The Toronto Blue Jays are set to enter 2023 with a roster that’s deep with major league talent. An experienced group of veterans will be complimenting a talented young core, and together they compose a dynamic group of talented players who are well-positioned to make a return to October baseball. That being said, reinforcements will still need to be added. There will never be a season without injuries, and where there are injuries there are also opportunities.
These opportunities can be taken advantage of by the likes of experienced role players, as we saw last year with Raimel Tapia’s increased playing time during the injuries of Hernández, Springer, and Gurriel consecutively. While there are sure to be more experienced players playing the role of utilityman this season like Whit Merrifield or Santiago Espinal, there are also players due to start in the minor leagues capable of filling in these roles.
These are three of them that fans should know for the 2023 season.
The hard throwing Cuban righty known as “Zulu”, is coming off of a productive 2022 season in the minor leagues. He's currently ranked as the Jays fifth best prospect per MLB.com's latest rankings.
Throughout all four levels he produced an ERA of 3.72 over 55.2 innings, with nine of 21 appearances being in relief. His arsenal features a fastball that sat in the upper 90's that fared well, as well as a mid-80's slider. Zulu excelled in this relief role and produced a 13.6 K/9 over his time last year.
In theory, Zulu fits the bill of what the Jays are looking for in their bullpen: a hard-throwing, strikeout- inducing reliever. However, there is the obvious lack of experience. I expect Zulu to start the season in Buffalo, whether that be in their rotation or bullpen, and be on the shortlist of call ups should the Blue Jays have a reliever go down with injury. Zulueta will be a fun reliever to watch, and will no doubt be of value at some point in 2023.
Ranked as the Jays' 14th prospect by MLB.com, Barger was quite the story in the farm system this past season. An A-ball player, the Tampa native broke out and had a massive offensive season across three levels of the minor leagues. A .933 OPS and solid defense around the infield, all while being a left-handed hitter makes for an interesting player to watch come next season.
Barger is slated to start the season in Buffalo, and is sure to be an option should the Blue Jays need assistance in the infield during the season, assuming he’s continued to develop in AAA. Barger will be someone that fans should get to know, and quick, as the team may dip into their farm system to address the possible departure of Matt Chapman after next season.
While Barger was a riser this past season, none rose faster than Ricky Tiedemann. The young left-hander pitched to a 2.17 ERA across 78.2 innings in Low-A, High-A, and Double-A. Tiedemann produced a miniscule 0.864 WHIP, a 13.4 K/9, and a solid 3.3 BB/9 considering his strikeout ability. It’s expected that the 2021 second round pick will begin 2023 in the minors, but find the majors at some point in 2023.
What role this would be is the question, but something that fans should still be anticipating. Tiedemann is a legit arm who can get big league hitters out right now.
Now the Jays No. 1 prospect, the lefty works with a fastball in the mid 90s, a plus circle-change in the low 80s, and a wipeout slider. Whether his 2023 role is in the rotation or bullpen will most likely be a result of circumstance. Similar to Zulueta, an injury in the bullpen could result in Tiedemann getting the call, where he’d be a strikeout heavy, multi-inning reliever. Another scenario, if the Jays don’t make further additions to the rotation, and Yusei Kikuchi and Mitch White falter, Tiedemann could be asked to fill in.