Fantasy Baseball: Blue Jays Finally Winning With Solid Pitching

On Opening Day of the 2013 season, the Toronto Blue Jays were the odds-on favorite to win the World Series. This year’s Jays team seemed to be a good bet to end the franchise’s 19-year postseason drought after they acquired former All-Stars Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson in a blockbuster trade with Miami.

The storyline had changed quite a bit by the end of May. Toronto opened play on June 1 in last place in the AL East at 23-33. Their playoff-starved fans were more than a little disappointed in the prospect of yet another season bowing to division kings Boston and New York.

As June wraps up, however, the Jays are finally starting to flash some of the potential that had the 10 provinces buzzing in the offseason. Toronto has gone 16-7 this month and was the talk of baseball during a recent 11-game win streak. Better play by some of those big names acquired this offseason has been one of the keys to the resurgence.

Johnson and Buehrle both have multiple All-Star appearances on their resumes, but neither pitched like an one, or even a major leaguer during the early months of this season. Fantasy owners may have figured them to be lost causes after their rough starts, but it may be time to reevaluate that diagnosis.

Johnson began the season poorly, posting a 6.86 ERA in four April starts before being placed on the DL. Since he returned to action on June 4, he has lowered his ERA to 5.21 and on June 17, against Colorado, struck out 10 batters in one start for the first time since 2010.

His fastball has also improved since his return. According to Elias Sports Bureau, only 13 percent of at-bats against the 29-year-old ending in a well-hit fastball, compared with a whopping 28 percent before his DL stint.

Johnson is big name and so his resurgence will not go unnoticed for long. He is currently owned in 77 percent of ESPN leagues, but that has increased 22 percent in the last week and should continue to rise if he remains healthy. My advice is to acquire him now if possible before his price tag rises.

Buerhle’s season has followed a pattern similar to Johnson, except without the trip to the disabled list. The former White Sox star had posted an ERA of 7.02 as of May 6, but has only given up three runs or more twice in his last ten starts. His ERA in that time is 3.21 and he has gone six innings or more eight of those ten starts.

Buehrle has been a remarkably consistent pitcher over the course of his career, only once having an ERA above 4.28 (2006).  Over the past seven weeks, he has looked much more like the solid innings eater the Blue Jays thought they were getting over the winter.

The lefty’s horrific start seems to have scared off the vast majority of fantasy owners because Buehrle is only currently owned in 7 percent of ESPN leagues. If you’re having trouble finding quality starting pitching at a reasonable price, I highly recommend looking at him. His stock is rarely this low.

It remains to be seen whether the Jays will continue their climb back into the thick of the AL East race, but if their stars keep pitching like they have recently, it will be hard to bet against them.

Dylan Sinn is a freelance contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSinn or subscribe at

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