Toronto Blue Jays 2016 season preview: Aaron Loup


Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Loup should be going into spring training with an eye on a rebound season following an ultimately disappointing 2015

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Since breaking in to the big leagues in 2012, left-handed reliever Aaron Loup has been a consistent arm out of the ‘pen, with his ability to get left-handed batters out with ease. But following his first bump in the road this past year, Loup will be a player to watch in spring training as John Gibbons will need him to perform in a bullpen lacking on lefties.

2015 Performance Recap

Coming in to 2015 Aaron Loup had posted three straight years of great numbers out of the bullpen. Pitching a high number of innings out of the pen (138 innings between 2013 and 2014), Loup consistently had a low ERA to go with low opponent batting averages.

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But in 2015, that all changed. Loup’s ERA ballooned up to 4.46 (3.15 had been his previous career worst), and he suddenly became extremely homer prone (posting a 20.7% HR/FB despite his career average of 10.1%).

While the ball seemed to sail out of the yard with Loup on the mound, the underlying numbers seemed to remain true to his career norms. All across the board, including GB% and FB%, the numbers seemed to line up for him to have another great year. But home runs, along with an extremely high BABIP of .339, led to Loup’s season unravelling (we even saw him pitch a handful of innings in the minors when things were really low.

2016 Role and Steamer Projections

While there are a few lower tier options for lefties out of the pen in spring training, beyond Loup, the only established major league arm is Brett Cecil. So look for Loup to be able to grab a spot on Opening Day, withholding a complete implosion this spring.

Just as his peripheral numbers seem to point to a rebound year, so do the Steamer projections for 2016. With a projected ERA of 3.24, Loup is estimated to return to a pitching level that will be not only more in line with how he has performed so far in his career, but will return him to being an arm that John Gibbons can trust coming out of the pen when he needs one most.

What Could Go Wrong?

As it seems, it was often luck (or bad luck, rather) that caused the failures Loup encountered in his fourth big league season. And in my eyes (and the eyes of many I’ve talked to) it will take another case of bad luck to keep Loup from bouncing back to the Aaron Loup we grew to trust.

It is also very possible that hitters in the league have simply figured him out after two and half years of struggling against him. If so, Loup will have to find a way to adjust, or suffer the same results he ran into in 2015.

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What Could Go Right?

The way I see it, it won’t take much going right for Loup to have the bounce-back year many expect from him.

If he comes into Spring Training with the right mindset and trusts his stuff to do what it has always done (2015 excluded), Aaron Loup should have every chance to be the second lefty in the Blue Jays bullpen. And despite the bad ERA, Loup somehow managed to post career highs in K/9 and BB/9 (9.78 and 1.49 respectively).

So look for Loup to come back with the increased ability to strike batters out, as well as reel in the walks, and return to becoming one of the better lefty relievers in the American League.

The Bottom Line

Aaron Loup should have plenty of chances this spring to grab a spot on the roster. With limited competition and a history of performing for the Blue Jays, it seems the stars have aligned for Loup to return to being the Loup we saw in his first three big league seasons.