As if the bullpen situation wasn’t going to be tough enough to decipher, the Silent Assassin struck again, acquiring Frank Francisco from the Rangers for Mike Napoli. Now I have heard some people saying that Francisco is redundant, as there are about 7 hard throwing righties for the bullpen vying for 5 or 6 spots. That being said, I am going to attempt to tackle the daunting task of figuring out this bullpen. There seems to be really only four actual left handed options for the pen, if you include Rzepczynski. Seeing as I have him starting the season in the rotation, there is no need to include him here.
As for lefties, there is David Purcey, who showed last year he can be a fairly effective reliever, even earning some higher leverage innings towards the end of the season. He gets a fair amount of strikeouts; since becoming a reliever, his K rate is 8.47/9IP. He still walks too many guys (around 4/9IP), and may have been a bit lucky in 2010, judged by his .247 BABIP and paltry 29% ground ball rate.
Jesse Carlson, who appeared to be pretty good in 2008 after going 7-2 with a 2.25 ERA in 60 innings, is another option. Although both lefties and righties have hit for a similar average against him, righties have a much higher slugging percentage against him. He could be a real viable option as a LOOGY.
Jo Jo Reyes came over in the trade that brought Yunel Escobar to the Jays, and he is out of options. I believe if he were designated for assignment, another team would surely pick him up. Although his numbers with the Braves left something to be desired, he did a pretty good job when he came over in the trade, and I believe Anthopolous sees some real tangible skill here.
Wil Ledezma is a guy just recently picked up on waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates. What AA sees in a castoff from the worst franchise in baseball, I am not sure. But I also remember another castoff from that organization that the Jays grabbed for a player to be named later (that ended up being Robinson Diaz), so maybe the Jays strike gold again. He is another LOOGY, but when I look at his career stats, I see that he is actually slightly worse against lefties than righties. Then again, he isn’t even good against either.
Mike Hinckley was drafted by the Expos in the 3rd round of the 2001 MLB draft, so maybe that’s why AA7 would bring him to camp. He was ranked in the top 100 of Baseball America’s top prospect list from 2003-2005, peaking at 29 in 2005. He doesn’t get a ton of strikeouts in the minors, and he walks too many guys, but maybe working with Walton and Hentgen will allow him to harness all that potential.
Sean Henn is also invited to camp, and in parts of five seasons in the big leagues, he has an ERA of 7.56. He doesn’t get many ground balls and doesn’t strike many guys out. He will not make the squad.
I think the only lock out of all these guys is Purcey. Carlson and Reyes make it depending on how many guys, if any, are traded, as well as how many lefties they end up going with.
For righties, I will start with Jon Rauch, and not just because he is the tallest player in MLB history. Rauch stands at 6’11, and that is just huge. He has neck tattoos, and has a past of having a great intro. I have said a number of times that I really think that he will be a fan favourite in Toronto. He has had a fairly decent stretch the last four years, with his FIP neatly under 4, and even getting under 3 last year. However, if you take last year out of the equation, he gave up over a homerun per 9 innings. This was probably due to his HR/FB being less than half of his career averages.
Shawn Camp has been a guy in the last few years who has been put in higher leverage situations and given more innings. He is a groundball machine, averaging over 55% in his 7 seasons in the big leagues. Since joining the Jays, his ERA has gone from 4.12 in 2008 to 2.99 in 2010. However, these numbers are misleading, as his FIP has actually risen from 3.21 to 4.16 in that time. He has always had a pretty good sinker to induce groundballs, and a decent slider to go with, but has added a changeup he throws about 30% of the time. That being said, he is a strike thrower and gets ground balls, which is great for him to be a middle reliever this year.
Octavio Dotel, or Octavi-bro Bro-tel, as @DaBrettuation, a fake twitter account for Brett Lawrie calls him, comes over this year, and I was not impressed when he signed. If this had been the 2001-2002 Dotel, I would be ecstatic. Between those two seasons, he had 263 K in 202 IP, good for an 11.7 K/9. He also only gave up 51 earned runs, with a tidy 2.27 ERA. Video game numbers. In 2010 he had a 4.10 ERA and 4.20 FIP. His HR/9 was 1.27, and walked a batter every 2 innings pitched. He still maintained a 10.55 K/9, but his numbers are pretty pedestrian. A lot has been said about his lefty-righty splits, and I won’t quite go into it. All you need to know is he doesn’t strike many lefties out, he walks a ton of lefties, and lefty’s average against was .292, while righties hit only .162. Basically, he sucks against lefties.
Frank Francisco, my personal choice as the closer to start the year. This is due to the fact that his FIP is pretty similar to batters on either side of the plate. He walks lefties at a higher clip, but they hit at a much lower rate. He strikes out hitters at a rate over 10/9IP. The last 2 years he has kept his walk rates below 3.10, and his WAR has been between 1 and 1.5 the last 3 years, so he has a chance to really improve on that by racking up a full season of saves.
