It's been an interesting season to date for the Blue Jays' bullpen. There've been enough storylines, to make it almost worthwhile giving the relievers their own reality TV show.
Adam Cimber has been shocking during his third year in Toronto, highlighted by his ERA skyrocketing from 2.80 to 7.40. He took paternity leave for the birth of his child, and now he's been placed on the 15-day injured listed and will be out for an undetermined period of time with a right shoulder impingement.
Zach Pop has similarly disappointed, so far producing a 6.59 ERA which is projected to be the worst of his four-year Major League career. He's been out since early May due to a strained hamstring, with his rehab struggles meaning he's not guaranteed a roster spot once he's healthy.
Mitch White has been a disappointment since arriving in a trade from the Los Angeles Dodgers. Originally tabbed as an option for the rotation, he's so far proved little better in the bullpen since returning from injury.
Additionally, Yimi Garcia has inspired little confidence despite being one of the more regularly used relievers. And all of this is without even getting into the whole Anthony Bass debacle, with him showing a penchant for poor decisions both on and off the field before he was ultimately released.
On the positive side
Now this doesn't mean it's all been bad in the reality world of Blue Jays relievers. The likes of Erik Swanson, Tim Myza and Jordan Romano have pitched well, while Nate Pearson's renaissance is the feelgood story of the season.
For the bullpen as a whole, they rank 13th in the Majors with a 3.87 ERA, 10th with a 1.25 in WHIP and tied-15th with a .239 batting averaging. (All statistics up to and including June 27.) In other words, it could be worse, but it could -- and really needs to be -- better.
Another thing which stands out is that the Blue Jays' relievers have combined to throw the fifth-fewest innings in the Majors. They can't continue to depend on this indefinitely and you have to wonder how they would cope collectively, if the workload increased.
With all of this in mind, you can argue that the Blue Jays need more quality depth in the bullpen. The question is, who do they turn to?
Step forward Junior Fernández
One player emerging as a potential candidate, is Junior Fernández. However, there will understandably be critics who do not agree with him as a possible option for promotion to the Blue Jays.
In this respect, Fernández's statistics this year during 26 appearances in Triple-A do not exactly stand out. In particular, as of June 27 he has a 4.26 ERA and 1.58 WHIP in 31.2 combined innings.
However, it should be noted that the 26-year-old has been pitching tremendously of late. As per the following tweet:
Experience in the Majors
With form like that, you can certainly understand why there those who suggest Fernández should be called up. Additionlly, he does have four years-worth of experience at the Major League level, albeit only totaling 50 appearances.
In this respect, the saying that statistics can be manipulated to support any argument has to be considered. Even as we attempt to objectively present information to let the reader make their own decision.
For example, a career Major League ERA of 5.17 ERA is subpar. On the positive side, Fernández did record a career-low 2.41 ERA in 16 appearances (18.2 combined innings) last year.
Admittedly, if you go deeper -- whether it be for his Major League career as a whole or just for last year -- the Dominican Republic native shows more flaws. Exhibits of this include his walk-rate and overall WHIP.
Worth the chance?
Regardless, Fernández still deserves to be given an opportunity. No matter how erratic his past form has been, it shouldn't nullify the fact he has been pitching extremely well of late in Buffalo.
In addition, the former St. Louis Cardinal has some potent pitches at his disposal. More specifically, last year he averaged just under 99 and 89 MPH on his sinker and slider respectively in the Majors.
One factor which could compromise any Blue Jays' decision, is that Fernández has no more Minor League options. In other words, they would have to make him available via a trade or waivers if it doesn't go to plan.
Overall though, the righty is an intriguing strong and physical specimen, with the potential to strengthen the Blue Jays bullpen. Whether he will fulfill that potential or ultimately waste his talent (and opportunity), remains to be seen.