It was a mixed year for the Toronto Blue Jays outfield. Jose Bautista produced when healthy, but his season was cut short by a hip injury. Melky Cabrera played in just 88 games due to injuries and failed to live up to expectations. Colby Rasmus actually produced strong numbers despite a crazy-high strikeout rate. All three players will be looking for more in 2014, but all come with legitimate risks. Will any of the trio beat the odds this time around?
A full year after he was suspended for using performance enhancing drugs, Melky Cabrera remains a big uncertainty. A knee injury nagged Cabrera most of the year, before ending his season in August. Just before the offseason, Cabrera had surgery to remove a tumor from the spine. The injury was so severe that team doctors were surprised he was even able to play, according to the Toronto Sun. There’s some thought that Cabrera will improve, given that he still hit .279 with a tumor on his spine, but no one can really be sure what he’ll do. A .280 average, with about 12 home runs seems attainable, but that’s not particularly valuable in the outfield. Unless Cabrera gets back to hitting for ridiculous averages, or rediscovers his power, he’s nothing more than a late-round flyer at a deep position.
Colby Rasmus somehow hit .276 despite a 29.5% strikeout rate last season. That would have ranked 10th highest among all players had Rasmus qualified for a batting title. Assuming his luck runs out this time around, Rasmus is going to see his batting average plummet back to 2012 levels. The only thing he can be counted on at this point is his power, which is nice, but not enough to offset the low batting average. He also posted some really great fielding numbers last season, so he’s a better real-life player than fantasy guy. The presence of Anthony Gose could hinder Rasmus’ numbers if he gets off to a slow start.
Gose hasn’t flashed his potential at the major-league level yet, but he’s still relatively young. With Rasmus set to be a free-agent following the season, there’s a chance the team will want to see what Gose can do, particularly late in the season. It’s unclear what Gose is capable of doing in the majors. He’s shown strong walk rates in the minors, but strikeouts have been a problem. It’s tough to think his average would be great in a full-time role, but he could provide cheap steals if he becomes a full-time option.
Jose Bautista late-career surge has been halted by injuries the past two seasons. While he posted solid numbers both years, Bautista’s numbers did show some decline in 2013. It’s unclear if that was due to a hip injury, or due to his age. Bautista will be 33 this season, and it’s time to wonder how much longer he can continue to put up big power numbers. Despite some of his struggles last year, he still showed signs of the same approach that brought him to prominence. The reliance on crushing fastballs, the strong plate discipline and the lowish strikeout rate were all present last year. He’s still sure to be a second round pick, which is fair given what he can produce, but owners may need to wonder if old age has made him susceptible to yearly injuries at this point. Bautista will still produce more than 85% of outfielders in just 130 games, but those 30 games where he’s hurt will impact fantasy owners.
Moises Sierra acquitted himself well in 122 plate appearances, but the team is wise to not overrate his potential. Sierra displayed solid power in the minors, but it came at the expense of a high strikeout rate. Sierra’s high average was likely the result of an unsustainable .385 BABIP. His upside is probably low, but he might produce solid numbers if you can live with a low average.