Blue Jays 2015 Year End Awards: Rookie of the Year


The next prize in the Jays Journal 2015 Year End Awards is being awarded for Rookie of the Year. Webster’s Dictionary defines “Rookie” as “recruit” or “novice.” Very concise, Webster’s. Also incorrect in regards to the choices in this crop as there were some quality candidates this year that contributed to the success of the Blue Jays with skills beyond mere novices. Most of the names for consideration didn’t come with the sort of fanfare that accompanied Aaron Sanchez or Mississauga-native Dalton Pompey through their rises to the big leagues, but they performed just as well, if not better. The candidates are:

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With such a wide variety of candidates, it would seem to be a difficult task to come to a consensus choice on which one had the greatest direct impact on the Blue Jays 2015 season. Yet again, the Jays Journal writing staff voted in lock step to which recruit rose above the rank and file to become a key contributor. It wasn’t someone who improved the team by being traded, and it wasn’t someone was a September call-up. It was someone who played with the poise of someone ten years older, and solidified a shaky position…

2015 Blue Jays Rookie of the Year: Roberto Osuna

Oct 19, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Roberto Osuna (54) reacts after defeating the Kansas City Royals in game three of the ALCS at Rogers Centre. Toronto won 11-8. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

Apologies to Devon Travis. Were it not for the two stints on the disabled list, this contest would have been more of a, well, contest. As it were though, given the full season to display his talents, Osuna was the clear choice to take home this honor. Having pitched his way onto the Blue Jays Opening Day roster alongside fellow 20-year-old Miguel Castro, initial expectations for Osuna were tempered, and it showed in the way John Gibbons used him out of the pen in the first month of the season. He was another guy, someone who could come in for one or two innings if needed and not let the game spiral out of control.

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As Castro quickly proved he needed more seasoning, Osuna stayed as he continued to impress. In his first two months of major league service, he gave up but five earned runs, and more impressively for his age, only seven walks. As his ERA stubbornly refused to rise above 2.00, Gibbons took notice. When Brett Cecil‘s goggles grew foggy and he had trouble closing games down, it was Osuna who was tapped to take over and start slamming doors.

First asked to close out the Blue Jays’ 8-5 over Tampa Bay on June 22nd, Osuna pitched two innings. He walked one batter, but struck out five on just 33 pitches. That was the first converted save opportunity in a string of 16 straight immediately after inheriting the role. Osuna would finish the season with 20 saves, a 2.56 ERA and 75 strikeouts over 69.2 innings.

He was impressive in the post-season as well. The youngest player in Major League Baseball was called upon during the most pressure packed time in the sport and in the first playoff series in 22 years, he was perfect against the Rangers. He pitched 6.2 scoreless innings, the last 1.2 coming in the clinching game. Of those five outs, four were via punchout, including former MVP Josh Hamilton and Jays-killer Mike Napoli. Unfortunately, he couldn’t keep the Royals in check, going down as the losing pitcher in the final game of the season when Lorenzo Cain hopped on his moped and scored from first on a single.  However, he handled that with poise as well, facing the media after that game and not offering any excuses to the reporters looking for them. His last appearance of the season ended with him saying, “I’m always going to remember this.

Next: Who Did Jays Journal Name the 2015 MVP?

Jays Journal staff are going to remember Osuna for what he did this season. As Sam Bruce wrote when casting his vote, “[Osuna] provided stabilization in a bullpen that drastically needed help. His success too, allowed us to avoid needing to trade for a closer at Deadline. He was more than able to handle his own, and finding a Closer who can come in the Eighth and still shut down the ninth is a rarity.” As the interim GM with amazing job security Tony La Cava debates whether or not to move Osuna along with Aaron Sanchez into the rotation, his calling might be to be abandon that path and follow another Central American pitcher in abandoning the inning eating path at a young age.

After all, no one thinks less of Mariano Rivera just because he could only throw one or two innings at a time. It’s early in the career, but there’s no reason to believe Osuna can’t walk down that path and nail down a role that the Blue Jays have had such a hard time filling. Or he could be the next Billy Koch. Osuna’s makeup suggests the former, but it’s in the best interest of the Blue Jays to let him grow into that role and find out. After all, his career is just beginning.