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Tale of the fantasy tape: Blue Jays vs. Orioles

Which AL East rival has superior fantasy assets?
MLB.com @FredZinkieMLB

With each club coming off a 2016 postseason appearance -- including a tense faceoff in the American League Wild Card Game -- the Blue Jays and the Orioles are likely the top contenders to prevent the Red Sox from repeating as AL East champions.

Before these rivals settle their competition on the field in 2017, we can get a head start on assessing them by comparing the fantasy value of their key players for the upcoming campaign.

With each club coming off a 2016 postseason appearance -- including a tense faceoff in the American League Wild Card Game -- the Blue Jays and the Orioles are likely the top contenders to prevent the Red Sox from repeating as AL East champions.

Before these rivals settle their competition on the field in 2017, we can get a head start on assessing them by comparing the fantasy value of their key players for the upcoming campaign.

• 2017 Fantasy Player Preview: Blue Jays | Orioles | Full rankings

Catcher: With a .235 average and 43 home runs across two seasons in Toronto, Russell Martin will enter 2017 as a low-upside late-round pick in one-catcher leagues. Martin has a slight edge over Welington Castillo, who possesses solid power but owns a lifetime .697 OPS vs. right-handers.

Winner: Blue Jays

Video: Outlook: Martin among most powerful backstops

First base: Chris Davis may be the most powerful hitter in baseball, having compiled a Major League-leading 164 home runs from 2013-16. Despite his inconsistency -- which stems from a lofty strikeout rate -- Davis holds a major advantage over Justin Smoak (lifetime .700 OPS).

Winner: Orioles

Video: Outlook: Davis connected for 38 long balls in 2016

Second base: Jonathan Schoop ripped 25 roundtrippers last season, but he could take a step back after logging a hard-hit rate of just 26.6 percent. Meanwhile, Devon Travis could struggle to live up to his lifetime .301 average if his career .354 BABIP tumbles. The Orioles hold a slight edge in a battle of regression candidates, as Travis has dealt with major injuries in each of the past two years.

Winner: Orioles

Shortstop: Even though he is far removed from his prime years with the Rockies, Troy Tulowitzki is still a solid mixed-league asset with the power to produce 25 homers and 80 RBIs. Tulo's fantasy value far exceeds that of J.J. Hardy, a lifetime .258 hitter who has recorded fewer than 10 home runs in each of the past three seasons.

Winner: Blue Jays

Video: Outlook: Tulo should remain above-average contributor

Third base: In possibly the closest battle any Tale of the Fantasy Tape has produced in 2017, Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado are deadlocked. Both players deserve late first-round consideration on the expectation that they will deliver more than 35 long balls each with triple-digit tallies in RBIs and runs scored.

Winner: Push

Video: Outlook: Donaldson will continue elite power numbers

Left field: Having posted a .267/.347/.493 slash line over the past three seasons, Steve Pearce could emerge as a mixed-league option if he cements himself as the Blue Jays' regular left fielder. Pearce's upside exceeds that of Hyun Soo Kim (.302 average, six homers in 2016), who is limited to AL-only usage thanks to a lack of power.

Winner: Blue Jays

Center field: With at least 25 homers and 82 RBIs in each of the past six seasons, Adam Jones holds a major advantage over Kevin Pillar. Toronto's light-hitting defensive whiz has plus speed, but he doesn't reach base enough (lifetime .303 OBP) to maximize the value of that skill.

Winner: Orioles

Video: Outlook: Jones continues to deliver power for Orioles

Right field: Although he will enter the 2017 campaign amid durability questions after playing fewer than 120 games in three of the past five seasons (116 in '16), Jose Bautista still possesses the patience and power that made him an early-round pick as recently as last year. Yet to log a 20-homer campaign in his career, Seth Smith lags well behind his right-field counterpart in fantasy value.

