The Toronto Blue Jays have had a rollercoaster of a season when it comes to their bullpen. While the relief corps had a solid start to the year, the last two months have seen them fall on hard times, outlining one of the weaknesses on the roster if the team wants to compete for a playoff spot come September.
Simply put, veteran arms like Tyler Chatwood and Rafael Dolis are struggling to get the job done and with Julian Merryweather on the injured list and David Phelps done for the year, the Blue Jays are struggling to get outs in the later innings of games. The bullpen currently sports a collective 4.09 ERA on the season, placing them 13th in the league.
One bright story to come out of the Blue Jays farm system and into the Blue Jays bullpen this season is southpaw Tayler Saucedo.
Blue Jays reliever Tayler Saucedo has been performing well in his rookie season, and with multiple arms down in AAA also having solid campaigns, could the Blue Jays bullpen woes be solved internally?
Drafted by the Jays in the 21st round of the 2015 MLB Draft, Saucedo made his major league debut earlier this season and has been pitching well since his call-up. Starting the season in AAA, the left-hander made his debut on June 17 and has appeared in 12 games so far, sporting a 1.64 ERA through 11.0 innings of work with 12 strikeouts. He has kept opposing batters out of the hit column with his .135 batting average and has also kept runners on base with his 0.73 WHIP.
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With a few relievers down in AAA finding success in the Bison’s bullpen (Hobie Harris, Bryan Baker, Kirby Snead, and Connor Overton to name a few), Saucedo is taking full advantage of the opportunity to pitch in the major leagues. Facing both left and right-handed batters, the Hawaii product has kept the lefties limited to zero hits while surrendering five hits, two earned runs, and one home run to right-handers.
In a day and age where pitchers have to face a minimum of three batters or finish the inning, it’s nice to see that Saucedo has the capability to pitch against batters who hit from both sides of the plate. He does have more success against left-handers when compared to righties but he’s not strictly a lefty specialist like former Blue Jay Aaron Loup.
To say that Saucedo has been a pleasant surprise is an understatement, especially since fellow southpaw Ryan Borucki missed considerable time on the injured list and left-handers Tim Mayza and Anthony Kay have had their fair share of ups and downs this season.
Although one can argue that the sample size is too small to fully judge Tayler Saucedo’s ability overall, one has to wonder if other pitchers down in Buffalo could succeed on the major league stage if given the same chance.
If the Blue Jays are serious about contending for the postseason this year, Ross Atkins will need to trade for a bonafide reliever or two before the deadline to help shore up some holes in the bullpen. It is just a given at this point.
Adding a Craig Kimbrel or Ian Kennedy type mixed in with a few hot pitchers from AAA could help push the Blue Jays towards the postseason, especially if said pitchers can replicate the same success in the big leagues.
There is an obvious risk in that the solid performances may not translate to the big leagues and there is the additional complication that the likes of Harris, Baker, and Overton require a spot on the 40-man roster.
However, if one or two of those pitchers can replicate the same success Saucedo found with the Blue Jays (so far), the bullpen could be improved internally as well as solidified with a few outside arms, complimenting a Blue Jays lineup that can drive in runs (with last nights game hopefully being an outlier) and forming a playoff-worthy roster for the 2021 postseason.