After Roy Halladay was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, fantasy baseball owners believed the only Toronto Blue Jays worth having were Adam Lind and Aaron Hill. Turns out there are a few other Jays not only worth owning, but that are better than those two.
It is as if Coors Field has been rebuilt in Toronto. Sure, the Rogers Centre (A.K.A. SkyDome) has also been known as a hitter’s haven, but never like this season. Somehow average-at-best (and that is being kind) part-time players with .230 batting averages for other teams in their careers have suddenly morphed into powerful sluggers you don’t want to throw 2-0 fastballs to. Either the air is getting thinner inside the Rogers Centre, or Harry Potter has conjured up a spell that is magically guiding Toronto’s fly balls over the fence.
Here are the Blue Jays that have turned into fantasy heroes after spending the last couple years as fantasy zeroes:
This guy is leading the majors in home runs? No, couldn’t be. Let me adjust my glasses. Well, call me George Brett and put pine tar on my bat! Bautista and his 18 dingers are indeed ahead of Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, and everyone else in the sport.
Bautista leading any major offensive category two months into the season is almost as shocking as Al and Tipper Gore’s separation. He has never brought many redeeming fantasy qualities to the table during his eight-year career.
Most homers in a season? 16, which Bautista has already surpassed without breaking a sweat. Most RBI? 63, and he already has more than two-thirds of that now in only one-third of a season. His best batting average? .254, so Joe Mauer has one less person to worry about coming after his batting crown considering Bautista is only presently hitting .243.
Bautista has not suffered through one prolonged power slump yet, even though his uppercut swing has holes in it and he still chases breaking balls in the dirt like a greyhound chases mechanical rabbits. He may strike out like Mark Reynolds, but now he hits homers like Reynolds does, too.
We will all wake up from this dream very soon. Bautista must have overdosed on four-leaf clovers last St. Patrick’s Day or something. He might finish with 30 homers and 90 RBI at season’s end, but to think he will keep this pace up is plain crazy. He is the ultimate sell-high candidate if there ever was one.
The Kansas City Royals, not known for their intelligent personnel decisions (Leo Nunez for Mike Jacobs? Multi-millions for Jose Guillen and Gil Meche?), looked smart for a change in the off-season when they cut bait on Buck, who had worn out his welcome because of his low batting averages and lower on-base percentages.
Buck has always had pop in his bat, though. He hit 70 home runs in six seasons with the Royals. Of course, only fantasy owners noticed, and even they did not care much since his constant 0-for-4 games would deflate the value of his taters.
The homers are coming faster and more furious this season for Buck with him catching for Toronto, though. The veteran backstop has nine homers and 30 RBI in just 49 games, so he is well on his way to obliterating his previous career-highs in both statistics. And his batting average is .255, which might be terrible for many players but for Buck is the equivalent of hitting .300.
Buck’s track record suggests that he will not keep up this Darren Daulton routine much longer. An 0-for-the-week is on the horizon that plummets his average 20 points. So trading him now when his value is higher than the summit at Mount Everest would be an optimal idea unless you have no other options behind the plate or if you have faith he can actually finish with 25 homers and 75 RBI.
Toronto has always had a thing for shortstops named Alex Gonzalez. Now the second shortstop with that name to man the position for the Jays this decade has been providing more pop than a general store from the 1950's.
Gonzalez, known more for his golden glove and his cannon arm than his home run prowess, has been slugging like he is Brady Anderson circa 1996. A-Gon has 12 homers and 33 RBI in 57 games. To put this in perspective, he has only broken the 70-RBI plateau twice and the 20-HR barrier once since entering the majors in 1998, so to say this was unexpected is like saying a few extra people watched Stephen Strasburg’s first big-league start.
Gonzalez does not walk, does not steal, and does not hit for a high average. Homers and RBI are all he is good for in fantasy circles. Can he keep up the good work? Every other Blue Jay has been blasting homers regularly since Opening Day, so why can’t he? Because he is a shortstop and because he has a slightly better resume than Bautista and Buck, I would not be against holding onto him, especially in AL-only leagues where homer-hitting shortstops are scarce.
I’ll bet Pacman Jones, Howie Mandel, and John Cena’s names were mentioned at more fantasy drafts in March than Cecil’s. Only 16-team, AL-only leagues would have brought Cecil up for discussion. You cannot blame fantasy owners for not thinking about him on Draft Day. Cecil posted a 5.30 ERA and 1.65 WHIP during his rookie campaign and was no lock to make the 2010 rotation.
Yet Cecil has worked as many wonders as televangelist Benny Hinn during the opening third of the schedule. He has mixed his pitches perfectly, keeping righties off-kilter with his combination of fastballs and breaking balls, while totally shutting down lefthanded hitters (.143 batting average). Cecil is 6-2 with a 3.43 ERA, a 1.01 WHIP, and a growing fantasy fan base with every quality start he has.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg in the hero department for the Blue Jays. Vernon Wells, whose body looked shot the past two seasons, is a fantasy stud again (15 homers, 40 RBI). Edwin Encarnacion has been pounding balls over the fence—when he has made contact (eight HR in 90 AB). And Shawn Marcum has valiantly returned from another arm injury to pitch like an ace (5-3, 3.38).
I am not sure who deserves all the credit for all of these amazing performances. Maybe the coaching staff. Maybe the ballpark. Maybe the strength and conditioning coach. Maybe the fantasy baseball gods. Maybe the bat boy. Or I guess the players themselves deserve some kudos. Whatever the case, many players are having special seasons north of the border, and fantasy owners are benefiting big time.