Blue Jays 2024 Season Preview: Relief pitchers

How will the Jays bullpen be projected to fare in 2024?

Jun 12, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA;  Toronto Blue Jays pitchers walk to the bullpen
Jun 12, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Toronto Blue Jays pitchers walk to the bullpen / Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
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Yosver Zulueta

With many believing Jays Journal No. 14 prospect Yosver Zulueta had a legitimate shot at making his MLB debut last season, an inconsistent year in the minors put that idea to rest for the time being. In 2023, Zulueta struggled mightily with his control and command while pitching to a 4.08 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, with a staggering 45 walks to go along with 73 strikeouts in 64 innings with Buffalo. On the plus side, he showed some signs of turning things around in the latter half of the season when he posted a 2-2 record with a much-improved 2.53 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, with just 8 walks and 26 strikeouts in 21.1 innings pitched in his final 17 appearances.

Although Zulueta will get his chance this spring to fight for a potential Opening Day roster spot in the bullpen, all arrows points towards him starting the 2024 season once again with Buffalo. That way, he will be in a less stressful environment to fine-tune his control and command, along with building back up his confidence in getting hitters out with his filthy pitches. Once he makes the proper adjustments, a potential promotion to the big leagues isn’t out of the question later on in the year.

Bowden Francis

After spending almost all of his previous six seasons of his professional baseball career in the minor leagues, Bowden Francis finally got his chance to shine in the majors in 2023 when the Jays ran into some injury woes. Whenever he was called upon by the team, he certainly delivered with flying colours to say the least.

Pitching like a proven veteran while exuding confidence, Francis posted an impressive 1.73 ERA and 0.83 WHIP with 35 strikeouts in 36.1 innings pitched. He managed to record his first career win, save, and hold in the process while yielding runs in just six of his 20 appearances. Even in the minors, Francis compiled a solid 2.40 ERA and 1.17 WHIP over 10 games including 8 starts, proving that his excellence was no fluke at all levels.

However, despite such masterful performances at the major league level compared to some of his counterparts, it was quite baffling that he failed to stick permanently in the Jays’ bullpen throughout the season. He appeared more than ready to handle MLB hitters already, as any more time in the minors would seem to be a waste for his talent. Maybe because they somehow foresaw his 2024 ZiPS projections, which has his ERA climbing to 4.31, along with a walk rate ballooning from 1.98 to 3.18 per nine innings. To be honest, it’s hard to see such a huge regression occurring in Francis’ game, after seeing his dramatic growth and progression last season. So it will be up to Francis this spring to show that sometimes even statistical models can come out wrong in the end and convince management that he truly deserves a spot on their Opening Day roster.