Aaron Loup pitched just 14.1 innings with the Blue Jays in 2016, leaving his future role with the team further in question
The 2016 season was optimistically viewed as a bounce-back opportunity for Aaron Loup’. The Blue Jays left-hander took a significant hit to his value with a 4.46 ERA and ballooned home run rate in 2015, but an early injury quickly derailed his spring earlier this year.
Loup hit the Blue Jays’ disabled list on opening day with soreness in his left elbow and experienced a setback soon after his recovery began. His first appearance was a rehab stint in mid-May.
With the triple-A Buffalo Bisons, Loup was everything the Blue Jays could have asked for. Over 19.2 innings pitched, Loup held a 1.83 ERA and struck out 26 batters. He only issued three walks, as well, and held triple-A lefties to a .188 average.
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Loup’s velocity also normalized, with his fastball velocity dropping back down to 91.1 MPH at the Major League Level (PITCHf/x Data). This fits in with his career averages — especially his successful seasons from 2012 to 2014 — and is an improvement on the outlier of 93.2 MPH in 2015. For Loup, greater velocity does not necessarily equal greater results.
His slider followed the same theme, averaging 75.7 MPH in 2016. After averaging just over 77.0 MPH from 2012 to 2014, it also spiked in 2015 to 80.8 MPH and was hit very hard. With a full and healthy offseason, Loup can enter 2017 spring training as close to “normal” as he’s been on the mound in two years.
The Blue Jays were not particularly deep in terms of southpaw relievers, so Loup’s injury and struggles at the MLB level (5.02 ERA) were especially pronounced.
Without Loup, the Blue Jays scooped up Franklin Morales just prior to the season. Morales never did pan out, and the Blue Jays cycled through Ryan Tepera (RHP), Pat Venditte, Chad Girodo, and Matt Dermody from the left side.
Loup does not need to be a dynamic, all-around reliever for the Blue Jays, but he does need to be more effective against left-handed hitters to give manager John Gibbons a reliable specialist. Even after the difficult seasons, he’s held left-handed hitters to a career .574 OPS.
The Blue Jays and Loup will be facing arbitration again and MLBTR projects him to earn $1.2 million. Relatively speaking, that’s small change for the Blue Jays if they believe he can provide any level of contribution next season.
With Brett Cecil headed to free agency, Loup is the only Blue Jays lefty on the current roster who has enjoyed MLB-level success. With his arbitration years still ahead, 2017 should be a make-or-break year for Loup in Toronto
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