Blue Jays should look at these under the radar relief trade options

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Mar 14, 2014; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Christian Friedrich (53) pitches against the San Francisco Giants in the fourth inning at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Christian Friedrich

The former first rounder in 2008, drafted 25th overall, pitched well in the low minors, registering strong numbers and a high strikeout rate as a starter, but he’s struggled to see that transition to higher levels and into the major leagues.

He received 16 starts in 2012 for the Rockies, and like many starters in Colorado, he struggled to put up strong numbers, and secure a rotation spot for himself. Poor performance and an ailing back limited him to four AAA starts in 2013, and 2014 saw more struggles as a starter.

But in August of last season, Friedrich was moved into the pen and he finally saw success at the major league level. The numbers he posted aren’t at all good at a first glance – 5.94 ERA, 4.00 FIP through a measly 24.1 IP – but it’s his numbers solely from the bullpen that give a glance at what he’s capable of.

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Albeit a very small sample size out of the pen, Friedrich put up a 1.64 ERA while striking out 13 and walking only two through 11 IP. The strong ERA was supported by an even better FIP of 1.59, and a strong xFIP of 2.37. There’s no questioning his numbers are likely to rise with a bigger sample size, but there’s no doubt his stuff played up while pitching in short stints.

He all but abandoned his sinker and change after his first three appearances of the year, which were starts, and predominantly went with his four-seam and slider in his relief outings. In doing so, his velocity increased and his whiff percentage climbed, especially with his slider.

In his relief outings, he notched a swinging strike percentage of 20.7%, which could very well regress with more innings, but to put that in perspective, that number led all relievers with at least 10 IP, ahead of Aroldis Chapman who posted a 20.0% SwStr%. Dominant closers Craig Kimbrel and Greg Holland registered SwStr%’s of 16.6% and 15.0% respectively.

Of course, it’s not a rarity to see a pitchers stuff and numbers receive a sizable boost after moving to the pen; however, it’s definitely encouraging to see, and he could be a buy low option with the potential to be an asset out of the bullpen.

A fellow top prospect and first round draft pick in 2008, although much higher at 4th overall, Brian Matusz has also seen plenty of success after moving to the bullpen, and can act as a comparison for what Friedrich could accomplish.

Matusz saw success in his rookie year in 2010, finishing fifth in the AL ROY voting with a 4.05 FIP, but followed that up with a 7.66 FIP (10.69 ERA… yikes) through 12 starts in 2011. After struggling again in 2012, he was moved to the pen. Since that move, his K% has moved from 17.6% to 25.4%, his BB% has moved from 8.7% to 7.5%, and his FIP has been a tidy 3.28 in 116 IP.

It’s no guarantee that Friedrich will be able to have success like Matusz has, but the encouraging results last year, and the increase in effectiveness of his stuff gives the potential for him to be an impact reliever.

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