Winner: Blue Jays

Video: Outlook: Bautista still carries pop, even at age 36

Designated hitter: Now part of a team with a hitter-friendly home park, Kendrys Morales could produce a second straight 30-homer season -- especially if he repeats his stellar average fly-ball-distance mark from 2016 with the Royals (345 feet, per Statcast™). But it's unlikely Morales will be able to match the power production of Mark Trumbo, whose 47 homers led the Majors last season.

Winner: Orioles

Video: Outlook: Trumbo offers elite power for the Orioles

No. 1 starter: While the Blue Jays and O's each possess an up-and-coming young ace, neither hurler can be considered to headline a fantasy rotation yet. Aaron Sanchez paced the AL in ERA (3.00) last season, but he needs to improve his strikeout skills (7.5 K/9 rate in 2016) to join the upper echelon of fantasy starters. Though Kevin Gausman doesn't have that particular problem (8.7 K/9 rate in '16), he will likely have to overcome his homer woes (career 1.2 HR/9 rate) to make a leap. For now, this spot has no clear winner.

Winner: Push

Video: Outlook: Sanchez has skills to repeat '16 breakout

No. 2 starter: Having logged a 3.30 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP across two seasons with the Blue Jays, Marco Estrada has proven to be a shallow-league asset despite persistent home run problems (1.2 HR/9 over 2015-16). Although Chris Tillman has been a stable source of 30-plus starts for deep-league owners over the past four years (3.91 ERA, 1.28 WHIP from 2013-16), he cannot match Estrada's ability to keep the bases clean and limit runs.

Winner: Blue Jays

Video: Outlook: Estrada needs to limit homers next season

No. 3 starter: After recovering from an inconsistent start last season to record a 3.68 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 8.5 K/9 rate in the second half, Stroman will enter 2017 with breakout potential. The Blue Jays righty should be tabbed earlier in '17 drafts than Dylan Bundy, who pitched to mixed results in his first extended big league trial a year ago (4.02 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 8.5 K/9 rate) after his development was impeded by major injuries in the Minors.

Winner: Blue Jays

Video: Outlook: Stroman wants another dependable season

No. 4 starter: Although he is unlikely to repeat his 20-4 record and 3.18 ERA from 2016, J.A. Happ should be a mainstay in mixed-league rotations this season. In contrast, Ubaldo Jimenez should stay on waivers in almost all leagues after registering a 4.72 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP across three seasons in Baltimore.

Winner: Blue Jays

Video: Outlook: Happ looks to stay effective after great '16

No. 5 starter: In a battle of southpaws, Francisco Liriano -- who owns a lifetime 9.3 K/9 rate -- holds a notable edge over Wade Miley (5.37 ERA, 1.42 WHIP in 2016) after recovering from a disappointing stint with the Pirates last season to log a 2.92 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP with the Blue Jays.

Winner: Blue Jays

Video: Outlook: Liriano can flourish by lowering walk rate

Closer: Although 22-year-old Roberto Osuna has already proven to be a reliable fantasy closer (lifetime 2.63 ERA, 0.93 WHIP), he is not yet ready to match Zach Britton. Coming off a historically great 2016 season -- in which he posted the lowest ERA ever (0.54, minimum 50 innings) and converted all 47 of his save chances -- Baltimore's ground-ball machine is firmly entrenched among fantasy's best firemen.

Winner: Orioles

Video: Outlook: Britton looks to build off historic season

Setup Men: In Darren O'Day (lifetime 2.41 ERA, 1.02 WHIP) and Brad Brach (2.05 ERA, 1.04 WHIP in 2016), the O's have a pair of setup men with the skills to join deep mixed-league rosters. The Blue Jays cannot match Baltimore at this spot, as Jason Grilli and Joe Biagini are best left for AL-only usage.

Winner: Orioles

Video: Zinkie examines O's, Blue Jays key fantasy options

Final verdict: On the strength of a deep rotation, the Blue Jays win this Tale of the Fantasy Tape by a score of 8-6 (with two ties).

Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB.