That does not mean that we will be lacking in things to discuss heading into the season.
For instance, we have the inherent bullpen competition that will loom over Spring Training. It does not take an in depth examination of the team’s depth chart to realize that there are just too many chickens in the hen house.
With Toronto likely to carry an eleven-man pitching staff, that leaves the Blue Jays with six spots in the bullpen. We know for certain that Casey Janssen, Sergio Santos, Darren Oliver, and Steve Delabar are guaranteed four of those spots. That leaves two spots for five candidates.
We can narrow that list down a bit. We know that Brad Lincoln is likely headed to Triple-A Buffalo in order to be stretched out as starter depth. Considering Toronto’s struggles to keep starters healthy in 2012, having any amount of extra depth to fall back on is extremely beneficial to the club. Lincoln will likely be joined by Aaron Loup, who despite having enjoyed a solid rookie campaign with a 2.64 ERA over the course of 30.2 innings in 2012. Of course, Loup shares a common quality with Lincoln; they both have minor league options remaining.
We’re now down to three candidates for two spots; Esmil Rogers, Jeremy Jeffress, and Brett Cecil. All three players are out of minor league options and will either make the team when Spring Training breaks or will find themselves traded or on the waiver wire.
Cecil is likely to be guaranteed a role in 2013. He’s been underwhelming since his big season in 2010, but he has one saving grace; he can get lefties out. In 64 plates appearances against Cecil last season, left-handed hitters managed to hit just .214 against him with a .603 OPS. For his career, left-handers have touched him for a .657 OPS, compared to a .848 mark against right-handers. With Loup likely headed to Triple-A, Cecil becomes the lefty specialist in the pen.
That leaves an open competition in Spring Training between Rogers and Jeffress. The 25-year-old Jeffress has never been able to capture his promise and may be down to one final shot at the big leagues. In 38.2 career innings, Jeffress has posted a disappointing 4.89 ERA and an atrocious 7.0 BB/9 ratio. He’ll need to impress mightily in February and March to win this competition.
Rogers will have the upper hand, especially if he can build off of the second half he enjoyed in Cleveland last season. Before his trade from Colorado, Rogers was 0-2 with an 8.06 ERA in 25.2 innings. However, after his trade to Cleveland, he rebounded nicely, posting a 3.06 ERA in 53 innings with the Indians. Furthermore, he lowered his walks from 6.3/9 to 2.0/9, which helped him limit the damage against him. With a full year behind him after his transition to the bullpen, he could add another power arm to the Toronto bullpen.
Of course, this is only a likely scenario of how things work when the season opens. Having Loup and Lincoln available in the wings should something not work out as planned is just a bonus.
Tags: Toronto Blue Jays