Toronto Blue Jays 2023 Season Preview: RHP Erik Swanson

Texas Rangers v Seattle Mariners
Texas Rangers v Seattle Mariners / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

Next up in our Toronto Blue Jays 2023 season preview series is right-handed pitcher Erik Swanson.


Addison BargerAnthony BassChris BassittBrandon BeltJosé BerríosBo Bichette, Cavan BiggioMatt ChapmanAdam CimberHagen DannerSantiago EspinalMatt GageYimi GarcíaKevin Gausman, Chad GreenVladimir Guerrero Jr.Thomas HatchSpencer Horwitz, Danny Jansen, Leo Jimenez, Kevin Kiermaier, Yusei Kikuchi, Alejandro Kirk, Otto Lopez, Nathan Lukes, Alek Manoah, Orelvis Martinez, Tim Mayza, Whit Merrifield, Nate Pearson, Zach Pop, Trevor Richards, Jordan Romano, Hyun Jin Ryu, George Springer

Before we get started, here's a quick refresher on the projection models we'll be looking at.

STEAMER65 G (0 starts), 3-3 record, 3.89 ERA, 68 SO, 18 BB in 65 innings pitched

ZiPS: 48 G (4 starts), 3-2 record, 3.76 ERA, 62 SO, 16 BB in 55 innings pitched

2022 stats (with Seattle): 57 G (1 starts), 3-2 record, 1.68 ERA, 70 SO, 10 BB in 53.2 innings pitched

Swanson had a breakout season for the Seattle Mariners in 2022, and the Blue Jays paid a premium to acquire him, giving up Teoscar Hernández in exchange for Swanson and a low-level prospect. This has set expectations high for Swanson in his first season in Toronto, but can he live up to them?

Swanson is not typically a guy that's talked about as one of baseball's other top relievers since 2022 was his first great year, and he only pitched 55 innings. Despite this, what Swanson showed last year were the signs of someone with elite potential. Not only were his 1.68 ERA and 0.913 WHIP both top-10 amongst relievers with at least 50 innings pitched, but his advanced numbers were even more encouraging. Here are some of his standout statcast metrics per baseball savant. Average exit velocity 98th percentile, hard hit percentage 96th, xERA, 97th percentile, xSLUG 94th, strikeout percentage 96th, chase rate 93rd, and almost all his other numbers are significantly above league average. Obviously, you can't just rely on advanced stats to judge a player, but they're an excellent way to project future success, and they're an area in which Swanson excels.

Outside of just the numbers, what type of pitcher is Swanson? He's got a three-pitch mix, consisting of a fourseamer, splitter, and slider, with the fastball being used about half the time and the other two about a quarter. His fastball doesn't have a ton of velocity, usually clocking in at 94, but it has quite a bit of movement for a fourseamer and is a very effective pitch. His splitter, while not on the level of Kevin Gausman's, is outstanding, and is his go-to put-away pitch. His slider is definitely his weakest, but it does its job to keep hitters honest. These 2022 highlights are perfect if you're looking to see what he has for yourself.

The Blue Jays had a pretty dynamic setup role last year with pitchers like Yimi García, Adam Cimber, and Anthony Bass all seeing notable time in the slot, and this is where we could end up seeing Swanson. Should he come out of the gates and start pitching like he did in 2022, expect him to become the team's top setup man, or even the team's closer should Romano ever be unavailable. That being said, he should be able to provide some diversity to the bullpen and be able to pitch in any situation. Relievers in new environments can struggle when they start off, so be patient should that happen. This isn't a guarantee that Swanson will be great in 2023, but there is plenty of reason to believe that by the end of the season, he'll be an integral piece of the Blue Jays' pitching staff.

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