening 2013 looking much closer to the breakout star of 2011 rather than the giant disappointment in 2012. I'd gladly spend a late round pick on him.

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