Internal Bullpen Options Available to the Blue Jays
May 5 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Steve Delabar (50) pitches against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The Blue Jays defeated the Phillies, 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Oh how the mighty have fallen. The right-handed flamethrower was a surprise bullpen saviour for the Blue Jays only two seasons ago, reaching the all-star game while striking out 82 batters over 58.2 innings during the course of the season. However, the career of a reliever is often characterized by peaks and valleys, and 2014 was certainly a low point for Delabar. After losing command of the strike zone, and watching his BB/9 rate soar to a 6.7 mark, he spent a large portion of his season with Triple-A Buffalo. There will surely still be a job waiting for Delabar in his home state of Kentucky at the high school he previously taught, but for now there is still plenty of hope that he can contribute in the major leagues this upcoming season.
When Delabar is in control of the strike zone he is an absolute strikeout machine. Since reaching the big leagues in 2011 he has averaged 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings, although that rate dropped to 7.4 last season. His velocity has began to drop a bit as he ages, but he still features an electric fastball that can top the mid 90s, a wipeout splitter that falls off the table in the mid to upper 80s, and a solid slider that he throws in the same range. He proved that those pitches can still be effective when he struck out 12.2 per 9 for the Bisons last season, but his walk rate remained high. Clearly, the amount of strikes Delabar can throw is closely tied to his ability to succeed at the big league level.
If Delabar can regain command of his above-average arsenal he could be in line for a comeback campaign next season. His Steamer projection certainly seems to agree, as they have him posting a 3.84 ERA over 40 innings. Even if he can return to being a replacement level player, he would be an improvement on what Dustin McGowan provided the club last season. Of course there is always the chance that Delabar has lost his all-star ability and will never be the same, but he has another pre-arbitration season left to prove his worth before the club has to decide whether or not to tender him a contract for the 2016 season. Let’s hope he makes it count.