The Toronto Blue Jays are in the midst of a rebuild. Their future has arrived, but real results won’t manifest for a few more seasons. Once management sheds outstanding contract obligations (Troy Tulowitzki), spending should restart. Until then, talented youngsters will work out kinks in Toronto. Anything higher than a fourth-place finish in the AL East would be considered an accomplishment. Development, development, development.
(Last Updated: February 6, 2020 to reflect off-season roster moves)
60-Game Season Update
The strength of the Blue Jays squad is by far their offensive core. The studs we all love such as Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Cavan Biggio should continue to be studs, and play every day and we shouldn’t need to worry too much about them at all. On the boundaries of the roster, there are some things to watch. The expanded roster to start the season could act as an extended-position battle of sorts. Most notably, a player like Rowdy Tellez may get more of an opportunity, and if he plays well he could find himself in the lineup most days. The same goes for Derek Fisher, who is out of options. The Jays can put off that decision for a few weeks until rosters shrink to 26, which during that time, they’ll be able to see him against meaningful Major League pitching and evaluate later. Expanded rosters should make these two a little more fantasy relevant for at least the early portion of the season.
There aren’t many Jays hitters that would be trending down coming into the season. The only position that is still really up in the air is the catching position. Danny Jansen was seen as the favorite before the shutdown, and probably still is, but Reese McGuire is here and waiting for an opportunity. A slow start to the season from Jansen see him bumped quickly. The Jays offense should be taken seriously, and they will have serviceable options on their bench should locked-in starters such as Travis Shaw, Randal Grichuk or Teoscar Hernandez get off to a rocky start.
|1||SS||Bo Bichette (R)|
|2||2B||Cavan Biggio (L)|
|3||LF||Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (R)|
|4||3B||Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (R)|
|5||CF||Randal Grichuk (R)|
|6||RF||Teoscar Hernandez (R)|
|7||1B||Brandon Drury (R)|
|8||DH||Rowdy Tellez (L)|
|9||C||Danny Jansen (R)|
- ADDITIONS: Travis Shaw (1B/2B/3B), Joe Panik (IF), Caleb Joseph (C).
- SUBTRACTIONS: Justin Smoak (1B/DH), Devon Travis (2B), Luke Maile (C), Richard Urena (IF).
Danny Jansen (C | Batting 7th)
2019: 41 R, 13 HR, 43 RBI, 0 SB, .207/.279/.360 | C #35
2020 ADP: 324 ADP (C #9)
Great expectations were put upon Danny Jansen before the start of the 2019 season. Many fantasy baseball touts pegged Jansen as the gem in a miserable catcher pool. He was taken in NFBC Main Event drafts as the eighth catcher off the board at an ADP of 209. Jansen, like many Blue Jays hitters, failed to live up to the lofty expectations, finishing the season as the 35th catcher, according to the ESPN Player Rater.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Jansen struggled at the dish, when he had so much work to do behind it. As a catcher, Jansen was tasked with working with a starting rotation and becoming familiar with an entire bullpen. It is clear that his focus was not on his hitting but on his standout performance as game-caller and as a receiver. Unfortunately for fantasy, hitting is the only thing that matters, and Jansen didn’t cut it last year. He will likely be an afterthought this draft season, but there may be an opportunity for those willing to give him another shot. He will be drafted in 15-team, two-catcher leagues, and AL-onlys, but there are better options in standard 10- and 12 one-catcher leagues.
Strengths: PA/AB, HR, R, RBI
Weaknesses: BA, SB
Jansen’s best case is reaching the lofty heights placed upon him in 2019 drafts. Maybe we were all just a year early and underestimated his focus on working with a pitching staff as Toronto’s No. 1 catcher. With a year of experience under his belt, maybe Jansen can focus on his hitting and produce as was hoped.
Jansen could lose playing time if he can’t get his bat going. He needs to prove to management he’s their guy for the team’s next playoff run. If he doesn’t, the Blue Jays could try to find someone who can while Jansen watches from the bench or from Triple-A. Reese McGuire did play in September, so there is a possibility that Jansen’s anemic slash line won’t cut it.
