<
>
Insider

Rasmus should thrive with Blue Jays

7/27/2011

It had become clear that the St. Louis Cardinals organization simply didn't want outfielder Colby Rasmus around anymore, and thus the team sent him packing Wednesday in an odd move that I think we'll all remember years from now. Dump Rasmus? Well, the Cardinals kind of did just that, and kudos to the Toronto Blue Jays for nabbing him, but fantasy owners should swoop right in because this is an impact player worthy of attention in all leagues.

While I don't fully buy into the theory of players needing new starts to reach their potential, with Rasmus it did make sense. He's clearly talented, and a year ago, he smacked 23 home runs, stole 12 bases and batted .276. Sure, he strikes out a bit too much and he's clearly someone Cardinals manager Tony La Russa doesn't call a pal, but this is a budding star. He's 24. And after being an 11th-round choice in ESPN live drafts (and 27th among outfielders), a few too many owners panicked and made him available in roughly 16 percent of ESPN standard (10-team) leagues.

Rasmus leaves the National League for one of the top power hitters' ballparks in the big leagues, and yes, if you haven't noticed, I expect big things the final nine weeks of the season. The lefty hitting Rasmus still takes walks and he's actually done a nice job against left-handed pitching this season, and did I mention he's only 24? The Jays will play him regularly in center field and perhaps hit him second, right ahead of some slugger named Jose Bautista, or he could hit fifth. Rasmus has the ability to hit 30 home runs in future seasons and steal bases. I could see him hitting 10 home runs the rest of this season, and joining a team that ranks seventh in baseball in stolen bases, we could see an uptick there as well. The sloth-like Cardinals, in comparison, recently went more than a month with nobody stealing a base!

Put simply, Rasmus will quickly show the Cardinals they made a mistake -- good luck with Corey Patterson -- and become 100 percent owned in fantasy leagues.

As for the other players in the three-team deal, most of them just don't have fantasy relevance ... and to some degree I include the other biggest name, starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, who was first dealt from the Chicago White Sox to the Blue Jays before eventually landing with the Cardinals. Look, I've never been a huge fan of the well-traveled right-hander, and to be honest, nothing changes here. Sure, he should do a bit better in the NL, but weren't we saying this past March when he was preparing to shine for the Arizona Diamondbacks? Jackson's ERA for poor Arizona was 5.16, and he again got shipped to the White Sox (for Daniel Hudson).

Jackson's current 3.92 ERA might look attractive, but the 1.42 WHIP is a big bummer. He's got big-time stuff and the motivation of a contract run, but I think he's overrated. One day he's throwing a no-hitter and the next he's getting shelled. This is Ricky Nolasco, but worse. I wouldn't trust Jackson, who's owned in 18.9 percent of standard leagues, though I concede his value goes up a tad after this deal. He was the No. 55 starting pitcher in this week's 60 Feet, 6 Inches column, but for me he's outside the top 75. Be careful here.

As for other thoughts, I'm assuming the Blue Jays figured out that speedster Rajai Davis is not a great player. He's a great base stealer, and could have swiped 50 bases with health and opportunity, but the .267 on-base percentage is brutal. The Jays should use Travis Snider and Eric Thames in the outfield corners around Rasmus regularly, with Edwin Encarnacion as the designated hitter. Davis might not play much moving ahead, so be ready to look elsewhere for stolen bases. Mark Teahen, acquired in the deal, won't play much, either, and losing relievers Jason Frasor and Octavio Dotel really has little effect on the closing mess with Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco.

For the Cardinals, Jon Jay should remain a fixture in center field and perhaps hitting second in the order, so that's good for him and us. Jay is hitting a legit .312 with double-digit potential in home runs and steals. He's not a must-own in standard leagues, but he's approaching top-50 outfielder status. Meanwhile, Kyle McClellan is likely headed to the bullpen, but you shouldn't have owned him anyway, as he was trending the wrong direction. If closer Fernando Salas runs into trouble, I think Dotel has a better shot at saves than McClellan.

As for the White Sox, congrats to you, Philip Humber, you're back in the rotation. That hardly means fantasy owners should expect him to hold off regression, but I'd rather own Humber than Jackson the rest of the season. Perhaps later this season Humber gets pushed out to the bullpen again when prospect Zach Stewart, the other cog acquired from the Blue Jays on Wednesday, replaces him. Stewart, 24, shouldn't be a fantasy factor this season, but it's problematic whether the White Sox are deadline buyers or sellers at this point.