7. Duane Ward
Duane Ward was the ninth overall pick in the 1982 MLB draft by the Atlanta Braves. He was initially supposed to be a starter but once he started struggling in the minor leagues, the Blue Jays acquired him in exchange for Doyle Alexander. They traded a solid starter, but Alexander is not on this list, Ward is.
The Jays had transformed Ward into a reliever, a decision they were very pleased with. He became a dominant set-up man for closer Tom Henke. He was a guy who made a boatload of appearances, often going multiple innings at a time. He was used in different situations, sometimes in the middle of games and sometimes at the end. He even accumulated 23 saves in the 1991 season. That year he finished ninth in the American League Cy Young balloting. He recorded double-digit saves every season from 1988-1993 while throwing over 100 innings in each season as well.
Ward’s Achilles heel throughout his career was his inability to throw strikes consistently. He had great stuff, but could never seem to control it as well as he wanted to. He had a 9.3 K/9 in his career with the Jays which is excellent, but he walked 3.9/9 which is not good at all.
Even with the walks being an issue, his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark (0.4 HR/9 in his career) helped him be extremely successful.
Once Henke left in free agency after the 1992 season, Ward was promoted to the full-time closer role and ran with it. He recorded 45 saves which led the American League for the eventual World Series champs and is still the single-season record for the Jays.
In his nine-year Jays career, Ward ranks second in appearances, second in ERA, and second in saves. He’s one of the best relievers the Jays have ever had.