2020 Projection: 55 R, 15 HR, 50 RBI, 0 SB, .240/.305/.400
Reese McGuire (C | Batting 7th)
2019: 14 R, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 0 SB, .299/.346/.526 | C #44
2020 ADP: – ADP (C #-)
McGuire was called up to Toronto in late July when backup catcher Luke Maile went to the IL with an oblique injury. McGuire played sporadically, whenever Jansen needed a day off. As the Blue Jays’ rebuilding season drew closer to its conclusion, McGuire’s playing time increased—not just to give Jansen more rest, but because McGuire was responding well at the plate. In 105 plate appearances, McGuire knocked 29 hits, including five home runs, to post a .299 average. Production like that will earn a catcher more playing time and force management to decide who its backup catcher for 2020 will be.
McGuire made his MLB debut as a September call-up in 2018, and he might be a viable option as a fantasy catcher. McGuire has just 138 plate appearances in his two partial MLB seasons, and his career .297 average stands out compared to his minor league career in which he has a .261/.325/.347 slash line. In his time with the Blue Jays, McGuire has been aided by a .330 BABIP, and we shouldn’t expect him to push into a starting role. He could, however, be in the mix for playing time—especially since Blue Jays decided to non-tender Maile and give McGuire the backup job. He could be serviceable and might push Jansen for playing time in 2020. Don’t draft him until we know his role, but put him on your radar.
Weaknesses: AB, HR, R, RBI, SB
Obviously, the best case for McGuire is that he takes the starting catcher role from Jansen. That is very unlikely, but McGuire could earn more playing time when on hot streaks and could chip away at Jansen’s starter status.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if McGuire returns to Triple-A and resumes his duties as organizational depth. If he doesn’t play well in spring training, McGuire could miss his chance to join the Opening Day roster and might not return until late in the season. With Caleb Joseph and Patrick Cantwell as Spring Training invitees, Florida will be the battleground for the backup job.
2020 Projection: 35 R, 8 HR, 35 RBI, 0 SB, .250/.287/.400
Travis Shaw (1B | Batting 5th)
2019: 22 R, 7 HR, 16 RBI, 0 SB, .157/.281/.270 | 2B # 142
2020 ADP: 348 (3B #36)
There was something wrong with Travis Shaw in 2019. He started the season off with four home runs in March and April, but put up just a .194 average. That could easily be forgiven if he had rebounded in May, but things got even worse with a .081 batting average and zero home runs before a finger injury cost him time and provided a convenient excuse to send him to Triple-A. The casual Blue Jays fan could be, understandably, disappointed in management when looking at Shaw’s .157/.281/.270 slash line and seven home runs in 2019.
Fantasy players and those familiar with Travis Shaw know him as The Mayor of Ding Dong City. Shaw played irregularly with the Red Sox until he was traded to Milwaukee before the 2017 season. As the everyday third baseman for the Brewers, Shaw made a big impact in his first two seasons smacking 31 and 32 home runs and 185 and 159 combined runs and RBI. He put up a WAR of 3.5 and 3.6 in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Shaw has proven that he has the ability to hit. He has the ability to take a walk, posting a 13.3 BB% last year and in 2018, and his 33% K-Rate last year was a career outlier (it was just 22.8% in 2017 and 18.4% in 2018). Shaw also gives the Blue Jays infield options. While playing most of his games at third, Shaw also played second and first in 2019, but the Blue Jays didn’t sign him to bump Biggio or Guerrero. Shaw will be Toronto’s first baseman, but can slide over to other bases to provide a rest day and to also get Rowdy Tellez some reps at first. The hope, of course, is that Shaw can put his awful 2019 behind him and can return to the form we have seen when he joined Milwaukee. Signing in December should help him prepare for the 2020 season and give him a full Spring Training with his new team.
Strengths: HR, R, RBI, OBP
Weaknesses: BA, SB
We have already seen Shaw’s best-case: 2017 and 2018. If Shaw can rebound from his horrific 2019, then he could be an impact bat in the Blue Jays’ lineup and could be a late option for fantasy managers. Playing in hitter-friendly Rogers Centre (as well as frequent games in Baltimore and lefty-friendly New York) should give Shaw a nice boost.
The worst-case scenario for Shaw is that 2019 continues. If he cannot put it behind him, Shaw could continue to press at the plate and spiral down to Triple-A. The playing time is his, but an entire season of struggles is only a few months behind him. There is the possibility that Shaw gets off to a slow start with his new team and history repeats. The rebuilding Blue Jays will give him a long leash but will look to other options if Shaw isn’t able to get back to his 2017 and 2018 version.
2020 Projection: 70 R, 25 HR, 75 RBI, 5 SB, .240/.325/.450
Rowdy Tellez (1B | Batting 5th)
2019: 49 R, 21 HR, 54 RBI, 1 SB, .227/.293/.449 | 1B #55
2020 ADP: 496 ADP (1B #45)
Rowdy Tellez profiles like a player who is a product of circumstance. At 24 years old, Tellez has moved through the Toronto farm system just ahead of the team’s big young stars, but all the youngsters have played in the minors together, and it seems convenient to just play them together in Toronto. After being drafted in the 30th round (895 overall), Tellez is a long shot, but one with power potential. In 409 plate appearances, he popped 21 home runs in 2019, and with Justin Smoak’s departure, Tellez was set up to see more frequent playing time until Toronto signed Travis Shaw in December. As things shape up before Spring Training, Tellez will be Travis Shaw’s backup or will share time with another position player who can be plugged into first base.
Tellez’s plate approach needs some fine-tuning before he will see long-term MLB success. His 28.4% K rate in 2019 is much higher than the mid-teens he posted in the minors and his 7.1% BB rate is significantly lower than his 9% to 14% in the minors. His swinging-strike percentage was 14.4% with a contact rate of just 70.5%. He swings inside the zone at just 64.9% and makes contact in the zone 81.1% of the time. He swings outside the zone at 39.3% rate. These numbers don’t inspire a lot of confidence but suggest that Tellez is getting fooled by MLB pitching. He needs to take strides in his approach at the plate to reduce his swing-and-miss. If he can make better contact, he has the power to be an impact bat in the heart of the lineup.
With the signing of Travis Shaw, Tellez’s value took a deep hit to the point that he might spend more time with Buffalo than with Toronto. Still, Shaw’s 2019 was so bad that Tellez could see regular playing time if Shaw’s struggles are not behind him. Shaw’s versatility could be a benefit for Tellez and could give him opportunities to play, making him a potential deep sleeper if things break right for him (and not right for others). He can probably be ignored on draft day in anything but an AL-only or a very deep league, but monitor injuries during spring training and, if Shaw moves off first, Tellez could be a late-round flier in a deep league or an early-season FAAB target.
Strengths: HR, R, RBI
Weaknesses: BA, SB
If Tellez can carve out playing time as the regular first baseman, and maintain it throughout the year, he could be a powerful bat in the heart of a young lineup. The only way he puts up 600+ plate appearances is an unfortunate series of events that sees either an infield injury or extreme Travis Shaw struggles. Still, best bat plays and if Tellez can take a step forward in plate approach he can earn playing time.
The worst-case may have already befallen Tellez. Travis Shaw’s signing pushes Tellez to a backup role. If Shaw has a big rebound, Tellez could see limited playing time and the Blue Jays might see it as developmentally beneficial to have him get regular reps in Triple-A. He was demoted to Buffalo for 26 games in 2019, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see him return there for much of 2020 if he doesn’t outperform their new free-agent acquisition.
2020 Projection: 30 R, 12 HR, 32 RBI, 0 SB, .240/.325/.450
Cavan Biggio (2B | Batting 2nd)
2019: 66 R, 16 HR, 48 RBI, 14 SB, .234/.364/.429 | 2B #34
2020 ADP: 229 ADP (2B #18)
Cavan Biggio is part of the Blue Jays’ trio of MLB superstars’ progeny. Biggio is, by far, the least heralded, but he should not be sold short. As a younger minor leaguer, Biggio seemed unimpressive but made significant strides forward the higher he rose in the system. Before he was called up to Toronto, Biggio slashed .312/.448./.514 in Buffalo. The results didn’t translate to the same degree in the majors, but Biggio did show flashes of his potential. He has an excellent eye at the plate, posting a 16.5 BB% and has speed on the bases, grabbing 14 steals in his 100 MLB games.
Biggio had a tale of two seasons. From his call-up to August 31, he slashed .215/.345/.391, but in September, he slashed .300/.424/.563. His improvements were not accidental: Biggio became more aggressive at the plate, swinging earlier in counts. His first-pitch strike percentage rose from 54.1 to 62.6 with his overall swing percentage rising from 35.2% to 38.2%. Look for Biggio to adorn many sleeper lists this offseason, with many arguing that he needs to be more aggressive. It looks like his late-season approach shows this adjustment and, based on the improved results in September, if he brings this skill into next season, he could justify his sleeper profile.
Strengths: PA/AB, HR, R, RBI, SB, OBP
Biggio will be coveted in drafts because he has a power-speed combo that should see him threaten 20-20. If things break right, that could be just a start. If he maintains his position as the No. 2 hitter in the lineup, he will score a lot of runs and should have his fair share of RBI in a young, improving lineup. Biggio’s dream scenario is that he can control the strikeouts (his 2019 K% was 28.6%) and boost his batting average (by being more aggressive) while maintaining his excellent OBP. This is a perfect recipe for fantasy production.
The Blue Jays are likely to go with Biggio regardless of his worst-case scenario. He is lining up to be a pillar of their next great team, but struggles would see him dropped down the lineup, into a platoon, or shared duties. The team has many versatile infielders who could take a bite out of Biggio’s playing time if he doesn’t adjust to major league pitching. Strikeout prevention should be Biggio’s main goal in 2020, but if he watches too many pitches go by for strikes, Biggio just won’t take the necessary step forward to make an all-around fantasy impact.
2020 Projection: 80 R, 24 HR, 70 RBI, 20 SB, .270/.370/.435
Bo Bichette (SS | Batting 1st)
2019: 32 R, 11 HR, 21 RBI, 4 SB, .311/.358/.571 | SS #49
2020 ADP: 69 ADP (SS #12)
A broken wrist delayed Bo Bichette’s arrival to Toronto, but his eventual arrival didn’t disappoint. Bichette immediately made an impression, starting his career with an 11-game hitting streak, going 20-for-53. In that stretch, he also set an MLB record for consecutive games with a double (9). Bichette has always had a good hit tool and sprays the ball to all parts of the field (39.5/29.9/30.6). There is some swing-and-miss in his plate approach with a 23.6 K%, but that can be overlooked in today’s game.
Bichette led off in all but his first MLB game in 2019 and should be a fixture atop the lineup for years. This will give him an opportunity to score a ton of runs but will reduce his RBI chances. Bichette’s numbers, above, are in just 212 plate appearances, and if he can get 600-700 plate appearances, he should put up numbers that will be significant for fantasy. The Blue Jays would be ecstatic if he could translate his 2019 numbers into an equal full-season result. Be prepared to draft Bichette as a Top 10 shortstop.
Strengths: PA/AB, BA, R, SB
Bichette’s best season would see him continue to do what he is doing. So much of his fantasy value will rely on the development of the young lineup around him. He needs to continue to gain experience against major league pitching and the adjustments that they will make to him. Bichette’s development is part of the Blue Jays’ process, and even after an excellent start, there could be even more ahead.
Bichette ended 2019 on the IL with a concussion. It shouldn’t be anything to worry about, but fantasy managers always worry about health. Teams will have all off-season to find ways to beat him, and Bichette will have to adjust and continue to grow as a hitter. Expect that he will, but the worst case is that he does not. If the Blue Jays’ young lineup goes through any kind of growing pains, Bichette’s counting stats could suffer. Playing time is safe, and development is the name of the 2020 season.
2020 Projection: 90 R, 25 HR, 65 RBI, 15 SB, .310/.355/.485
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3B | Batting 3rd)
2019: 52 R, 15 HR, 69 RBI, 0 SB, .272/.339/.433 | 3B #39
2020 ADP: 34 ADP (3B #6)
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s minor league numbers broke projection systems, and he was expected to dominate the majors. There was so much hype, that even before his debut, we hoped that he and his father would just get a Buy-One-Get-One-Free plaque at Cooperstown. Guerrero, of course, had to “work on his defense” for the first month of the season. When he made his debut, fans cheered his every move.
