Realist – Sam Bruce
Roberto Osuna’s dropped velocity and troubling spring performance are definitely one for the Jays and fans to watch, but nothing to panic over just yet. Osuna posted an ERA of 54.00 during the WBC with 5 runs given up (4 earned) to go along with rough spring outings (all of his spring runs were unearned), which is definitely a far cry from the ace closer we have become accustomed to. Osuna looked like his old self on Wednesday, though the radar gun was ‘not functioning’. It looks like we’ll have to wait until Montreal to really dive into his numbers.
Yet even if Osuna’s velocity is down again this weekend, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Osuna emerged onto the major league scene as an absolute force to be reckoned with. Since then the 9th has firmly been his, with little doubt of the outcome.
Even if Osuna struggles at the beginning of the season, it’s only natural for a young hurler to face some setbacks. Osuna hasn’t really had a setback in his professional career; he has had a Tommy John surgery in the past, but his major league performance hasn’t indicated that so far.
Take, for example, Marcus Stroman who demonstrated the qualities of an ace in 2014 and 2015, yet struggled mightily through the first half of 2016. This setback has not changed his potential of staff ace, just forced him to work harder.
The same can be true of Osuna. If he has indeed lost some velocity off his fastball, it doesn’t mean he’s doomed to mediocrity. Rather, it means the 22-year-old has time to make the adjustments needed to re-invent himself as another form of a dominant reliever.
However, it’s more likely that this dip in velocity is merely a blip on the radar and that Osuna is just working himself back up to mid-season form after some mild neck stiffness. Sure, this velocity loss could be permanent and Osuna will have to rework himself as a pitcher, but the most likely scenario is that media and fans are over-evaluating the situation at hand.
Unless the Jays are hiding crucial medical information, dismissing two years of outstanding pitching with a few outings in March is unreasonable. Yes, Osuna’s velocity is something to monitor for the first few games of the season, but expect him to be the hard-throwing, shut-down closer he was in 2015 and 2016.