Blue Jays: Ample bullpen depth awaits in Buffalo

TORONTO, ON - JULY 2: Joe Biagini
TORONTO, ON - JULY 2: Joe Biagini /

With a bevy of veterans etching their names on the major league roster, there are many depth bullpen options that have been left to play out the beginning of the season in Triple-A Buffalo.

One of the most debated subjects among Blue Jays fans has been the composition of the bullpen. Several fans seem to be satisfied with the current army of veterans with the club, among them John Axford, Tyler Clippard and Seung-hwan Oh. Others, however, would like to look beyond the former closers and give some homegrown talent a chance.

On the Opening Day roster for the Buffalo Bisons, Carlos Ramirez, Joe Biagini and Al Alburquerque stand out as those who seem the most likely to make contributions to the big club this year.

Let’s start with Ramirez, the 26-year-old who originally signed on as an outfielder. His claim to fame was his outstanding 2017 campaign in Buffalo in which he threw 14.0 innings without allowing a single run. This stellar stretch led to his promotion to the bigs, in which he tossed 16.2 frames with a 2.70 ERA and 14 strikeouts. He’s young, athletic, and boasts an outstanding fastball that’ll surely serve him well if he eventually becomes a permanent Blue Jay.

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Joe Biagini is a baseball enigma if ever there was one. Picked up as a Rule 5 pick from San Francisco in 2015, the eclectic hurler tossed 67.2 fantastic innings out of the pen in 2016, pitching to a 3.06 ERA, serving primarily as a middle reliever in front of young closer Roberto Osuna. He struggled as a starter last year and is set to start this year in the upper minors.

The plan right now is to stretch him out and keep him as the sixth starter. He’ll presumably be waiting in the wings if the rotation stumbles or one of the five suffers an injury. Still, going from the rotation to the bullpen is a relatively simple transition, and Biagini can certainly pop in if the front office opts for a new face in the pen as the season progresses. His work ethic and unique personality cannot be understated, and he’s proved to be a resilient and dedicated member of the organization.

Finally, Al Alburquerque, the 31-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic, is quite possibly the most logical pitcher to step into the pen if need be. For his career, he’s pitched in 245 big league innings with a 3.16 ERA and a 1.314 WHIP for the Tigers, Angels, White Sox and Royals. This spring, he appeared in 9 games for the Jays, pitching to a 3.38 ERA striking out 12 in 8 innings of work. He has major league experience and would certainly fit right in amongst the journeymen already populating the Blue Jays pen.

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Even if the smorgasbord group of relievers ends up keeping it together, it’s nice to know that the Jays have some respectable relief options in Buffalo. As Jays fans know, relievers can be inconsistent, excellent one year and awful the next, further reinforcing the need for strong depth options.