It’s decision time fort he Toronto Blue Jays. The club is expected to announce their 25-man playoff roster sometime tomorrow, but now that the Texas Rangers have emerged from the fog as their round one opponent, the unique landscape of their roster will play a role in the selection of Toronto’s bottom spots. Aaron Loup could be the main benefactor.
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Loup’s 2015 season, as we all know, has been a widespread disappointment. Manager John Gibbons continued to go back to the well with Loup regardless, which in some ways is understandable given his track record of success in seasons prior. His eventual demotion to AAA Buffalo led to a readjustment of his mechanics, especially his plus slider, which I broke down here last week. Even since his return, it hasn’t been smooth.
With Mark Buehrle officially off the playoff roster, Loup has been in an assumed competition with Ryan Tepera and Bo Schultz for the 7th spot in Toronto’s bullpen. None are truly a must-roster option, but with the left-handed bats in the Texas lineup, Loup is beginning to look like one. A necessary evil, if you will.
Slugger Prince Fielder has posted a 2015 OPS of .724 against left-handed pitching compared to .923 against right-handers, while Mitch Moreland sports a .681 compare to a .876. That’s something the Blue Jays will be aware of, and it’s something that can’t be ignored. Especially late in the game.
Shin-Soo Choo also has splits to favour Loup (.708 OPS vs LHP, .917 vs. RHP), and Will Venable can be grouped in as well (.377 vs. LHP, .710 vs RHP). Rougned Odor and Josh Hamilton offer fairly even splits from the left side.
The issue with Loup, as it has been all season long, is which version of him the Blue Jays will be getting. His career slash line versus left-handed hitters is fantastic, sitting now at .206 / .272 / .283, allowing just two home runs over 351 plate appearances against. This season has flipped the script, however, with that line moving to .275 / .342 / .362. He’s also hit six of the 77 batters he’s faced from the left side, something that won’t fly in a one-and-done situational role this October.
Still, Loup’s greatest friend may be the lack of greater options. Brett Cecil is almost too valuable to be used as the primary left-hander, and will be needed to move between high-leverage matchups whenever they arise.
This could be a situation where Loup is rostered for the ALDS, but put on thin ice for his potential spot on the ALCS 25-man dependent on opponent. Keep in mind that Loup’s poor performance has been matched by horrible batted-ball luck in 2015, so call me crazy, but if Loup does make the cut, I’ve got the strangest feeling that he could be that unexpected playoff stud every roster needs. Besides, he’s due.