Kirby Yates 2021 Outlook: The Toronto Blue Jays are not kidding around. They established themselves as buyers this offseason with their acquisitions of premier free agents George Springer (check out my piece on the Blue Jays signing George Springer) and now closer Kirby Yates.
Kirby Yates 2021 Outlook: Blue Jays Betting, Fantasy Baseball Tips
Yates, a truly dominant reliever, is the perfect addition (in theory) to the back end of the Blue Jays bullpen. They now have a 7th-8th-9th-inning trio of Rafael Dolis, Jordan Romano and Yates, likely in that order. (However, Yates may pitch the 8th inning at times to fend off the tougher quadrant of a lineup instead of a traditional save chance.)
While Dolis and Romano are not exactly household names, they can hold their own after their respective 2020 seasons. Yates will be the clear “lead" reliever in this crew given his seniority/experience as a closer along with this brand-spanking-new contract.
Kirby Yates: 2020 Review
Kirby Yates’ 2020 is nothing to write home about. He only pitched a total of 4.1 innings and gathered 2 saves due to an issue that arose in his elbow. Luckily, it was just bone spurs rather than Tommy John-related with the UCL in his right (throwing) elbow.
It is probably best to ignore his 12.46 ERA and any peripherals that come along with it, assuming that the bone spurs were present during his limited outings.
On a media call, new Blue Jays reliever Kirby Yates says he’s feeling healthy and has completed the rehab process following August surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow.
He’s thrown a series of bullpens this winter and will pick up intensity heading into spring training.
— Arden Zwelling (@ArdenZwelling) January 22, 2021
Blue Jays sign Kirby Yates: 2021 Fantasy Outlook
Obviously, the bone spurs are worrisome, and even though Yates is slated to make a full recovery following surgery in August, there is reason to worry. Pitchers are naturally more injury-prone than any other position in baseball, given the strain they put on themselves (particularly their arm) week-in and week-out.
Yates is no doubt an elite reliever when healthy. From 2017 to 2019, his strikeout rate did not dip below 36% and he never walked more than 8.2% of batters. That is an insane ratio and only got better as his SIERA improved each year during that span and did not touch 2.50 (an already elite number). His peak K:BB came in 2019 and Yates was drafted as an obvious top-75 player.
Unfortunately, baseball is not played in a vacuum. If I were drafting right now, my best bet would be to fade Yates completely in drafts and, if anything, take Jordan Romano much later; he is falling in drafts.
Romano is VERY talented and displayed that in 2020 before a finger strain required season-ending surgery. Romano’s injury may sound worrisome but it should not be. Romano’s 36.8% K rate and 8.8% BB rate is 2017 Yates-esque.
Even with Yates at full strength, there is a chance Romano snipes nearly double-digit saves with how the Blue Jays want to use their bullpen.
Yates himself needs to show us something in spring training to suggest he is back to 100%. Even then, can he stay 100% is the question? Will something else pop up as a result of him attempting to put less strain on his elbow? Will he be hesitant when pitching early on?
These are all questions that have to be asked when considering a pitcher like him in drafts. His Average Draft Position in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship is currently 195 and rising with the news of his signing. He went as high as pick 137 in my most recent draft, and that was with the Blue Jays news coming out midway through!
It is very possible he climbs to pick 100 or even above if someone’s desperate for a closer and loves his stuff.
Blue Jays Win Total Bet?
There will be plenty of deserved pessimism with the Blue Jays even with their recent additions of Springer and Kirby Yates. They have not won 90 games since 2015 and have been losers (below .500) since 2017.
At the moment, it is hard to find a bettable line for the Blue Jays, but assuming that it is going to be over .500 — say 83 or 84 wins (in a 162-game season) — there is reason to bet the over.
The market will not make this line egregious. Median outcomes are typically what is at play, and we want to project that the natural progression of the Jays’ young core along with their offseason additions will push them beyond average territory from their recent state of dismay.
The biggest anchor for this Toronto team is its starting pitching. They have a great No. 1 starter in Hyun Jin Ryu, but his past is riddled with health issues, and he’ll turn 34 years old during the 2021 MLB season.
Robbie Ray is just a project at this point. Nate Pearson‘s arm could fall off at any moment with how fast he throws. Plus, he wasn’t effective last year and has had trouble racking up strikeouts his last few go-arounds in the minors.
Tanner Roark is an innings eater at best. While Stripling is a bounce-back candidate, he endured an AWFUL 2020.
There are plenty of holes in this rotation, and outside of an outside addition or fluke improvements from multiple arms, it is hard to envision this team winning on the back of its starting pitching.
Luckily, the addition of Yates strengthens the back end of a bullpen containing quality pieces in Jordan Romano and Rafael Dolis. Tyler Chatwood could help as well in long relief.
If the line has the Blue Jays around .500 or slightly higher, smash that Over. If it is closer to the high-80s in wins, the Under or passing altogether ight be best. Toronto’s offense can only do so much.
Blue Jays AL East Division Win Bet?
Toronto stands at +450 to win their division according to BetMGM. While I do not believe that the Jays are the best team in the AL East, this bet is not the worst to make given that season-long injuries can take their toll on just about anybody.
The Tampa Bay and New York Yankees are better-constructed with their teams as a whole, but the Yankees have proven fragile, and the Rays just traded their ace Blake Snell and are cheap. Tampa has the farm system and developmental strength, but their team could end up with a World Series hangover.
The Blue Jays bet is not the strongest given that they have not won the division since 2015, but I’d take it over any of the other teams in this division. Stranger things have happened, and they are still looking to buy.
Blue Jays World Series Futures Bet?
BetMGM has the Blue Jays currently at +3000 to win the World Series.
While I believe that this team should outproduce their regular season win-total and perform nicely for fantasy purposes, there is no way I’d put money on them to win it all. They are arguably not a top-three team in their own division, and while there is longshot appeal with the number, it just is not worth throwing money onto unless you’re the most optimistic fan.
Maybe next year, though.
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