Blue Jays lefty Tim Mayza an arm to watch closely in 2016

The Blue Jays 2013 12th round draft pick needed some patience, but the 2015 season set Tim Mayza up for a significant step up the ladder this summer

Sunday’s win against the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte saw the Blue Jays roll out some lesser-known names from their roster including Tim Mayza, a left-handed relief pitcher who has quietly set himself up very nicely for 2016 and beyond.

Mayza entered the game to pitch the eighth inning, allowing a lone single while striking out two and forcing a ground ball out.

The 2015 season saw Mayza’s perseverance tested once again after spending 2013 and 2014 in rookie and low-A ball with an inflated ERA. After opening 2015 with the Lansing Lugnuts, Mayza was sent to extended spring training after making just one appearance as the organization juggled rosters in the lower minors.

Understanding that this was a speed-bump, however, and not a roadblock, Mayza continued to work on his craft. Speaking earlier this month at the Jays spring complex in Dunedin, Mayza expressed confidence to me in his mechanics, saying that his extended spring work last year was focused more on controlling his location.

“Before, walks were kind of an issue,” Mayza said, “and as myconfidence was able to build I was able be more confident around the strike zone which eventually would help me when I went back to Lansing.”

When he landed back with the Lugnuts, Mayza hit the ground running. By season’s end, the now 24-year-old had thrown 55.2 innings in 26 appearances. His strikeout numbers were very encouraging with 10.0 K/9, but with 4.4 BB/9 there’s certainly room for a little added control. Mayza finished with a 3.07 ERA and an attractive ‘zero’ in the home runs allowed column.

Of those 26 appearances, all but one (a spot start) came out of the bullpen. Despite coming out of the Millersville University of Pennsylvania as a productive starter, he appears to be in line for more bullpen duty in 2016. Mayza, as team-oriented a professional as you’d want to find, says he’s just fine with that.

“There’s been some communication where I’ll probably be in the bullpen. Which I’m comfortable with,” he said.

With that role determined, the conversation shifts towards how the Blue Jays can maximize what they have in Mayza. Besides, as a mature left-handed arm with strikeout capabilities, he’s not exactly being buried by similarly-abled organizational depth.

I’ll have a close eye on Mayza’s fastball velocity throughout 2016. He can touch 95 MPH with the ability to creep just over that, and as a strong-bodied pitcher, it’s something he should be able to maintain. Perhaps even push a bit further.

“I think I stayed strong throughout [2015]”, Mayza said. “If anything, I felt stronger as the year went on, but I think that all has to do with the strength and conditioning program that’s in place right here that allows you to gain endurance and be strong throughout the course of the season.”

The development of his changeup could be a shot in the arm for his fastball, too, and it’s something that he has made a primary focus in his recent training. Along with a slider, his number-two pitch behind the fastball, Mayza could develop a much more complete arsenal with a serviceable change.

“I’ve been working on my changeup,” he said. “It’s kind of a work in progress, but just trying to add a third pitch to show hitters. So thats kind of been the focus and what I’m trying to continue improving on is changeup command.”

At this stage in his development arc Mayza is still a ways off, but if he shows further growth this season he could easily step into the upper-minors next season as a 25-year-old. Organizations have a little extra patience for high-strikeout lefties, so a few doors will be cracked open and waiting for Mayza.

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