Toronto Blue Jays 2017 projections from Steamer and ZiPS
The Blue Jays’ bullpen is anything but settled at this point in the off-season. Perhaps that’s a non-story that will soon be set straight by a handful of small moves, or perhaps the Blue Jays enter the spring with 8-to-10 pitchers competing openly for 2-to-3 jobs.
Steamer and ZiPS projections will help to frame what is expected from the likeliest bullpen arms — for better or for worse.
READ HERE for the Blue Jays’ starting rotation projections (including some notes on projection systems as a whole, for those of you unfamiliar with their nature and actual value).
RHP Roberto Osuna
Steamer: 65 IP, 10.2 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 – 3.42 ERA, 0.9 WAR
ZiPS: 71.2 IP, 10.4 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 – 3.01 ERA, 1.4 WAR
ZiPS is a little more optimistic when it comes to Osuna, but the young Mexican right-hander may have already spoiled fans to the point where an ERA beginning with ‘3’ would be a disappointment. Granted, 21-year-old closers entering their third season aren’t exactly common. One of Osuna’s most underrated attributes, which these projections highlight (especially ZiPS), is his excellent control as he’s walked just 30 batters in 143.2 MLB innings.
RHP Jason Grilli
Steamer: 65 IP, 10.2 K/9, 3.6 BB/9 – 3.83 ERA, 0.4 WAR
ZiPS: 41.2 IP, 11.6 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 – 3.70 ERA, 0.3 WAR
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Both projections see a slight step back in strikeout totals — understandable given his age and the usual conservative nature of these systems — but 10.2 and 11.6 K/9 are still perfectly fine. The biggest gap comes in innings pitched, though health is difficult to project. After landing in Toronto last season, Grilli posted a 3.64 ERA, and on a $3 million salary, anything in that neighbourhood is comfortable value for Toronto.
RHP Joe Biagini
Steamer: 73 IP, 7.1 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 – 4.09 ERA, 0.4 WAR
ZiPS: 66.2 IP, 8.5 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 – 3.78 ERA, 0.5 WAR
Biagini’s role in 2017 makes predictions difficult, and it’s important to note that games played or innings pitched projections are most useful when used as an added conversation piece instead of a hard forecast. Steamer projects that Biagini gets three starts in 2017, and even if he opens as a bullpen arm, that’s still very possible. Especially considering the option years he has remaining if he needs to be stretched out in triple-A Buffalo. The challenge for Biagini will be to maintain his mid-90s velocity if and when that happens. In his most successful year as a starter — 2015 at the double-A level — Biagini struck out just 5.8 batters per nine while relying more on control.
RHP Danny Barnes
Steamer: 55 IP, 9.1 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 – 3.66 ERA, 0.6 WAR
ZiPS: 66.1 IP, 10.6 K/9, 2.0 BB/93.5 – 3.53 ERA, 0.7 WAR
After making his MLB debut in 2016 with just 13.2 innings, Barnes is already the projections darling of the 2017 bullpen. ZiPS is especially high on Barnes, who posted an amazing 0.73 ERA over 61.1 innings between double-A and triple-A last season. He struck out 11.3 batters per nine and walked just 0.9 on average during that time. If there is any reliever that could step up and right the ship in the bullpen, it might be Barnes.
RHP Ryan Tepera
Steamer: 45 IP, 8.6 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 – 3.91 ERA, 0.3 WAR
ZiPS: 61 IP, 8.9 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 – 3.98 ERA, 0.3 WAR
Would the Blue Jays not be pleased with these numbers in a near-full time role next season? Tepera has ridden the bus back and forth to Buffalo, but in 51.1 MLB innings over two seasons has a 3.16 ERA. High-leverage situations likely won’t be his to claim, but as a fourth or fifth right-hander, it’s looking likely that he’ll have a better shot than he has before.
LHP Aaron Loup
Steamer: 40 IP, 8.3 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 – 3.51 ERA, 0.3 WAR
ZiPS: 48 IP, 8.8 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 – 3.94 ERA, 0.2 WAR
Similarly to Tepera, this is likely production that the Blue Jays would be happy to take from Loup, whose success will greatly impact the construction of the bullpen. He’s lost his way on the mound over the past two years, adding velocity that hasn’t aided his results, but a return to his 2012-2014 form would give the Blue Jays exactly what they need. If used in a purely situational role, perhaps a little more value can be squeezed out.
RHP Glenn Sparkman
Steamer: 35 IP, 8.0 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 – 3.93 ERA, 0.2 WAR
Sparkman was not a member of the Blue Jays when Toronto’s ZiPS were released on November 30th, but we’ll include him here to round out the group as Steamer projects him to earn a role in some capacity. In an uncertain logjam of quadruple-A relievers, Sparkman’s Rule 5 designation might just earn him one. Sparkman’s control will be his greatest asset early on. Even after returning from Tommy John surgery, his strikeout-to-walk ratio last year in the minors was excellent. He’ll be given every opportunity to stick, even though the ‘Biagini Bar’ might be a little high.