Blue Jays: A War of Veterans for the Final Two Bullpen Spots

DUNEDIN, FL - FEBRUARY 27: John Axford
DUNEDIN, FL - FEBRUARY 27: John Axford /
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ANAHEIM, CA – SEPTEMBER 13: Tyler Clippard
ANAHEIM, CA – SEPTEMBER 13: Tyler Clippard /

Tyler Clippard

The newest signing of the Blue Jays, Clippard has a chance to prove in the second half of spring training that he deserves to be a major league reliever. He’s had a history of throughout his career, even if he hasn’t thrived in recent efforts.

Last year, splitting time between the New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox, and Houston Astros, the veteran righty pitched for a strong 60.1 IP with a 4.77 ERA and a 1.293 WHIP. Despite being a fly-ball pitcher, Clippard’s strikeout numbers were relatively strong with a 10.7 SO9.

Playing in small ballparks on all three teams, Clippard was a victim of the long ball last year—giving up 10 HR in 60.1 IP. However, when traded to Houston, he discovered some alterations he could make with his hands to improve his game. With only 14.0 IP in the lone star state, Clippard felt he didn’t have enough opportunity to make the changes necessary to improve his game.

If these changes are truly as game-changing as he believes, it is possible he can outperform his current projections. Currently, Clippard is projected similarly to Axford at 61.0 IP with a 4.28 ERA and 64 strike outs against 27 walks.

Even without mechanical changes, these numbers project well for a low-leverage reliever. His high IP could help relieve the load from the higher-leverage arms. If Clippard makes the team, which seems probable, he would be a valuable inning-eating arm in the bullpen. Something the 2017 Blue Jays never truly had in JP Howell and Jason Grilli.