When the Toronto Blue Jays began their roster overhaul during the offseason, things were looking pretty good for the Great White North. The deal with the Marlins landed them an elite shortstop in Jose Reyes, a highly touted starting pitcher in Josh Johnson, a speedy super-utility guy in Emilio Bonifacio and a veteran lefty in Mark Buehrle all for very little. They then brought in Melky Cabrera, R.A. Dickey and Maicer Izturis to add to a fairly strong core group that already consisted of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie, Brandon Morrow and J.P. Arencibia. They immediately went from also-rans to top contender in the American League.
But here we are, just two weeks into the season and the rebuilt Jays are finding themselves in some very troubled waters. Neither Dickey nor Johnson have looked particularly good, Buehrle is showing his age, Melky has been average and they’ve been without Lawrie since he injured his rib cage at the World Baseball Classic. But while all of that could have been easily dismissed and chalked up to early season struggles, the injury to Jose Reyes has been devastating and has turned the Jays inside out and upside down trying to come up with a contingency plan.
For those who missed the excessive replays, Reyes awkwardly caught his foot underneath himself while sliding into second base, immediately grabbed his ankle and writhed around in pain, pulling his shirt over his face to hide the tears that were streaming down. By the initial look of it and had you heard Reyes describe the pop he heard, you would have assumed it was broken, but an MRI revealed that it was just a severe sprain. Better, right? Well, sort of. Rather than be lost for the whole season with a broken ankle, Reyes will miss the next three months with the sprain. Sure, the prognosis looks a lot better, three months instead of six, but the Jays now have a lot to do to patch up their roster.
The simple solution for the Jays is to just man the middle infield with Izturis and Bonifacio and move on from there, but with Lawrie out and still two weeks away, the Jays have opted to bring Bautista back into the infield to play third. It’s a simple solution for the time being and once Lawrie comes back, he can man third and Bautista can head back into the outfield. The loss of Reyes is huge, but not insurmountable.
But somewhere along the line, someone is trying to complicate things. The latest reports have the Jays using Lawrie at second during his rehab stint so that when he comes back, he can play there, Bautista stays at third and Bonifacio and Izturis battle it out for playing time at short. That would leave a bit of a hole in right field to be plugged by the tandem of Rajai Davis and Anthony Gose. Now suddenly, a simple injury seems to have turned the entire club around. Maybe it’s just initial panic from such a major calamity, but someone is going to need to simplify things.
Personally, I think this “plan” they have in motion is just throwing gasoline onto the fire. While fantasy owners may drool over the idea of Bautista regaining third base eligibility, the Jays could be making a huge mistake by putting their best hitter at risk for injury. Bautista is much safer out there in right field than he is trying to make diving stops on hard-hit ground balls. Izturis and Bonfacio are more than capable of handling the job inside and why have Lawrie try to re-learn the keystone rather than working on his hitting and playing the position at which he is comfortable?
Then there’s also the gaping hole in the outfield. Really? Davis or Gose? The Jays could have had that walking into the season but knew that even a platoon of them wouldn’t be as strong as either Melky or Bautista. So why now?
Again, maybe this upheaval is just initial panic and an overreaction, but the Jays are going to need to formulate a sound game plan and stick to it. Pay very close attention to this situation over the next two weeks. Things are going to get mixed up while they await the return of Lawrie, but once he returns, if they do anything besides plug the hole at shortstop with Izturis and leave Bonifacio at second, they are over-thinking things and are setting themselves up for further disaster.
Now let’s hit those Sunday highlights…
Fantasy Beast of the Day
|Hiroki Kuroda, NYY||9.0||5||0||0||1||5||0.00||0.56|
Very quietly, Hiroki Kuroda has proven that there are, in fact, National League pitchers who are not only capable of making the transition to the American League, but can also be successful in doing so while moving for a pitcher’s park to one that favors hitters. He was a champ for the Yankees last season and this outstanding complete-game victory now puts him at 2-1 for the season with a 2.87 ERA with a 12:5 K:BB over 15.2 innings. While most eyes stay locked on high-profile players like CC Sabathia, Kuroda flies under the radar so often and makes him such a great guy to own. He should continue to provide solid numbers in the ratio department, decent though not overwhelming Ks, and with the Yankees getting back a bunch of firepower by the end of May, the wins should flow as well. Next up are the Jays, so keep him active.