Jason Frasor was just recently signed to a contract after accepting arbitration following a season in which he was granted Type A status in free agency. His contract includes an option year, so it didn’t break AA7’s decision to only offer multiyear deals after his imposed deadline on arbitration eligible players. To be honest, I used to hate Frasor. HATE. There was just something about a 5’10” righty throwing 95mph I can’t stand. That, and it seemed that any time he was put in a tough situation, he wilted. Sometime in the middle of 2009 my opinion changed. Frasor as a fastball-slider guy was merely average, or slightly above, if you look at his WAR values. Then I saw his splitfinger-changeup hybrid, also known as a fosh ball, which was invented in the 80’s by Mike Boddicker. It looked pretty dirty, and he now throws it about 15% of the time, as opposed to throwing a changeup around 3% of the time early in his career.
Casey Janssen is another guy who has been with the Jays for some time now. He throws 5 pitches, 4 of them over 10% of the time. For a reliever, this seems a little much, considering only one of them has a positive value over his career. His fastball has average value over his career, although it has gained velocity and the value has improved. He is another pitcher in the pen who gets a lot of groundballs and his strikeout to walk ratio was 3:1 last year. He is in a dogfight for one of the final spots left on the roster.
Dustin McGowan is one of my favourite guys with the Jays. His trademark sideburns and goggles have made a big fan of me. That, and his absolutely electric arm when he is healthy. He had top of the rotation stuff, but has never been able to stay really healthy. I think that he could become a bullpen guy if he ever does become healthy again, and he could be a very valuable guy. I am guessing he will start the season on the DL. When he is healthy, the Jays brass will have a huge decision to make. I hope they don’t cut him loose too early like they did with Chris Carpenter.
Another power arm that gets ground balls? Sure, why not. Josh Roenicke has yet to display the types of numbers envisioned of him after his first few years in the minors. While he strikes out almost 10/9IP, he also has walked over 5 per 9IP in his short major league career. In the minors, his BB rate is only 3.8, so if he can come closer to that number, he could be pretty successful. He gets about half of his outs via groundballs, and just over a third by strikeouts, which means he keeps the ball on the ground and is able to get quick outs. He averages almost 94 on his fastball, but his cutter is his go to pitch.
Carlos Villanueva doesn’t throw particularly hard, he averages around 89 on his fastball, but his slider and curveball both rate as positive value, and his money pitch is his changeup. In 2010, he threw four pitchers between 20-30% of the time. He pitches backwards, working off of his off-speed pitches to make his fastball appear better, however he has a negative value in his fastball. His numbers don’t vary too much from LHB to RHB, but he does strike out lefties at almost double the rate. His numbers aren’t bad, but with a bullpen stocked with RHP in the tough AL East, I don’t think he quite makes the cut.
Brought in on a minor league deal with an invite to spring training, Chad Cordero comes in as another former closer looking to head north with the Jays. He had 113 saves from 2005-2007 with decent peripheral stats. He didn’t walk many, nor did he strike out a ton of guys. He also didn’t get many ground balls and gave up too many homeruns. He doesn’t throw hard and doesn’t seem to have a positive value in a secondary pitch. Just looking at his numbers, he was incredibly lucky in 2004 and 2005, with a BABIP of .218 and .230, respectively. His career ERA is 2.89, but FIP is 4.05, which proves how lucky he was. I am pretty shocked to see all of this, as I thought he could be a viable option, but realistically I see him as a AAA/depth guy at this point.
Alan Farina had a pretty ridiculous 2010 for a minor leaguer. He threw 65 innings including the Arizona Fall League, but halfway through the year, he got called up to AA New Hampshire from high A Dunedin. Between the two, he had 74 strikeouts and 20 walks in 55 2/3 innings. He didn’t give up a homerun, and only gave up 8 earned runs. He gave up 25 hits. 25 hits in almost 56 innings!!! According to jaysjournal.com , he pitches in the 91-95mph range, with his best pitch being his slider. I don’t necessarily think he is going to make it, but he is someone to look out for in the future, either as trade bait, as other Jays prospect relievers have gone, such as Tim Collins, Danny Farquhar, and Trystan Magnuson, or as a bullpen arm to look for in 2012 and beyond.
So, barring a trade or any other moves, (and who really knows with the Silent Assassin at the helm) the 2011 Toronto Blue Jays bullpen could look something like this:
Closer: Frank Francisco
Setup: Jon Rauch
Setup: David Purcey
Middle Relief: Shawn Camp
Middle Relief: Jason Frasor
Middle Relief: Octavio Dotel
Long Relief: Casey Janssen
Now, I realize that because of this, Jo-Jo Reyes will be exposed to waivers, and maybe a team will take a flier on him, or maybe Anthopolous swings a deal in which we get something back for him. McGowan will likely start the year on the DL, and when he proves he is truly healthy, I think he can be a really good option for the bullpen by the end of the year. Carlson will be the first lefty called up, and if he can continue to show improvements in his control, Josh Roenicke could be a contributor this year.