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Donaldson's upside great with Jays

Josh Donaldson has hit 53 homers the past two seasons despite playing in pitcher-friendly Oakland. Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports

In a season that, after the first five to eight players on the board, a few dozen (or so) names blend into a largely risk-reward pool, any trait that might boost such a player's stock represents a potential advantage.

This group already has been ranked according to, roughly, the order in which I'd draft them. But a mere rankings set can't specifically address injury risk or upside potential, and it mutes potentially bold calls. Such as this one:

Josh Donaldson is going to hit 35-plus home runs for the Toronto Blue Jays.

First, let's get to the draft-strategy angle: Don't pay for assumed certainty that Donaldson hits 35-plus homers. Pay for his probable projected stat line of a .265 batting average, 28-30 home runs and 6-8 stolen bases coupled with the distinct possibility that he's a smashing success who hits 35-plus homers in Toronto. That's why he placed just 43rd in those rankings, despite the fact that nine of the 12 players to reach the 35-homer plateau the past two seasons also finished among the top 30 overall on our Player Rater.

Donaldson is probably going to cost you roughly what he did last year, when he was a sixth-round pick (ADP: 55th) with a $15.30 AAV (average auction value). But there exists a scenario in which he gives you roughly what his new teammate, Jose Bautista, did last year, which ranked 13th best per our Player Rater, minus perhaps 25-30 points of batting average.

Bautista -- and fellow teammate Edwin Encarnacion -- share a critical trait with Donaldson: patience and a keen knowledge of the strike zone. Among 308 qualifiers from 2013-14 combined, consider their ranks in two key categories:

Bautista: 14.4 BB% (6th), 20.8 Chase% (27th)
Encarnacion: 12.4 BB% (22nd), 23.3 Chase% (64th)
Donaldson: 11.2 BB% (43rd), 23.2 Chase% (60th)
(Chase% is the percentage of swings at pitches outside the strike zone)

A key difference among the three was their frequency of swings and misses and K's; Donaldson struck out 2.6 percent more often than Bautista and 5.2 percent more often than Encarnacion and missed on 4.9 percent more of his swings than Bautista and 6.0 percent more than Encarnacion. That said, both Bautista and Encarnacion made significant strides in terms of plate discipline after joining the Blue Jays; it's therefore possible that Donaldson could grow in that department with his new team.

Though the Blue Jays have a new hitting coach, Brook Jacoby, who served in the same capacity for the Cincinnati Reds from 2007-13, their philosophy for the past half-decade hasn't significantly changed: They're a team that emphasizes hitters aggressively seeking "their pitch;" and even if they're a more situational squad than Dwayne Murphy's "grip-it-and-rip-it" teams of 2010-12, Donaldson possesses a combination of patience and power that has historically thrived in Toronto. Playing in a hitter-friendly ballpark such as like Rogers Centre -- it has graded as that in each of the past five seasons, to an extreme extent in three -- instead of the more pitching-friendly O.co Coliseum, will only help.

To the ballpark point, Donaldson's power could be an exceptional fit: Of his 63 home runs hit since he captured an everyday job with the Oakland Athletics on Aug. 14, 2012, 11 were hit directly down the left-field line (i.e. within five feet of the foul pole), 26 within 15 feet and 38 to left field (the left-most one-third of the field); those ranked sixth, eighth and 13th in baseball.

He's also particularly adept at hitting pitches on the inner third of the plate: He hit 31 of those 63 homers and had a .281 isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) on such offerings during that time span. Only two players in baseball did better in both categories: Miguel Cabrera ... and Donaldson's new teammate, Encarnacion.

That Donaldson also possesses few pitch-specific weaknesses -- the splitter is the only one against which he had consistently negative run value, per FanGraphs, during the past three seasons -- helps ease concern about possible adjustments to his hitting approach. If he attempts to capitalize upon Rogers Centre's favorable left-field fence measurements -- the distance to the foul pole is four feet shorter than the major league average and the height of the fence six inches shorter -- his bat possesses almost entirely upside, with little downside.

So if you miss out on more obvious 35-homer candidates such as Bautista or Encarnacion in Round 1, fret not. You might find yourself one heck of a sneaky one come Rounds 4-6 in Donaldson.