With all this attention, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Guerrero “struggled” in 2019. His numbers were good but were nowhere near the lofty expectations. He hit just .249/.328/.413 before the All-Star Game and some questioned his superstar credibility. The Home Run Derby gave the world a look at what his 80-grade power can do when he pounded 91 home runs. He carried that success into the second half slashing .293/.349/.452.
Guerrero was not a model of health in 2019. An oblique injury cost him time at the start of the season, and he was bothered with minor knee and rib injuries that cost him the occasional day. His body type has long been called into question by those who look for a downside, but there is no doubt that Guerrero was built to hit. Don’t expect any draft-day discounts on him. As one of the league’s brightest young stars, he didn’t do what we expected in 2019, but expect him to be a prized target, especially if he comes into camp healthy, fit, and producing.
Strengths: BA, R, RBI, HR, OBP
Guerrero’s best case is that he is a first-round fantasy pick in 2021. He could hit for a high average with power and decent run and RBI production. The top of the lineup should provide him with RBI opportunities, and he could approach 100 in a perfect scenario. With his power and hit tool, he could challenge for both home run and batting titles.
The easy answer is health, but that is true for any player. The violence of Guerrero’s swing might make him more susceptible, but playing on the Rogers Centre turf is as likely as anything to aid injury. It was clear that when Guerrero arrived in Toronto, pitchers upped their game against him. If he doesn’t adjust to the best stuff that pitchers throw, he could disappoint in 2020.
2020 Projection: 85 R, 30 HR, 90 RBI, 0 SB, .315/.355/.485
Brandon Drury (IF/OF)
2019: 43 R, 15 HR, 41 RBI, 0 SB, .218/.262/.380
2020 ADP: – ADP (OF #-)
Brandon Drury came to Toronto in the J.A. Happ trade in 2018 (with Billy McKinney) and, at just 27 years old, is a veteran presence. He is able to play multiple positions when replacing injured players but will likely be a second or third option for playing time. He shouldn’t be a major part of your draft plans, but he is a player who could step into a role if players are forced to the IL. In deep leagues and AL-onlys, these players are important to have on the radar in case of emergency. Drury flashed potential when he had regular playing time with Arizona in 2016 and 2017, but a backup role befell him in his time with the Yankees and Blue Jays. The young core will always be the priority, leaving Drury as a fill-in.
Strengths: HR, R, RBI
Weaknesses: BA, SB, PT
For Drury, the best case is that he gets playing time due to injury, capitalizes, and cobbles together 600 plate appearances. That’s a lot of injuries and a lot of big results in limited opportunities. For fantasy, regular playing time might only come by way of a trade to a team that believes that more consistent plate appearances will yield better results.
Regular playing time for Drury could come in the minors. The Blue Jays want their young players to gain experience, and Drury doesn’t seem to be a part of that future. It is possible that he remains a bench option, but his results need to improve when he does see the field, otherwise, Toronto could lighten its budget by dropping his $1.3 million salary.
2020 Projection: 40 R, 15 HR, 40 RBI, 0 SB, .220/.275/.395
Teoscar Hernandez (OF | Batting 8th)
2019: 58 R, 26 HR, 65 RBI, 6 SB, .230/.306/.472 | OF #82
2020 ADP: 452 ADP (OF #111)
As a product of the Astros farm system, Teoscar Hernandez carried a lot of interest when he gained full-time innings with Toronto in 2017 (Francisco Liriano trade). Hernandez has played regularly (134 games in 2018 and 125 in 2019) but hasn’t provided a great deal of fantasy value. He hit 26 home runs with decent runs and RBI totals, but his propensity for strikeouts has limited him and pushed him further and further down the lineup. In Double-A, Hernandez took his K% from 36.7% to 24.5% to 17.1%, and dropped it to 15.6% in Triple-A. He wasn’t able to maintain the trajectory in the majors, seeing his K% rise from 25% in 2016 to 33% in 2019. There is the possibility that he can improve his strikeout tendencies as he did in the minors, but at 26, that improvement had better manifest soon, or the Blue Jays may look for other options.
Hernandez will be a batting average liability unless he can drastically reduce his swing-and-miss. He has legit power and can be a late-round contributor in counting stats, including stolen bases, but 68.9% contact and a 30.3% swing rate on pitches outside of the zone show that he is flailing at the plate as he sells out to hit home runs. With the team’s outfield options on the roster and in the minors, Hernandez needs to improve his plate discipline or could be pinched for playing time.
