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Toronto Blue Jays Fantasy Report

July 8, 2008 | By RotoRob | comment on this post

While the Toronto Blue Jays managed to snap a three-game losing streak in Anaheim against the Angels, they still dropped two out of three on the weekend to fall to five games under .500. Despite holding their own lately, the Jays remain three games back of the fourth place Orioles, setting up a big three-set set at home against Baltimore starting Tuesday. This week’s action will likely determine if Toronto is destined to remain in the AL East cellar for 2008.

There’s been nothing wrong with the club’s pitching, ranked fourth in the AL in team ERA, OPS against (696) and WHIP. It’s been the offense that’s been Toronto’s Achilles’ Heel this season. With just 364 runs scored, the Jays are ahead of only lowly Seattle in that department.

Alex Rios, counted on to be one of the pillars of this team’s offense, has regressed dramatically this year. While he’s picked things up a bit of late with a four-game hitting streak (on the heels of a strong June, in which he batted .320 with 16 runs and 11 doubles), Rios’ overall numbers pale in comparison to his last two seasons. On the plus side, he’s remained a top notch base stealer, and has already set a new personal best with 21 thefts, a fact that has somewhat mitigated his power collapse. Unfortunately, Rios’ recent history suggests he’s a much worse performer after the All-Star break, so if you believe that trend to be a hard and fast rule, perhaps you want to play up his improved play over the past five weeks and try to move him. Of course, had you listened to us back in the preseason, you wouldn’t have drafted Rios at all.

Although he missed a month of action, Vernon Wells has enjoyed a decent bounce back after the disaster that was 2007. We expected him to be a steal this year judging by where he went in early mock drafts, and slowly, but surely, Wells has picked up the pace as the season has progressed. However, the unfortunate part of him busting his wrist is that it came at a time he was absolutely scorching. His .280 BA is definitely much sweeter than last year’s .245 showing, and his power numbers are up, but what’s happened to the steals? Although Wells tends to be a better first-half player, I’m willing to gamble that he’s poised for a very strong second half.

One Jay who has not disappointing his owners in the least this season is Roy Halladay. Since getting roughed up by the Reds a couple of weeks ago, Doc has settled down with back-to-back wins, including a four-hit shutout in Seattle for his AL-leading sixth complete game of the year. With numbers that put him in the top five in the AL in IP, strikeouts, wins and WHIP and just outside (sixth) in ERA, Halladay has put himself in position to contend for his second Cy Young award. He’s been all about consistency, with April (2-4, 3.26) representing his worst month of the season. Halladay has been a bit more generous with the long balls this year, but he’s offset that with some seriously pinpoint control and his highest K rate since 2001. With seven wins in his last eight decisions, he’s already hit double digits in victories for the fourth straight year, and sixth time overall in his career. Should Halladay’s tremendous command continue in the second half, and he avoids injury, he’ll be there in the running for some hardware come season’s end.

It’s time to start considering Adam Lind as a possible option in deeper AL-only leagues. His modest four-game hit streak was snapped Sunday, but he’s been a much-improved player since his recall last month. While it’s easy to write off Lind as a disappointment, let’s remember that he’s still just 24 (he’ll be 25 next week), so the upside potential is tremendous. Looking for a second-half sleeper? Try Lind.

On the flipside, those of you still hanging onto Joe Inglett in AL-only leagues can probably set him adrift right about now. While he’s seeing more action in the Cito Gaston regime, he’s still not playing enough to peak my interest. Inglett’s been a nice story this year, seeing more action than we expected, and showing some decent gap power, but in his super-sub role, his value is extremely limited.

One name that does slightly interest me in AL-only leagues is Marco Scutaro. He’s batting .300 in the past week and has hit in seven straight games, putting a rough June (549 OPS) in the rear view mirror in the process. While his pedestrian BA and lack of pop make him tough to recommend, deeper AL-only league owners who are seeking a player with positional flexibility and a bit of speed might want to consider Scutaro.

It may also be time to take another look at Lyle Overbay. He’s picking up the pace with three doubles in five games in the past week, and has hit safely in six of his past seven games to get his BA up to .265. Overbay struggled in June, but July looks like a more promising month, so I’d put him on my watch list for deep AL-only leagues. Yes, I want to see something closer to 2006 power levels before I truly recommend Overbay, but I think he’s worth keeping an eye on.

Gregg Zaun, on the other hand, looks just about done at the age of 37. He’s losing more and more PT to Rod Barajas, a situation I expect to continue in the second half. I have no idea why anyone would still be hanging on to Zaun on their fantasy team at this point, notwithstanding his mini power spike (three homers in 26 at bats) in June. Sure, he pops the occasional dinger, and his strike zone judgment hasn’t been this good in years, but I’m expecting him to see a reduction in PT in the second half, rendering Zaun without any value.

Finally, we have the king of all things fantasy useless on the Jays, Brad Wilkerson. He actually had a base hit Sunday – his first hit in two and a half weeks. Consider this: June was Wilkerson’s finest month yet, and he hit .245 with one home run and five runs scored. Honestly, I’ll be surprised if he lasts the year on the team, and I fully expect Wilkerson to fade away into a Quad-A or perhaps even an Indy League player within the next 12 months.

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