The Fantasy Highs
|Austin Jackson, OF DET||4-6, 3 R, HR, 3 RBI|
|Michael McKenry, C PIT||2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI|
|Hunter Pence, OF SF||3-4, 2 R, HR, RBI, SB|
|Clay Buchholz, SP BOS||W, 0.00 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 11 K|
|Paul Maholm, SP ATL||W, 0.00 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, 7 K|
It looks as if Austin Jackson’s season has officially begun now. The speedy center fielder enjoyed a breakout season last year and is looking to build on it even more this year. His average has been strong through these first two weeks, but now we’re starting to see some power. He genuinely has the ability to become elite and in that Tigers lineup, he’s going to be circling those bases quite a bit.
Good job, Mike McKenry. Always nice to see a back-up catcher have himself a big day. Obviously we’re looking at the sun shining on a dog’s ass here and Russell Martin will stay the primary backstop in Pittsburgh, but it’s always nice to acknowledge the little guys every once in a while.
Looks like Hunter Pence is out to prove me wrong here as he continues to hit well. I was definitely concerned with the way he hit….or failed to hit, should I say….in San Francisco last season, but thanks to a .321 average on the road and two “just enough” home runs at AT&T Park this year, he’s posting some decent numbers. We’ll just have to wait more than two weeks before determining if I was right or wrong about him.
It’s hard to think of anyone else on the Red Sox happier about the return of John Farrell than Clay Buchholz. The 28-year old right-hander did very well for himself learning under Farrell back when he was the pitching coach for the Red Sox and then seemed to struggle when his coach landed in Toronto with a managerial job. But now that he’s back, Buchholz is not just all smiles, but all talent as well. In Sunday’s game, he may have lost his no-hit bid in the eighth, but the pitching line overall was spectacular and he is now 3-0 with a 0.41 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 22 innings. His 10 walks aren’t exactly my favorite, but beggars can’t be choosers. I’d rather have the wins, Ks and ERA at this point. Look for Buchholz to continue his hot start with an outing against the Royals this week.
If you thought Justin Upton was happy being on the Braves, how about Paul Maholm? Going from Chicago to Atlanta last year, Maholm saw improvements across the board, from ERA and WHIP to strikeouts and walk rate. The change has suited him very well and this year, things are looking even better. In fact, he’s yet to give up a run this year and is 3-0 with a 0.79 WHIP and 20 strikeouts in 20.1 innings. I’m thinking he’s the start of the week this week, pitching against his old Pittsburgh cronies on good ol’ 4/20.
The Fantasy Lows
|Asdrubal Cabrera, SS CLE||0-4, 3 K|
|Chris Davis, OF BAL||0-4, 3 K|
|Matt Kemp, OF LAD||0-4, 3 K|
|Shawn Camp, RP CHC||L, BS, 21.60 ERA, 3.00 WHIP, 2 K|
|Jarrod Parker, SP OAK||L, 21.60 ERA, 3.30 WHIP, 2 K|
As far as the hitters go, well, everyone has days like this. But pitching-wise, oh man. First off, what did anyone expect from using Shawn Camp as the closer in Chicago? Seriously? The Cubs bullpen is an absolute disaster right now and Camp is certainly no answer. Watch for James Russell, the obvious next in line and see what happens with that. Can’t be much worse, can it?
And while I’m certainly not ready to give up on Jarrod Parker, these control issues he’s having are forcing me to put him on the bench until further notice. Falling behind in counts, walking guys at an alarming rate, leaving far too many pitches up in the zone, you name it. He just looks terrible right now. So much talent though, so I’m not dropping him just yet. Come back to me after three or four more starts though…
Aaron Hill, 2B ARI – hand (day to day)
Joel Hanrahan, RP BOS – hamstring (day to day)
Johnny Cueto, SP CIN – triceps (likely headed to 15-day DL)
Michael Bourn, OF CLE – hand (day to day)
Jason Kipnis, 2B CLE – elbow (day to day)
Carlos Santana, C CLE – thumb/wrist (day to day)
Octavio Dotel, RP DET – elbow (day to day)
Alberto Callaspo, 3B LAA – calf (day to day)
Giancarlo Stanton, OF MIA – shoulder (day to day)
Austin Kearns, OF MIA – heart (day to day)
Alex Gonzalez, SS MIL – hand (day to day)
Eduardo Nunez, SS NYY – wrist (day to day)
Andy Pettitte, SP NYY – back (questionable for next start)
Coco Crisp, OF OAK – groin (day to day)
Carlos Quentin, OF SD – suspension (8 games)
Franklin Gutierrez, OF SEA – groin (day to day)
Michael Morse, OF SEA – hand (day to day)
Danny Espinosa, 2B WAS – hand (day to day)
***Patriot’s Day in Boston today which means lineups like super early. Get them in…..now!
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a vaiety of web sites. You can find his personal musings on RotobuzzGuy.com and for questions, thoughts or comments, you can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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