Tagged: Jays

Who Will Emerge from the Crowded Jays’ Pen?

by Eno Sarris // 

What a week it has been for the Toronto Blue Jays. First, they traded Vernon Wells to the Angels for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera, shedding Wells’ considerable salary. Then the flipped Napoli on to the Rangers for reliever Frank Francisco. Paired with the other pickups of the off-season, Francisco makes for a newly crowded bullpen. As always, for fantasy purposes the million-dollar question is “Who will close?”

The first reliever with closing experience acquired by the Jays this off-season was Octavio Dotel, who came with 105 career saves and a double-digit career strikeout rate (10.95 K/9). Given the state of the Jays’ pen at that time, our Tommy Rancel was right to name him the favorite for saves this season. His 4.09 walks per nine innings and some major struggles vs. left-handed hitters remained serious concerns, though.

Perhaps it was Dotel’s wonky control that led the Jays to go out and get Jon Rauch a couple weeks later. While he doesn’t own the same strikeout punch as Dotel (7.34 career K/9, and a slower fastball that hovers around 91 mph), Rauch had also closed before (47 career saves) and shown much better control (2.80 career BB/9). He proved himself as a capable closer in Washington and Minnesota before, so maybe he’d make for a good backup plan.

Now, enter Francisco to the discussion. He’s a little more Dotel than Rauch – he has shown a 10.01 K/9 and 4.03 BB/9 over his career – but like both he has experience in the closer role. Francisco is six years younger than Dotel, who has also lost at least three miles per hour off of his peak fastball speed, and he’s got more punch than Rauch. On the other hand, the former Ranger has only averaged 53 1/3 innings in his “healthy” seasons and lost all of 2005 to surgery. Will there be an open competition for the role?  

JaysPen.jpgThere’s one big asterisk that tilts the scale quickly towards Francisco. You want your closer to be able to get batters out no matter which side of the plate they call home. Look at the chart above, and you’ll see that both Rauch and Dotel see their effectiveness dive against lefties, while Francisco’s statistics are more stable.

Of course, Francisco’s health is an open question and the team will likely need to call upon more than one of these options during the course of the year. Going into the season, however, Francisco is the favorite for saves. Plan your drafts accordingly.

A Tale of Two Base Stealers

By R.J. Anderson //
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and Coco Crisp entered the 2010 season as teammates on the
Oakland Athletics. The pair has since split up — with Oakland trading
Davis to the Toronto Blue Jays during the off-season — but still remain
two of the biggest basestealing targets for fantasy players.

Many aspects of a player’s game are analyzed when a player changes
teams. Where he fits in the lineup, how his offensive style will fit in
the park, and whether the new division includes an increased level of
competition. Rarely is team philosophy taken account. In Davis’s case,
how the Jays allow him to play on the basepaths is critical to how you value him in your draft. In 2010, Davis stole 50 bases — more
than Carl Crawford, Ichiro, and every American League player except
Juan Pierre. Meanwhile, the entire Jays team stole just 58 bases last season. The Jays only
had one player with double-digit steals (Fred Lewis)…and Davis just took his job.

Since the Jays’ offense was built around home runs, it’s hard
to say whether the team will pull the reins in on Davis’ running game or if the low stolen bases total was simply a result of the team’s makeup last year.
Davis is a very efficient thief (79% for his career), so there’s no objective reason to hold him back.

Meanwhile, the oft-injured Crisp remains an Athletic. The serial
stealer made the most of his 127 stolen base opportunities (defined as
a situation where the runner is on first or second with the next base
open) and attempted 35 steals. For a reference point, each of the 16
players with more steals each had at least 40 more opportunities.
Expect that rate to drop, as Crisp averaged about 29 steal attempts per
season when he was with Boston — and those three seasons came before
he hit the wrong side of 30. There could also be concerns about playing
time, as the Athletics have added to their outfield depth with the acquisitions of David DeJesus and Josh Willingham (not to mention presumptive DH Hideki Matsui).

Even with the questions about team philosophy, take Davis if you have to choose between the pair. He’s not much of an offensive player by real-life standards, but he should still give even your standard mixed league team a strong stolen base boost.

Jays Dump Vernon Wells’ Contract, Receive Value

By R.J. Anderson //

The Toronto Blue Jays’ offensive philosophy last season revolved around one concept: Hit home runs. On Friday, the team acquired catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli and outfielder Juan Rivera from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for outfielder Vernon Wells, plus Wells’ grandiose contract. Suffice to say, even after losing the 31 homers Wells hit last year, the Jays’ newest acquisitions can hold up their end of the philosophy.

