Blue Jays: You should be excited for the 2018 bullpen

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 31: Roberto Osuna
BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 31: Roberto Osuna /

The Toronto Blue Jays have been a mess for the majority if not all of the 2017 season. There have been some bright spots, but the injuries and underwhelming performances from key cogs have led to a disappointing season.

One of the few bright spots for the 2017 Blue Jays has been the middle relief to back end of the bullpen with the emergence of young arms like Dominic Leone, Ryan Tepera, and Danny Barnes. Let’s touch on the 5 guys who should pillar the 2018 bullpen.

This one may be a bit of a surprise to the Blue Jays fan base, but Loup has shown enough to warrant being brought back for the 2018 bullpen. Loup currently has posted a 0.5 fWAR, which is the highest total since 2013 when he posted a 0.7 fWAR. He’s been more valuable than people realize and has some pretty positive trends compared to the past few injury prone seasons.

Loup currently has a K/9 of 10.17 which would be the highest of his major league career. The past two seasons have seen Loup post home run totals of 1.28 and 1.26 HR/9. Loup has gotten that down to 0.70 which is just 0.02 above his career total of 0.68 HR/9. His groundball percentage has gone back up near his career totals as well.

The most disturbing trend for Loup is the 4.56 BB/9, which is well above the 2.67 career total. The only other trend that could work against him is the fact he can’t retire lefties at the rate he used too. However, in the AL East without any truly dominant left handed power hitters, that might be okay, as he retires right handers decently well. Loup has shown signs of getting back to the pitcher he was back in the early stages of his career, and I would give him a shot in the 2018 bullpen.

I’ll admit, it has taken an extremely long time for me to fully trust Dominic Leone as a legitimate arm in the bullpen, but he has finally earned my trust with a nifty 2.66 ERA, 2.95 FIP, and 1.4 fWAR.

Leone has had a really good MLB season once in his career already and that came back in 2014 with the Seattle Mariners, where he went 8-2, 9.50 K/9, 3.39 BB/9, and a 2.17 ERA. He has shown flashes of potential through his minor league career and the 2014 season with the Mariners.

After two tumultuous seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Leone is back to getting his career on track but has taken his game to the next level with a 10.21 K/9 and similar numbers to his 2014 season with the Mariners. Leone has been an unsung hero of the Blue Jays bullpen and will be a big part of it again next season.

Danny Barnes

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Danny Barnes came into the 2017 season with big expectations, especially from Fangraphs who thought he’d be a reliever that could post a 1.0+ fWAR. He hasn’t quite matched that so far but he was on that pace before a bit of a hiccup lately.

Barnes is on track to throw the highest inning total of his entire minor and major league career, so it is likely the Blue Jays either consider to shut him down or slow down his pace entirely since the rosters expanded. Regardless, Barnes has been effective with just below a 9.00 K/9 and an 80.2% LOB.

The home run ball has been a bit of an issue for Barnes with an 11.0 HR/FB% (1.39 HR/9). If Barnes gets that under control for next year, he will be an 8th inning arm with the next guy I will touch on, in Ryan Tepera.

A second 1.0+ fWAR reliever in Ryan Tepera exists in the Blue Jays bullpen and he has finally seemed to put it all together with an 8-1 record, 3.36 ERA, and 9.43 K/9. Tepera has always had the stuff to be a good MLB reliever but couldn’t quite put it together. A good majority of Blue Jays fans held that 4 pitch walk-off walk versus the San Francisco Giants over Tepera’s head when he made the team this year. He shut people up quickly.

Tepera has thrown 69.2 innings thus far in 2017, which is by far a career high as a reliever for him since converting from a starter in the Blue Jays minor league system. Tepera doesn’t get beat by the home run ball but the walks are still something he needs to get under control.

Tepera can throw multiple innings at a time or can come in a for a big out against an opposing hitter from either side of the plate. Tepera and Danny Barnes will likely man the 8th inning in 2018, which will make for a very good duo.

It has been a very odd season for Roberto Osuna. He started off quite rocky and then bounced back to be dominant through the midway point of the season. Osuna’s dominance earned him a spot on the AL all-star team.

Since the all-star game, Osuna continued to be dominant but quickly started to falter yet again. The struggles of Osuna is perplexing after being so dominant for the majority of the season. Osuna has blown 10 saves in 2017. Change that to only blowing 2-3, and the Blue Jays could be in striking distance of a playoff spot.

Despite the struggles, the constant tinkering on the mound, and the love for throwing his cutter, Osuna has still managed to post a 2.6 fWAR with an 11.59 K/9 and 1.37 BB/9. Osuna will bounce back. He can throw 98 MPH and has a devastating slurve. Those are all he needs to be effective and he needs to rely on it. If he does, he will continue to be elite.

Next: Blue Jays’ Richard Urena proving he belongs

The Blue Jays will have a very good bullpen in 2018 and it starts with these 5. With one big splash in free agency, an arm in the minors that rises to make the roster like Carlos Ramirez or Tim Mayza, the bullpen could be elite. You should be excited about the 2018 Blue Jays bullpen.