Blue Jays’ bullpen has a solid core

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 13: Carlos Ramirez
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 13: Carlos Ramirez /

After a horrendous start to the 2017 season the bullpen found the key role players. These pieces fell into place on what could be a strength for the 2018 Toronto Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays may be heading in this offseason thinking they need to add to their bullpen. The current core of the bullpen is solid home grown talent, and Roberto Osuna headlines the group with his electric stuff. Osuna burst onto the scene in 2015 when he made the team out of Spring Training and never looked back. The exciting 22 year old already has 95 saves in his first three years. He has also struck out a ridiculous 240 batters in 207.2 innings, while walking just 39. This is an insane level of play for a player so young.

Around Osuna things improved over the 2017 season as some solid players stepped up to fill roles that were meant for J.P. Howell, Joe Smith, and other veteran relievers. Ryan Tepera, Danny Barnes, and Dominic Leone really found their strides and carved their way into major contributors. They each found a way to cement a spot in the Toronto pen.

Ryan Tepera was a great Minor League pitcher that never really got a full audition at the Major League level. He did get plenty of innings since his debut in 2015, but did not get high leverage chances like he did in the minors. This past season he proved that he can handle the pressure and get out of the tough situations. He allowed just a .205 opposing batting average with a 1.13 WHIP in 77.2 innings in 2017. I would say he has figured out how to get MLB hitters out at this point.

Dominic Leone got some innings in the Majors with the Seattle Mariners and the Arizona Diamondbacks, but had trouble finding consistency after a great debut. In his first season with the Blue Jays not only did he win a job, he thrived. He ate up 70.1 frames this past season after only having 27 inning with the D-backs in 2016. He struck out 81 batters and owned a stellar 2.56 ERA. This kind of production would be welcomed in any big league bullpen.

Danny Barnes was another breakout performer in the 2017 bullpen. He had only pitched13.2 innings in the 2016 season, and allowed fourteen hits with six earned runs. He then got a shot in 2017 after having a solid Spring Training. He rewarded the Blue Jays by showing off his talents and throwing 66 innings during the campaign. He became a reliable arm for John Gibbons who used him to bridge the gap to Osuna in closing out games. Barnes’ solid stuff helped him post a nice 3.55 ERA with just a 1.09 WHIP.

Now that the Jays have a solid core, the youngsters are ready to jump into the fold. We saw this push at the end of the season and there is some exciting talent that will be pushing for jobs this spring. Tim Mayza, Carlos Ramirez, and Matt Dermody are on the cusp and looking to impress the big league club. They all had some decent auditions in 2017 and are looking to build on that.

Tim Mayza has crazy movement on his pitches and got a chance to baffle some Major League hitters. The issue Mayza had was with translating that movement into missed bats at the MLB level. He either struck out the batter or allowed big runs. In 17 innings he struck out 27 batters, but the big lefty allowed 13 earned runs. In the Minors he threw 52.2 innings and allowed a 3.25 ERA. The talent is there and he will be looking to show that off come when players report to Florida.

Matt Dermody is another lefty the Jays are hoping turns the corner. He has had success in the Minors but struggled to keep things together consistently in his 22.1 innings. He had his ups and downs but pounded the strike zone in his outings. He walked just five batters while striking out 15. He was hurt by the long ball consistently as he allowed six bombs in his extended audition. If he can get some more hitters to chase his pitches the big fly will not hurt him as much. Hopefully he finds that in camp and can run into the season with that refined approach.

Carlos Ramirez could be the next Roberto Osuna if he follows the trend he started this past season. The hard throwing righty did not allow an earned run during his Minor League season. That was 37.2 innings of shutout baseball. He continued that streak through his first five outings with the Blue Jays as well. He would end up allowing five runs in his 16.2 innings in the Majors. That is good for a 2.70 ERA with a 0.54 WHIP. Many are looking forward to having a live arm like his to form a door slamming tandem with Osuna in the 8th and 9th inning. He has the talent to become a special arm in the Jays’ pen.

Next: Blue Jays plans should come to light soon

The solid core the Jays have established would obviously benefit from another solid arm. The bullpen might be just fine if Osuna and company are joined by the lefty pair of Mayza, Dermody, and the power arm of Ramirez. A spot of weakness has developed into a strength for the Toronto Blue Jays.