Last year, the Jays sent three pitchers to the Arizona Fall League, starter Marc Rzepczynski and relievers Alan Farina and Matt Daly. Rzepczynski got the most attention in his six starts, allowing four earned runs in 31 innings.
The Jays opted to send only relievers this year, selecting 40-man roster members Chad Beck and Evan Crawford along with Wes Etheridge and Aaron Loup, who spent most of their 2011 campaigns with Hi-A Dunedin. While you can’t put much stock into AFL stats and their sample sizes are incredibly small, here’s a look at how the Jays’ pitching selections fared in this year’s edition of the Fall League.
Chad Beck | 2011 club: Double-A New Hampshire & Triple-A Las Vegas
Making his big league debut with the Jays when the rosters expanded in September, Beck returned to the bullpen after a disastrous, eight-start stint at Triple-A Las Vegas to toss 2.1 scoreless innings of relief, allowing one hit with three strikeouts. Acquired by the Jays in the deal that sent David Eckstein to Arizona in 2008, Beck has Pete Rose to thank for his call to the Majors, as it was the former Reds star that recommended him to Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos. The big bodied right-hander (6-4, 245 pounds to be exact) has a decent fastball and Anthopoulos feels he has some upside as a reliever.
So it made sense that the Jays sent Beck, who turns 27 in January, to the Arizona Fall League to get some extra reps. Unfortunately those reps consisted of a mere eight innings, where he allowed just two hits and one walk while striking out five. While it’s unclear as to why Beck capped his AFL stint at just five outings, it will be interesting to see whether or not he has a realistic shot at making the Jays’ bullpen out of Spring Training.
Evan Crawford: 2011 club: Double-A New Hampshire
The Jays must certainly like Crawford, since the 25-year-old was not only selected for the AFL after his solid season with Double-A New Hampshire, but was added to the 40-man roster earlier this month to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. The Florida native was tagged for five earned runs in his first five AFL innings, but went on to allow just one more in his final 12 frames, allowing just five hits over that span while striking out 11.
Wes Etheridge | 2011 clubs: Hi-A Dunedin & Double-A New Hampshire
Becoming the Dunedin Blue Jays’ franchise leader with 32 saves this season, Etheridge was promoted to Double-A New Hampshire after recording a 1.89 ERA in 47.2 innings of Hi-A work. Following 16 innings there, the Jays opted to send him to the AFL to get even more innings. Much like Beck, Etheridge appeared in just a handful of games; six to be exact. His five walks in 8.1 innings were unexpected, as he didn’t issue many free passes in 2011, including just seven in 46 games with Dunedin.
Etheridge, re-signed by the Jays on November 7, got some press back in June when Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun featured the right-hander’s story of previously quitting baseball after two seasons in the Brewers’ system to become a pastor.
Aaron Loup | 2011 club: Hi-A Dunedin
Perhaps the most unexpected pitching selection out of the group, Loup headed into Fall League action after an average season at Hi-A Dunedin. While he maintained nearly identical walk and strikeout rates against both lefties and righties, he allowed almost half as many hits against left-handers for a .218 average and .633 OPS against, compared to his .304 and .853 marks against right-handers, respectively. Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein further confirmed this earlier this month to JaysProspects, when he described Loup as a fringy, undersized lefty with a decent fastball/slider combination and that his arm angle makes it difficult for left-handers to pick up the ball against him. “He’s a potential reliever, but I don’t see him being anything more than a situational type,” Goldstein added.
Loup appeared in the most Fall League games among Jays pitching prospects, and his numbers were bloated by the five earned runs that he allowed in his first 3.2 innings. After that, though, Loup managed a 2.77 ERA in his final 10 games, striking out 13 while walking only two in 13 innings of work. Arizona Fall League stats are practically irrelevant, but Loup could be in store for a nice 2012 campaign likely at New Hampshire, especially if he’s used in a more situational role.