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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: TORONTO BLUE JAYS

By Michael Wong

Dunedin, Fla.--It will be a long season for the 2019 Toronto Blue Jays.  Stuck in the always brutal AL East with top-tier powers the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees; not to mention the always tough Tampa Bay Rays, the Blue Jays are only going to be looking down on the Baltimore Orioles which is not saying much since the latter will likely be the worst team overall.  The Blue Jays put themselves in this position but moving on from veterans Troy Tulowitzki, Josh Donaldson, Marco Estrada and will likely find new homes for Justin Smoak, Kevin Pillar, and others sometime this season as well.  So with all that said, let's see if there is anything of use on the team in terms of 2019 fantasy baseball.

1.  With Smoak having shown last season that his 2017 career-high was of the outlier variety, he is looking at barely being a UTIL or CI option in deeper leagues.  While no one doubts the 25-30 home run power, Smoak hitting over .250 will be an accomplishment and he has little protection in the lineup which will hurt his counting numbers.

2.  There is at least one underrated veteran asset on the team in outfielder Kevin Pillar who quietly has put up home runs/stolen base ratios of 16/15 and 15/14 the last two seasons.  Even though Pillar's utter lack of walks cap his average in the .260 range, the fact he can continue to help in the power/speed categories mean there is a spot for him as an OF 3 and especially in those leagues that use five starters at the position this season.

3.  Ken Giles has the closer role to himself heading into the 2019 season but this is now his third different team despite still being only 28.  The problem with Giles as we vividly saw when he punched himself in the face after a blown save last season is that he seems to lack the mental strength needed to consistently finish games.  Now no one would doubt for a second the overpowering fastball that Giles brings to the table but walks and home runs have cropped up as problems the last few years to derail his progress.  Given that the Blue Jays are far from contenders, maybe having to deal with less pressure will help Giles get himself fully on track.  With a depressed draft cost this spring, he is worth another look.

4.  It was a season to forget in 2018 for Blue Jays ace Marcus Stroman who dealt with constant injuries and saw his numbers go into the gutter with a 5.54 ERA and ugly 6.77 K/9.  Obviously, injuries played a solid factor in the terrible results but even prior to that, Stroman was not someone we touted here given his just average strikeout rates and his inclusion in the brutal AL East.  Add in the fact wins will be tough to come by this season and Stroman should be avoided.

5.  Keep an eye on the spring performance of infielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. who really opened eyes with 11 home runs and a .281 average in just 75 games as a 2018 rookie.  Like with Pillar, Gourriel doesn't walk but the power is legit and the strikeout rate is decent enough so that the average may not be a killer to you.


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