Strengths: HR, R, RBI
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see a Hernandez break out this season. If he can swing at more pitches inside the zone and fewer outside of it, then he could see daily playing time. Eliminating some of the swing-and-miss will boost his batting average and OBP, putting him in a better position for counting stats. It seems that the Blue Jays want Hernandez to be a part of their future, and if he shows a better approach, he could be a key contributor.
He has the power to be a fantasy asset, but mid-20s home runs aren’t going to cut it if there isn’t a standout contribution in other categories. If he doesn’t do something about his batting average, it is entirely possible that the Blue Jays cut him loose and look to other options via trade, free agency, their farm system, or from those already on the roster. Hernandez’s worst-case scenario is much more fearsome and urgent because his production has not justified 32.5% career K% with Toronto.
2020 Projection: 70 R, 28 HR, 75 RBI, 6 SB, .245/.315/.465
Randal Grichuk (OF | Batting 4th)
2019: 75 R, 31 HR, 80 RBI, 2 SB, .232/.280/.457 | OF #66
2020 ADP: 362 ADP (OF #93)
The Blue Jays traded for Randal Grichuk in January 2018 and, in January 2019, extended him on a five-year, $52 million deal. The $10 million+ per year deal isn’t shocking, but the length is. While older players were traded and released, the 28-year-old Grichuk comes into 2020 as the highest-paid Blue Jay and one who management believes will be a part of the team’s future. Grichuk set career highs in 2019 with 31 home runs, 81 RBI, 75 runs, 586 plate appearances, and 151 games played while setting a career-low in batting average.
He is versatile and can play in all three outfield positions. He should have regular playing time in Toronto and should be an important valve in the heart of the Blue Jays lineup. This should set him in good stead for RBI opportunities, and a more experienced lineup in 2020 should set Grichuk up for more runs scored. The real concern is batting average. In his six years of MLB experience, he has a career .244 average, hitting above .245 once in 2015 (.276). Grichuk’s late ADP is appealing, but a production improvement is still needed from him. His runs and RBI should increase, but in a season of home runs, Grichuk’s 31 bombs don’t stand out, and his low batting average and lack of stolen bases will hurt your roster. There is upside here as the team around him gets more established, but his skill-set is an easy-to-find commodity.
Strengths: HR, R, RBI
Weaknesses: BA, OBP, SB
Grichuk could become the main source of the Blue Jays offense. If Bichette, Biggio, and Guerrero take steps forward, then there should be a ton of RBI opportunities for Grichuk, and he could hit over 100 this year. He will need to get some protection behind him in the lineup in order to meet his potential. If the Blue Jays add a piece or get more out of the hitters behind him, Grichuk could improve in four categories.
If he remains as the only legitimate power bat after the three sophomores, he could become a target to be pitched delicately. Grichuk already shows swing-and-miss tendencies (26 K%), and if he doesn’t see strikes, he will not improve his average and will have a hard time boosting his counting stats. If Grichuk can’t be productive in the heart of the order, he could drop in the lineup and lose playing time to other, younger outfield options. He has a long leash but must show he is deserving of it.
2020 Projection: 75 R, 34 HR, 95 RBI, 3 SB, .240/.300/.465
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (OF | Batting 6th)
2019: 52 R, 20 HR, 50 RBI, 6 SB, .277/.327/.541 | OF #144
2020 ADP: 156 ADP (OF #46)
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. will be on many sleeper lists this offseason and will probably elicit frustrated cries in draft rooms. Be wary, however, of pushing him too high. Gurriel began 2019 as the Blue Jays’ second baseman and struggled mightily. He slashed .175/.250/.275 in his first 13 games in the infield while developing the yips. He was demoted to Triple-A on April 15, remaining there until May 24. Surprisingly, Gurriel did not return to second base but was shifted to left field where he remained for the rest of 2019, slashing .295/.344/.591. He was outstanding in those 277 plate appearances, hitting 19 home runs with 48 runs, 40 RBI, and five stolen bases. If extrapolated to 600 plate appearances, that’s 41 HR, 104 R, 86 RBI, 11 SB. We can’t expect that in 2020, but this kind of dreaming will push his draft stock.
