Friday, January 29, 2010

Speculating the Pitching Staff II, The Bullpen Chronicles

To follow up yesterday's post, I don't think McGowan will be ready to break with the team come April.  Or, more accurately, even if he is ready the Jays will be cautious with him and start him on the DL and let him rehab through the minors.  He's been gone too long with injury, I think, for the Jays to put him in the fire right off the bat.  As far as pure speculation goes, if the Jays did decide he was ready I would think they'd have Brett Cecil start in the minors rather than Rzepczynski.

The Bullpen:
I'm going to do the bullpen post a bit differently, seeing as there are a lot more players who can potentially start the year as part of the pen.  I'll begin with the locks, then list the candidates for the remaining positions, then give my predictions.

The Locks:
Toronto Blue Jays vs Detroit Tigers.CL: RHP Jason Frasor
I have been a Frasor fan for longer than most people would admit.  The diminutive fireballer now has three plus pitches in his repertoire: a 94 MPH fastball, a nice slider, and his new-and-improved changeup.  The changeup allowed Frasor to break out in a big way last season, taking over the closing duties for a third time in his career but performing much much better with this opportunity then with the others.

SU: LHP Scott Downs
Scott Downs is a player you can get behind.  I enjoy the quirks and rituals of the ballplayers I follow, and Downs' routine of writing his children's initials on the mound before starting his performance helps remind us that players are people too.  There's not much that needs to be said about Downs, anyone following the Jays for the last three years knows that he is good.  The only reason I do not have him listed as closer is that I expect Cito to want more flexibility in when he plays his best lefty.  This would actually make a lot of sense, in my opinion, though I don't expect Cito to pull it off properly.

MR: LHP Jesse Carlson
Carlson had a fantastic 2008 and a modest 2009, but one could point to his overuse as the reason for the latter.  I don't think Carlson is as good as his '08 numbers, but I also don't think there's any chance that Cito would not have him in his pen.  If Frasor and Downs stay healthy, Carlson will hopefully not be abused quite as much this season.

LR: LHP Brian Tallet
Brian Tallet was not particularly good in 2009.  He walked too many batters, gave up too many home runs, and had a GB/FB rate of below one for the first time in seven seasons.  All Brian Tallet did was what was asked of him, and for that reason alone he will land a spot in the bullpen.  When the starting rotation came down with injuries, Tallet stepped in and gave it his all.  Cito is a loyal man (as evidenced by his crusade for Delgado) and will reward Tallet for his service.  Also note that Tallet is out of options and would probably be snatched up should the Jays attempt to send him to the minors.  No, I think we'll see Tallet all season long.  He is definitely a useful piece, and I feel that his numbers will improve going back to the pen full-time.

The Candidates:
Well, we've listed four locks in a seven man bullpen.  So we have three spots left to fill and a whole slew of candidates to fill them.  I have to figure that only one of them will be filled by a southpaw, so we're looking at at least two right handed relievers for the last three spots.  I will list out the candidates quickly.  This is taken from the Jays' 40-man roster and non-roster invite list, and will include a guess as to whether they have options left or not (correct me if I'm wrong).  Players on minor-league contracts cannot be lost if they don't make the major league roster.

RHP Jeremy Accardo (yes options), RHP Casey Janssen (yes), RHP Dirk "The Garfoose" Hayhurst (yes), RHP Josh Roenicke (yes), RHP Shawn Camp (yes), LHP Sean Henn (yes?), RHP Merkin Valdez (?), RHP Zechry Zinicola (rule 5), RHP Scott Richmond (yes), RHP Shawn "Not-From-Mississauga" Hill (minor-league contract), LHP Zach Jackson (mlc), RHP Lance Broadway (mlc), LHP Willie Collazo (mlc), RHP Steven Register (mlc).

By my reckoning, pretty much all of the listed players can be sent to the minors, which surprised me.  I did not list a few of the in-system Jays pitchers who will be at spring training, such as Farquhar, because I think the Jays want to keep them on a developmental path, but we could see them sometime this year.  I also did not list David Purcey, who could be moved to the pen but I think the Jays will want to keep him as a starter for the time being.

The Predictions:
Note that this is not who I would put in my bullpen, but merely who I predict the Jays will take north with the team.

MR: RHP Zechry Zinicola
This has nothing to do with Zinicola's qualifications and entirely to do with his status as a Rule 5 draftee.  For those who don't know, the Blue Jays picked him up from the Nationals for $50,000 in the Rule 5 draft, and if at any time in the season he is sent down to the minors the Jays will have to offer him back to the Nats for $25,000.  So if he does not make the team, it's essentially a waste of twenty-five thousand dollars.  That's not to say he is without some qualification.  His 7.56 ERA looks horrible last season in AAA, but he had a great strikeout ratio, a good walk ratio, and kept the ball in the park.  Zinicola was victimized by a high BABIP of .417 and an abnormally low left-on-base percentage (52.5%).  Both of those numbers are typically considered outside the pitcher's control and more of a factor of bad luck than anything so that high ERA is misleading.  I don't know how long he will last, but I predict he will break with the team.

SU: RHP Josh Roenicke
Roenicke, picked up from the Reds in the Scott Rolen deal, is supposed to have a very gifted arm.  All you hear about the guy is that he's supposed to be groomed as a closer in the future, so it should be unsurprising when he makes the team.  I suspect he will be getting a lot of chances in the late-innings, so I gave him the set-up label.  I really don't know what to make of the guy, personally.

Kansas City Royals Photo DayLR: RHP Shawn Camp
This is the toughest spot to fill, as there are a lot of good candidates.  I ended up picking Camp because Cito is loyal to his players and I think the coach is fond of Camp.  Add in the fact that he's capable of going multiple innings, which is a quality the Jays will  need more without Halladay, and I think Camp is their guy.

Runner's Up: 
These are the players that will get the call sooner or later, in order of predicted precedence:
1. Accardo - For the sake of the ego, also because he has had good success in the past.
2. Janssen - Similar to Accardo in the past success.  The Jays will want to see what they have with Janssen sooner or later.
3. Richmond - For the Cito loyalty effect, primarily.  If he's used similar to how Tallet was last season then he has a lot of value.
4. Hayhurst - It was hard for me to list him so low, because I really do like the quirky Dirk.  I hope he'll spend most of the season with the major league team.
5. Zach Jackson - He could be called up quickly if one of the major league southpaws comes down with an injury.
6. Shawn Hill - I think we will see Hill on the mound sometime this season, but he's still recovering from his latest surgery and I would not expect to see him until midseason.

Sorry that this post went a little long, but there are a lot of viable candidates for the bullpen to go over.  So my prediction for the opening day roster is: Frasor, Downs, Roenicke, Carlson, Zinicola, Tallet, and Camp.  I don't predict that this will be the bullpen at the start of May though.


  1. Jayson Stark of ESPN mentions (, ~2/3 way down) that the Jays are shopping Frasor and Downs. Which makes sense in that, as you can see, the Jays have a ton of potential relievers.

    That said, Downs and Frasor are both Type A free agents after this season, so are worth quite a bit to any club that holds their contracts at the end of the year. I would argue that their value in picks is higher than their actual single season value, so the Jays may have to be wowed if they are going to move them.

  2. This one is a really tough call. I agree with your "locks" for the pen, but I think that ZZ and Roenicke will get left behind in Vegas for the time being.

    The Blue Jays need as many durable relievers as they can, so that's why I think Camp will break camp (ha!). I would have to give the final spot to Accardo.

    But like JW mentioned, if the Jays trade either Downs or Frasor, that opens up a spot. And if Cito has any say in which players make the roster, who the hell knows what happens.