2015 Season Previews: Toronto Blue Jays

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks!

Toronto Blue Jays

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 83-79 (3rd in AL East, 11th in MLB)

Manager: John Gibbons (462-472 in seven seasons with Toronto)

Top Three Players: 3B Josh Donaldson (5.6), OF Jose Bautista (5.2), C Russell Martin (3.7)

Bounce-back Player: OF Michael Saunders

Saunders has battled injuries throughout his career, but there is quite a bit of unlocked potential within him that could burst out in the tremendous lineup that the Blue Jays possess. Even after having knee surgery in February, Saunders will get enough plate appearances to carve out value. In his native Canada, he could find levels of comfort that he wasn’t able to in Seattle, and at just 28, he has his prime and a solid power/speed combination to become another offensive force in Toronto.

Can the stuff be tamed enough for Sanchez to become a top starter? Courtesy: mlbtraderumors.com
Can the stuff be tamed enough for Sanchez to become a top starter?
Courtesy: mlbtraderumors.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: RHP Marcus Stroman (tore ACL and is out for the 2015 season) – RHP Aaron Sanchez

Sanchez was electric out of the bullpen in 2014, posting a 1.09 ERA and 0.70 WHIP over 33 innings and 24 appearances. He has electric stuff, but the inability to control it, as well as some shoulder issues, have led to a cautious approach from Toronto, but it still wasn’t enough to keep him from making his debut at 21. Now, seemingly locked into a rotation spot, Sanchez will have an opportunity to shine as a starter. It won’t always be pretty, especially with the potential for high walk totals, but he has enough stuff to warrant roster consideration in any and all formats.

Offseason Overview: Possibly the biggest addition a team could have made this winter was signing C Russell Martin, as his pitch framing and ability to produce solid offensive numbers impact the roster tremendously. If you consider the power and punch in the lineup, you’ll see that his true value will lie in his ability to work with the pitching staff. While Josh Thole will likely remain R.A. Dickey‘s personal catcher, Martin could play a huge role in the success and maturation of Opening Day starter Drew Hutchison (23), RHP Aaron Sanchez (21), and LHP Daniel Norris (21). The Jays lost 1B/DH Adam Lind to Milwaukee, they were able to sign former can’t-miss prospect Justin Smoak to an affordable deal, while handing the center field job over to Dalton Pompey after Colby Rasmus left via free agency. Adding Josh Donaldson was a coup to an already incredible offense, and his defense is just as stellar as the bat.

The Verdict: The loss of Marcus Stroman really hurt the rotation. As much as I, personally, wanted Aaron Sanchez to be a starter, he isn’t ready, and he would have been better served in the bullpen until the club knew that he had harnessed his stuff. That isn’t to say that who is around isn’t valuable. Hutchison should come into his own this season, and Dickey and LHP Mark Buehrle are about as sure a bet as you can get to penciling in 200 innings and 32 starts. With Norris and Sanchez as high potential wild cards, the Toronto rotation will certainly be worth monitoring. The offense is outrageously talented. Adding Donaldson to Edwin Encarnacion and Bautista makes the Blue Jays lineup an absolute nightmare for opposing pitchers. The AL East will continue to be a demanding division, but the Jays are heading in the right direction. They have plenty of major league talent and are utilizing their system to acquire more of it, as they did with Donaldson. The 83 wins seem about right, but, with Martin leading the pitching staff, 87 and contending for a wild card spot is within reason.

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