Blue Jays: MLBTR names Yosver Zulueta as a player to ‘take steps forward’ in 2023

Toronto Blue Jays Photo Day
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In his latest exclusive article for MLBTraderumors' Front Office (subscription required), Anthony Franco named one player on each American League team that he expects to “take steps forward” this season.

For the Toronto Blue Jays, that player is their No. 3 prospect, pitcher Yosver Zulueta.

While Zulueta has dealt with injuries and has yet to make his MLB debut on a 26-man roster loaded with established stars and/or savvy veterans, Franco recognizes the opportunities for middle relief and starting pitching depth in selecting him as a 2023 breakout candidate.

His Spring Training stats this year certainly don’t hurt: the Cuban righty has six strikeouts over four innings, allowing only two hits with three walks and no runs to go with a save on March 9th. And there is no question that the Blue Jays need better quality MLB starting and relief pitching depth.

As per Franco, “The 25-year-old Zulueta, who was added to the 40-man roster this offseason, could fit in either role. Baseball America slots him as Toronto’s #2 prospect, praising an upper-90s fastball and a wipeout slider. He struck out 33.9% of opposing hitters in 55 2/3 minor league innings last season, reaching Triple-A by year’s end. That came with an alarming 12.9% walk rate that might lead the team to break him in as a reliever. He could at least work multiple innings out of the ’pen and perhaps take the #5 rotation job from Yusei Kikuchi if he first better hones his control in Triple-A.”

Zulueta is on the 40-man roster after being added along with Addison Barger, Spencer Horwitz and Orelvis Martinez last November. He was already optioned to the Jays minor league camp on March 13th, and will likely begin the season building up his arm at Triple-A Buffalo.

He ranked No. 3 on the most recent MLB ranking of the top 30 Blue Jays prospects here where Sam Dykstra highlighted how he has the best velocity (upper-90s) and is “closest to the Majors of the organization’s top three prospects.” Dykstra also notes the potential the 25-year-old right-hander has as MLB pitching depth, with “numerous off-speed pitches that could help him be a starter”, or that “his stuff could be dynamite in a more limited relief look.” They also ranked him as the prospect with the best fastball in the Jays system, noting how “the heater flirts with triple-digits when healthy and has been in the 95-97 mph range in front of Statcast this spring.”

Baseball America (subscription required) ranks the Blue Jays farm system 17th in their updated 2023 preseason organization talent rankings, and lists Zulueta as the No. 2 prospect after lefty Ricky Tiedemann. They also note the potential for Zulueta's “power stuff and feel for sequencing” giving him him a chance to start, but that his “powerful fastball/slider combination [both with scouting grades of 60] gives him a fallback as a high-leverage reliever.” BA also notes that “Zulueta split 2022 between starting and relieving” and that “he has below-average control and may profile best as a reliever, but the Blue Jays say they were just managing his innings.”

No doubt Jays fans are excited to see his 96-97 mph heat as a starter and 100 mph flamethrowing as a reliever, along with his plus, mid-80s slider that features a foot of horizontal break. If he can continue to refine his control and stay healthy, who wouldn’t want that as a starter? Or they could break him in as a reliever alongside other flamethrowers like Nate Pearson, Tiedemann and Hagen Danner to create a lights-out bullpen for the postseason this fall alongside Jordan Romano, Yimi Garcia, Chad Green and Erik Swanson?

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