TORONTO BLUE JAYS:
Last year the Toronto Blue Jays had plenty of things working for them, only to have an unsettled back-end of the bullpen become a question mark as the season progressed. After they went forever and a day without a save opportunity (okay, so it was a little over a month in May/June, but it felt like forever), Brett Cecil finally performed poorly enough to force a change. Enter Roberto Osuna. The 20-year-old burst onto the scene with surprisingly solid command of a 95 MPH fastball that he complements with a changeup and slider.
Osuna’s numbers weren’t outrageously fluky, as his 3.02 FIP and 2.81 SIERA give some credence to his 2.58 ERA. He struck out over a batter per inning (75 in 69.2 innings pitched) and held a steady 2.07 BB/9 throughout his first year in the majors. So yes, he performed very well all year for Toronto. Unfortunately for Osuna owners, that isn’t all that dictates “real-life” baseball and the decisions made.
Toronto brought in Drew Storen this offseason, and the reports are that Storen and Osuna will battle for the closer role throughout most of Spring Training. As we noted, Osuna is still very young and Toronto could have bigger plans in the works for him (and may covet him as a starter if injuries hit). In an interview with Jayson Stark, manager John Gibbons said this:
“Storen is pretty much a one-inning guy. And I think you can stretch Osuna out a little bit, say maybe an inning-plus. So if that’s the case, I don’t know, maybe that gives the edge to Storen as the closer. And maybe you can use Roberto some different ways. We’ll see. We know, Osuna, though. And he was really good for us. We’ve seen Storen, but we don’t know him like we know Roberto. So we’ll decide this spring.”
Storen performed quite well last year until Jonathan Papelbon came into the fold for the Nationals and forced Storen out of his role as closer. He still has great stuff and can deliver over a strikeout per inning on the heels of his 94 MPH fastball that he utilizes with a slider and changeup. Storen’s 2014 was good, but also lucky (low BABIP and high strand rate), but he is much better than the second half of 2015 showed. If he can settle into a role in Toronto with a fresh start, his skills should shine forth once again.
Brett Cecil is still there too, but the lefty is certainly behind Osuna and Storen as far as opportunities to close go. It isn’t as though Cecil would be brought in for a lefty to close out a game either, as manager John Gibbons showed that he was comfortable letting Osuna ride last year (which Osuna rewarded with a .206 BAA vs. left-handed batters and a .170 BAA vs. right-handed batters). That said, he is worth remembering in deeper leagues for strikeout and ratio help as he struck out 70 in 54.1 innings pitched, while also posting the best walk rate of his career (2.15 BB/9). Other owners may just write him off as the guy who lost his job to Osuna, but in American League-only or deep mixed leagues, Cecil can still provide sneaky value.
Another name to keep in mind is Aaron Sanchez, who was brought up in the hopes that he could provide a strong arm in the rotation. This was not to be, as he struggled out of the gate for Toronto only to settle in nicely once he was moved to the bullpen. He rides a fastball-curveball combination out on the mound, with a changeup that he sporadically mixes in that he could develop into something useful down the road, but for now is best left unused. File him away for now as the aforementioned names should get a crack before him, and he needs to show a bit more growth to be useful in most leagues, but he is only turning 24 this season and has potential in that arm.