2019 was Gurriel’s second MLB season, but he only managed 343 plate appearances in 84 games. He missed most of August with a quad strain and ended the season on the IL because of an appendectomy. Gurriel’s gaudy hitting numbers when he played in left field are buttressed by his defensive success, nabbing nine outfield assists in 63 games with no errors (106 chances). He may have been the first of the baby Jays to break out, but he did not play long enough to give opposing pitchers a chance to adjust. While we hope that Gurriel maintains his torrid pace into 2020, we need to be wary of continued production once teams find ways to attack him. The pedigree is real, and he has shown promising signs, but don’t get too carried away, because he is a volatile player prone to highs and lows, and has just 143 career games.
Strengths: BA, HR, R, RBI, SB
Weaknesses: OBP, AB
Gurriel’s best scenario is that he continues his 2019 breakout. He was excellent after moving to left field, and, if his 70 games are real, he could be an across-the-board contributor. In an older and wiser lineup, Gurriel could put up excellent counting stats and be a batting average positive. There is a lot of ceiling here, and the ideal season is one that proves that 2019’s reinvention was real and that he has transformed his prospect hype into everyday major league production.
Gurriel’s excellent play in 2019 might just be a hot streak. He was just awful to start the season and then, for a small sample, turned into a five-tool stud. The worst case is that he was reinvigorated as a left fielder and translated that confidence at the plate into 70 games at the very top of his ability. If pitchers adjust, and he regresses back into the player he showed himself to be in the first 79 games of his career, Gurriel could have a close relationship with the bench or be wallowing in the minors. We have seen as much bad from him as we have seen good.
2020 Projection: 75 R, 28 HR, 80 RBI, 10 SB, .285/.325/.485
Billy McKinney (OF | Batting 9th)
2019: 37 R, 12 HR, 28 RBI, 0 SB, .215/.274/.422 | OF #164
2020 ADP: – ADP (OF #-)
Billy McKinney has been a part of three major trades in his short career. He was part of Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel deal and joined Addison Russell in Chicago; he was moved from the Cubs to the Yankees in the Aroldis Chapman trade (with Gleyber Torres); and then he came to the Blue Jays with Drury in the Happ trade. It was hoped that the 25-year-old McKinney would thrive with regular playing time and be a regular part of the Blue Jays outfield.
McKinney is unlikely to make the Opening Day starting lineup but will be a bench piece for the Jays, rotating into the outfield as needed. In the minors, McKinney has not generated power or speed but has relied on his ability to make contact to get on base. Unfortunately, that skill has not translated well in the majors with a poor .215/.274/.422 slash line in 2019 in 276 plate appearances over 84 games. McKinney spent a lot of time on the highway shuttling between Toronto and Buffalo. After starting the season with the Blue Jays, he was the player sent to Triple-A when Gurriel was recalled, and it was McKinney’s job that was lost when Gurriel got hot and became the team’s regular left fielder. McKinney, it seems, struggles with sporadic playing time and did not perform well in 2019 but will have to learn how to produce in his limited opportunities.
Strengths: HR, R
Weaknesses: BA, OBP, RBI, SB
McKinney could become a regular fixture at the top of the lineup if he is able to get on base. He could be a fine leadoff man if he shows that he is an everyday player. The problem is that he hasn’t done that even when given chances to do so. There is potential here but, at this point, injury is what will propel him into the lineup. He could earn a role if he does what the Cubs, Yankees, and Blue Jays believed he could do when they traded for him.
There is a very real possibility that McKinney doesn’t make the Opening Day roster and remains in Triple-A for the entire season. At 25, McKinney might just be a Quad-A type player who never gets a full-time role in the majors. There is a real likelihood that McKinney remains unable to string any consistency into his limited opportunities in the big leagues and never earns a full-time role as a result. If he doesn’t adjust, he may be a part of another trade out of town.