Napoli alone creates an interesting dilemma, as the Jays already have two backstops under contract. Although Jose Molina possesses a strong defensive reputation, the real subplot is how this affects prospect J.P. Arencibia. Napoli is a lower-variance hitter and more expensive, meaning he should get the lion’s share of playing time. The keys to Napoli’s down season in 2010 (he still managed to hit .238/.316/.468) are a low BABIP (.279 while his career norm is .293); a decline in walk rate; more strikeouts (thus lowering his on-base percentage); and the Angels’ obsession with Jeff Mathis. To their credit, Napoli did play more games than he ever had before, though that was due to Napoli taking the place of injured first baseman Kendry Morales

Moving into an offensive environment like Toronto should only assist in Napoli’s power production. That’s saying something for a guy with 66 home runs over the past three seasons, despite playing catcher and only once receiving more than 450 plate appearances in a season. Given his eligibility at catcher and the odds that he’s going to hit 25-plus home runs next season, he immediately becomes an excellent fantasy option in all leagues, doubly so in leagues that value on-base percentage and/or slugging percentage over batting average. Meanwhile, drafting Arencibia in anything but a keeper league will become determinable once new manager John Farrell’s usage strategy becomes evident.

Rivera’s health is always in question, but if he can rack up 500-plus plate appearances, he’s a good bet for 15-to-20 home runs. He’s not one for walks (although he has improved in recent years) or strikeouts, and his batting average seems to fluctuate more than normal (Last four years: .252, .287, .246, .279). He’s a fine late-round outfield pick in standard leagues that use five outfielders and a utility slot.

What is interesting is what will happen with the rest of the Jays’ first base/outfield/DH options, as Travis Snider and Adam Lind could see their playing time suffer a bit. Without knowing Farrell’s intended usage, it’s difficult to peg the exact draft stock for any of those involved. So hold out as long as possible, and when in doubt, be conservative in your estimates.

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Octavio Dotel Signs with Toronto Blue Jays

By Tommy Rancel //

Octavio Dotel‘s tour of the major leagues continues. After splitting 2010 between three teams (Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies), Dotel joined his 11th organization by signing a one-year deal (with 2012 team option) with the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Jays – like many teams – are in the process of remodeling their bullpen. They lost Scott Downs to the Los Angeles Angels and lost their 2009 closer Kevin Gregg as well (to the Orioles). Dotel will likely assume Gregg’s closer role, with Jason Frasor returning to Toronto as his set-up man.

Over his 12-year career, Dotel has served in a variety of roles. In fact, he is one of just four major leaguers to start at least 15 games and save 15 games in the same season. However, over the past nine seasons his work has come exclusively as a mid-to-late-inning reliever. Bouncing from city to city, he has notched 105 career saves, including 22 this past season.

We’ve used the term “three-outcome hitter” to describe players who take a lot of walks, hit a lot of home runs, and strike out a lot.  This also describes Octavio Dotel. His career strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) rate of 10.95 is extremely impressive. So much so that he and Billy Wagner are the only pitchers in major league history to own a career K/9 of 10.95 or greater, with a minimum of 800 innings pitched.

The strikeouts are great, but there are those walks and home runs. In his career Dotel has walked 4.05 batters per nine innings (BB/9). He has also allowed more than a home run per nine innings (HR/9) with a career rate of 1.10. But because of his ability escape jams via swings and misses, he has been able to maintain a career ERA of 3.75.

One big red flag on Dotel as a closer is his platoon splits. Teams generally prefer a closer who is effective against both lefties and righties, to avoid late inning match-up problems. Dotel has the right-handed part down, as he has limited batters of his same hand to a slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) of .205/.279/.375. But his OPS against left-handed batters rises to .754. Over the past three seasons, he has allowed 11 home runs to LHB in just 60.1 innings. This could be a major problem in the left-handed heavy American League East.

Dotel projects as one of the worst closer options in your 2011 draft. He’ll get picked up for his saves, even in standard mixed leagues. But a 37-year-old who can’t get lefties out, tangling with the likes of Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz and others is a scary proposition. If you do draft Dotel, do it in the late rounds. And then keep Frasor in mind as a handcuff, as Dotel may not last the year as the Jays’ closer.