Joe Biagini giving Blue Jays bullpen an unforeseen jolt
If you’d heard of Joe Biagini before the Toronto Blue Jays selected him in this past offseason’s Rule 5 Draft, you were either a San Francisco Giants fan, a family member, or someone with a lot of time on their hands.
Despite a strong 2015 season at double-A, Biagini was 25 years old and had never pitched above that level. His 2012 to 2014 seasons didn’t inspire much confidence, either, but in his 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame, the Blue Jays saw something.
In their wildest dreams, though, it couldn’t have been this.
Biagini got the nod from manager John Gibbons in the eighth inning last night with Torontno up 3-1 over the Houston Astros. With two runners in scoring position, Biagini forced AL MVP candidate Jose Altuve to fly out to right field before freezing Carlos Correa with a fastball that kissed the bottom edge of the strike zone.
With that, Biagini’s ERA fell to 2.27 on the season in 39 games. While he’s been able to give the Blue Jays two innings when needed, Wednesday’s trust showed that he’ll be continue to be considered for higher-leverage spots.
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One statistic that leaps off the page with Biagini is the zero that rests underneath his home runs allowed column. He’s faced 193 batters, but not one of them has taken the former double-A organizational depth pitcher deep. Much of this has to do with his impressive ground ball rate of 55.1%. Among American League relievers that have thrown 20.0 or more innings, that ranks 17th.
All of that has combined to give Biagini a 1.0 WAR by FanGraphs, the 14th-best in the AL and ahead of big names such as Craig Kimbrel and Wade Davis. All of this while opposing hitters have enjoyed a .321 BABIP against him, which could potentially come down in the final months of the season.
Biagini is either unaware of the pressure and the spotlight, or so hyper-aware of it that he doesn’t allow it to show. Behind the steady stream of “bashful new guy in town” interviews that provide an easy and recycled chuckle, Biagini is a legitimate major leaguer. He might even be a very good one.
The talk this offseason will likely focus around Biagini transitioning back into a starter’s role, something that his experience and body should both allow for. Next season’s rotation seems to be set with the starting five and perhaps Mike Bolsinger playing the role of this year’s Drew Hutchison, however, and with Toronto’s top pitching prospects due to reach the upper-minors, Biagini could allow the Blue Jays to be flexible in how they use him.
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