The Toronto Blue Jays haven’t seen the Aaron Loup of old since 2014. Following a 2015 season gone wrong, the once-reliable left-hander has seen limited opportunities this season.
Granted, Loup hasn’t capitalized on the few he’s gotten. In six MLB innings across 10 games, he’s allowed four runs (6.00 ERA) and two deep flies. Even so, he’s still closer to the Blue Jays’ roster than many think.
With the release of Franklin Morales, Loup is a leading candidate to be the next reliever in line for duty as the bullpen’s second left-hander. Chad Girodo would follow in that equation, and could also earn a promotion when rosters expand on September 1st.
Loup’s season with the triple-A Buffalo Bisons has been a success story over a small sample of 15.1 innings. The 28-year-old holds an ERA of 1.17 over that time, and while he’s allowed more than one hit per inning (17), Loup has balanced that by striking out 20 batters.
Against left-handed batters, Loup has held them to a .208 average and struck out 11 of the 19 he’s faced.
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Much of Loup’s 2015 struggles could be attributed to an unexpected bump in velocity that negatively impacted his game, especially his slider, which shot from an average of 77.5 MPH to 80.8 MPH. In his six MLB innings this season, his velocity actually swung back in the other direction and rested below his career averages.
Working in Loup’s favour here will be a likely September audition when rosters expand. The Blue Jays’ six-man rotation does constrict their roster flexibility, but they are currently utilizing a full seven-pitcher bullpen and keeping just three positional players as reserves.
Loup is exactly the type of player that benefits from September expansions. Like a power bat or base-stealing threat, his (potential) ability to do one thing very well — retire left-handed hitters — could shine in the short look.
Looking forward to playoff rosters, two current members of the starting rotation will have a significant impact on Loup, or any other candidate for the seventh or eighth bullpen spots.
Francisco Liriano is the logical candidate to replace Aaron Sanchez should the young right-hander be moved back into the bullpen. If Sanchez remains a starter, however, Liriano’s velocity and fastball-slider combination could profile quite well in a playoff relief role. Beyond Liriano, R.A. Dickey‘s fate on the playoff roster, which brings Josh Thole along with it, will have an impact on Toronto’s flexibility.
The 2016 season has largely been “out of sight, out of mind” when it comes to Loup, but his name is not entirely off the table by any means. Among the September call-ups, he’ll be among a small group of those with the most to gain.