The Toronto Blue Jays had two big decisions to make on the final day of spring training in Montreal. One was whether they would keep Ryan Goins or Melvin Upton Jr. The other was whether Mike Bolsinger or Ryan Tepera would be kept for the 7th and final bullpen spot. The Blue Jays went with Goins, and with Ryan Tepera, who is the focus of this piece.
The Blue Jays drafted Ryan Tepera in the 19th round in the 2009 draft where he was taken 580th overall. Tepera was actually drafted as a starter and after some mixed results he was moved to a relief role in 2014 with the Buffalo Bisons. Tepera was the closer for the Bisons in 2016 where he converted 18/20 save opportunities with a 2.95 ERA. It was a solid season for the right-hander, who opened up quite a few eyes in the organization with his stuff.
Unfortunately for Tepera, he wasn’t able to put his good stuff together in the bigs. He made his MLB debut in 2015 where he got into 32 games. He did ride the Toronto-Buffalo shuttle in 2015 but when he pitched, his 3.27 looked good but his FIP and xFIP show he may have gotten lucky. He finished the season with a -0.4 fWAR.
2016 was more of the same from Tepera in terms of riding the Toronto-Buffalo shuttle, but he did show improvement. A lot of Blue Jays fans took the nice little season from Tepera with a grain of salt, likely due to his 4 pitch walk that ended the game at the San Francisco Giants in mid-May. However, his 2.95 ERA and 3.69 FIP show he was effective when he was used in his 20 appearances.
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Through 13.2 innings in 2017, Tepera has a 5.93 ERA but ignore that number. The inflated ERA comes from a tough .1 innings against Baltimore where he allowed 4 earned runs on 3 hits and a second bad .1 innings at St. Louis allowing 3 earned runs where he walked 2. His FIP is much more indicative of how he’s thrown the ball at a nice 3.39.
Ryan Tepera features the following pitches in his arsenal with the average velocity listed beside:
- Fastball – 94.8
- Sinker – 94.7
- Slider – 85.8
- Changeup – 87.7
He features a good mix of pitches with good velocity, stuff that definitely plays in the majors for a reliever.
The issue Tepera has dealt with that has prevented him from taking the next step into becoming a bonafide MLB reliever is his command. In 2016, Tepera’s BB/9 was 3.93, nearly 4 walks per 9 innings. Through the small sample size of just 13.2 innings, his BB/9 is 3.29. Despite the walks, Tepera does not get beat by the home run ball and he does have the ability to roll up ground balls.
In Sunday’s ball game (April 30th) against the Tampa Bay Rays, Tepera was the hero for the Blue Jays. Aaron Sanchez had to come out of the ballgame after just 1.0 innings. Tepera came in and threw 3.1 scoreless innings for Sanchez. That was the longest relief outing of his career.
He has also pitched in 2 other big spots this season. On April 21st against the Los Angeles Angels, Tepera threw 3.0 scoreless innings in extra innings which allowed for the Blue Jays to win the ball game in the 11th. That was good for his first MLB win. He also recorded his first MLB save at the St. Louis Cardinals on April 25th.
It’s only 13.2 innings into Tepera’s season, but he has impressed, especially lately. It started with the Angels outing and has continued minus one hiccup at St. Louis. He features good stuff and velocity that plays well in the majors. If Tepera continues throwing well, he may begin to get some high-leverage situations later in the season.
It is clear that Ryan Tepera is close to cementing himself as an MLB reliever. His past few weeks have indicated that and one should expect that it continues. He’s finally putting it all together for the Blue Jays, who desperately need it with the start they’ve dug themselves into.