2020 Projection: 45 R, 12 HR, 35 RBI, 1 SB, .240/.285/.415
Derek Fisher (OF | Batting 9th)
2019: 23 R, 7 HR, 17 RBI, 5 SB, .185/.287/.370 | OF #184
2020 ADP: – ADP (OF #-)
Derek Fisher has long been on fantasy players’ radars because he possesses stolen base potential with his 70-grade speed. Fisher was drafted by Houston in 2014 and showed signs of fantasy relevance in 2017 when he slashed .318/.384/.583 with 23 home runs and 16 stolen bases in his first full season at Triple-A. He was perpetually blocked in Houston but did earn a promotion in 2017. He failed to run with that opportunity, hitting just .212, but he managed to break camp with the Astros in 2018. Again, he struggled (.176/.222/.419) and was sent back to Triple-A with his future in Houston seemingly over.
The Blue Jays acquired Fisher in the Aaron Sanchez trade (with Joe Biagini and Cal Stevenson), and he got a second chance. He was immediately inserted into the lineup, and the Blue Jays gave him 40 games with 107 plate appearances. Fisher did not impress in his newfound opportunity, slashing .161/.271/.376. Toronto has a lot of outfield options so Fisher will need to hit well to earn regular playing time. The team gave up a lot for him, so he should have a decent chance to earn a regular role. Fisher’s spring training performance will determine where he ends up. Hopefully, with an offseason and normal spring, he can feel comfortable with his new team and perform well enough to secure the consistent playing time that could lead him to meet his potential.
Strengths: SB, R
Weaknesses: RBI, BA
It will be tough, but not impossible, for Fisher to win a regular starting job in Toronto. One path to playing time could be a platoon with Grichuk. If Fisher can get anywhere near the .318 he put up in Triple-A in 2017, he could be a valuable leadoff bat with plus speed. There is much more of an opportunity for him in Toronto than there was in Houston, but he must seize it to be fantasy-relevant even in an AL-only.
There is a real chance that Fisher starts in Triple-A, doesn’t hit, and remains there most/all of the season. He has struggled in the majors every time he has been given a chance, and it is possible that his potential will remain unrealized and that he doesn’t get another opportunity. He turns 27 in 2020 and his window is closing.
2020 Projection: 45 R, 18 HR, 55 RBI, 14 SB, .250/.325/.425
Playing Time Battles
Fisher/McKinney: Both are left-handed batters who are looking to gain outfield playing time either as a starter, replacement from the bench, or a platoon role. There are opportunities in the Toronto outfield, but neither has done all that much to squeeze into regular playing time.
McGuire/Jansen: The plan of Jansen as the starter and McGuire as the backup is far from secure. While strong defensively, Jansen hasn’t been all that impressive as a hitter, and it is possible that Toronto’s backup catcher could get increased playing time if he can outperform Jansen’s hitting production.
Shaw/Tellez/Drury: After acquiring Travis Shaw’s infield flexibility, the Blue Jays will rotate players at first base. Drury has played a little at first base (12 games in 2019), but Shaw’s real competition for the first base job will come from Tellez. With Shaw at the top of the first base depth chart, Tellez will get more sporadic appearances, but could see playing time when Shaw moves to second, third, or DH. If Shaw returns to his pre-2019 form, the Blue Jays will look to get him in the lineup every day and if injuries strike, Tellez could see opportunities.
|3||3B||Vladimir Guerrero Jr.||R|
|6||LF||Lourdes Gurriel Jr.||R|
|2||LF||Lourdes Gurriel Jr.||R|
|3||3B||Vladimir Guerrero Jr.||R|
If the young Blue Jays take a step forward in 2020, there could be a lot of fantasy gold that could be mined in this lineup. The core of Bichette, Biggio, and Guerrero went through typical first-year growing pains, showing their immense talent, at times, and looking lost at others. We know that there is tremendous potential here if everything clicks, and no one would be surprised to see Blue Jays’ players take a huge step forward in 2020, vaulting their 2021 draft stock. Improvements would have a knock-on effect on counting stats for all.
There are a lot of question marks surrounding the players’ performances, but also which players will play regularly. The team has playing-time openings. Late-round fliers or early-season FAAB adds on some of these players might pay off if they can take a step in their development. Watch for guys who get off to a good start in spring training and early in the season; these are players who could get significant chances and immerse themselves into a regular role. It might be worth it to mine the waiver wire for the hot hand in Toronto and play them until the next hot player emerges. It seems that Blue Jays management is taking a dart throw on numerous players while looking for lightning in a bottle, and perhaps that is a valid strategy for fantasy managers, too.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)