The Toronto Blue Jays have kicked their bullpen competition into full swing through the early weeks of spring, with Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup perhaps the only two with a fully guaranteed spot on the roster. Among the long list of names that the Blue Jays are awaiting someone to emerge from is Chad Jenkins.
In a similar way that Steve Delabar‘s performance could help to shape the entire identity of the Jays bullpen, so could that of Jenkins. The 2009 first round pick has made six separate appearances with the big club over the past two seasons, burning a trail between Toronto and Buffalo. If Jenkins were to step up into a legitimate 7th inning option, he could solidify his spot on the 25-man roster, but failing to do so will again put him in limbo.
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Todd Redmond and Marco Estrada are already in place as multi-inning options out of the bullpen, and unlike many of the pitchers competing for a roster spot, Jenkins can be moved freely between the Blue Jays and Buffalo Bisons throughout 2015. Alex Anthopoulos has shown a hesitancy in the past to unnecessarily expose players to waivers as the season opens, which could stack the deck against Jenkins.
For his part this spring, Jenkins has allowed 5 earned runs in 4 innings of work. This is a microscopic sample size, but of course does little to improve his chances. In 97.0 innings spread across three Major League seasons, Jenkins has walked just 2.1 batters per nine innings, but his 4.5 K/9 has often kept him pigeonholed as a long-man.
Jenkins has rebooted the process of adding a cutter to his arsenal in hopes of improving against left-handed hitters, who have fared noticeably better against him. With Jenkins relying heavily on a sinker that he compliments with a slider and changeup which lack a significant difference in velocity, the cutter would be an important addition.
Past the names already mentioned, Jenkins will be battling Wilton Lopez, Miguel Castro, Colt Hynes, Jeff Francis, Rob Rasmussen and several others. While his flexibility is valuable to the Blue Jays, it could be working against him individually if the Jays decide to favor players who are out of options.
At this point, I feel it’s necessary to keep Chad Jenkins with the MLB roster out of spring training and give him the benefit of stability. The Blue Jays drafted him ahead of Mike Trout for a reason, right? He pitched very well in 2014 for the Jays, and the opportunity to spend more time on his craft and less time commuting between Toronto and Buffalo could help him to step up to his potential this season. Finally.