Toronto Blue Jays Bullpen: What if They Stand Pat?
Here at Jays Journal, we’ve been tossing out names of potential bullpen options for the Toronto Blue Jays. We’ve looked at trade targets like Washington’s Tyler Clippard, we’ve also looked at several free agent possibilities from proven talent like Francisco Rodriguez (click HERE) to journeymen like Jose Veras, which can be found HERE. We also know that GM, Alex Anthopoulos is not done trying to address his bullpen concerns. And, he has 2 months to do it.
Next: Blue Jays Top Moments of 2014: the Double Header
But, I’ve been thinking: what if the Blue Jays end up standing pat with the bullpen they have now? I know, it’s not a comforting thought, but let’s take a look anyway.
The Locks for Spots:
Brett Cecil– By default, the Blue Jays would likely put the closer’s label on Cecil. Over the last 2-3 seasons, he’s been a bright spot in this up and down crew. Last season, Cecil put up 5 saves and 24 holds. His strike out rate of 12.83/9 is very impressive. Cecil only gave up 2 HR all of last year. His FIP was 2.34 and he was worth 1.2 WAR. His Steamer prediction has him picking up 28 saves next season.
Aaron Loup– Ideally, you wouldn’t have a set up man that throws from the left side when your closer does. But, Loup may be the best option to bridge the game to Cecil. Last season, he collected 4 saves and 13 holds. Loup allowed just 4 HR while fanning 7.34/9, getting 54.1% ground balls and leaving 76% of runners on base.
Marco Estrada– Estrada may be the first option as longman/ spot starter. For Milwaukee, he threw 150 innings last season, 18 of which were starts, to a 4.36 ERA with 7.59 K/9, 29 HR and just 44 walks. These numbers tell me the Blue Jays definitely picked up a guy who throws strikes; perhaps too many fat, juicy ones. But, with a healthy (knock on wood) rotation, Estrada will not be called upon as often. Perhaps this will work in his favor.
Chad Jenkins– Jenkins has found his home in the bullpen, which is good to see considering the number of times he was sent up and down over the last few years. In 21 games last season, Jenkins left 81% of runners on, he struck out just 5.12/9, but got 57% ground balls. He only gave up 2 HR in his 21 games, but his 28% fly ball rate might be concerning. Having said that, he limited damage and his ERA sat at 2.56.
Todd Redmond– After starting 14 games in 2013 to mixed results, the Blue Jays did not hand the ball to Redmond to start a single game last season. But, he did get in to 42 contests and put up a 3.24 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and a concerning 3.24 BB/9. He stranded nearly 73% of runners and had a groundball rate of 33%. Despite having a fly ball rate of over 48%, Redmond only gave up 5 HR. He should continue to be a dependable arm out of the bullpen and will contribute well. As long as he doesn’t have to start.
The Question Marks:
Steve Delabar– Yes, last year was bad. Yes, he was demoted AND looked over for a September call up. But, that was last year. Delabar says he is well rested and not dealing with little nagging issues that were not serious enough to hit the DL, but serious enough to have an impact on his performance. Perhaps this extra rest time will be enough to get Delabar back to his 2013 form. The Blue Jays would take something close to that. Steamer seems to think Delabar will bounce back. They have him getting in 40 innings, a 3.87 ERA with 9.25 K/9. Although, they are also not forgetting his inability to find the strikezone from last season and think he’ll walk 4.15/9.
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Kyle Drabek– Jays Journal’s Keegan Matheson has profiled Drabek for us already. Keegna points out that the time has never been better to compete for a big league bullpen job in Toronto. This may be Drabek’s chance. Working against him are his continued struggles. Even in AAA last season, Drabek gave up 2.7 BB/9 and 10.5 hits per 9 innings for a WHIP of nearly 1.5. this does not bode well. Drabek will have to have a very strong spring training to prove he should be given even a bullpen spot. Perhaps being out of options will provide him with a longer look.
Bobby Korecky– Korecky didn’t exactly have a good go of it in his 2014 taste of the big leagues. In just 3.1 innings, he gave up 4 hits and a walk. But, in winter ball, he is having much more success. In the Liga de Beisbol Dominicana, Korecky has a shiny 0.73 ERA in 10 games. In 12.1 innings, he’s whiffed 12 batters. It seems he’s picking up right where he left off the 2014 AAA season. There he went 5-3 with a 1.97 ERA and he held batters to a mere .199 average.
Knocking on the Door:
Daniel Norris– Norris is probably not even worth mentioning as a bullpen option. The Blue Jays see him as a starter, and an almost (if not already) big league ready one. Norris will likely be sent to AAA to continue his work as a starter. But, don’t rule out his appearance in the bullpen if things go awry.
Rob Rasmussen– Rasmussen made his debut last season and got into 10 games at the big league level. In 35 games at AAA, he had a K/9 rate of 9.2, a WHIP of 1.140 and walked 17. If he continues this type of production in 2015, he could see another call up.
Andrew Albers– The 29 year old Canadian pitched in Korea last year as a starter. He’ll likely be headed to AAA to continue in this capacity. Again, depending on need, he may see some time with the big league club.
Preston Guilmet-Like Rasmussen, Guilmet only got into 10 big league games last season, but put up respectable numbers in AAA in the Orioles organization. His 1.076 WHIP and 10.1 K/9 rate is pretty enticing. I could actually consider putting him higher on the list of bullpen depth.
There you have it. The question you have to ask yourself is this: Do you feel comfortable going into the season with this combination of guys in your bullpen?
If the starters can stay healthy and last into games as they should, it would mean a regular amount of work for this group. It is when they are asked to cover more innings than they should that the team has run into trouble in the past.
Given the state of things thus far this winter, even relief arms may cost more than the Blue Jays are comfortable with. They may have to ask themselves the same question I just posed. Is the current state of the bullpen enough?