Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Bullpen Situation

With Scott Downs, Brian Tallet and Kevin Gregg all leaving the Blue Jays this off season many were worried that the Jays bullpen would be a concern, while in fact some others believed that a quality bullpen existed among returning bullpen pitchers who were successful last season and the overflow of quality young starting pitchers without rotation spots.

Then Jason Frasor accepted arbitration and the Jays picked up another two bullpen pitchers through trades and signed two as free agents, so what now, is their too many? Let's take a look at the candidates:

1. Frank Francisco - The Jays management is going to play it out as if Dotel, Rauch and possibly even Fraser have a shot at the closers job. In reality Francisco will be the closer. This is a pitcher that is drastically underrated due to pitching in the hitting friendly Texas ballpark for years. In addition to career average of more than 10 K's per 9 innings, Francisco's home road splits over the last two years are as follows:


As Drunk Jays fan already pointed out, Jonah Keri said, "Frank Francisco xFIP 2008-2010: 3.34, 3.53, 3.31. Not some generic RP we're talking about. Not sure I wouldn't rather have him than Papelbon."

2. Jon Rauch - This will most likely be the Jays 8th inning set up man. He doesn't have overpowering stuff but has shown consistent great command. An ERA of 3.87 and WHIP of 1.35 since being traded from Washington in 2008 does concern me a bit though.

3. Octavio Dotel - Another guy with a nasty K/inning ratio over his career with one fault, he can't get lefties out. This makes him the right handed specialist in the 7th and 8th innings.

4. Jason Frasor - It seems everyone is convince that his time as a Blue Jay is short lived and he may even be released by the team. That's not going to happen, and while he might be traded (which would be a mistake in selling low) I believe he is the second best reliever on this team. As I mentioned in The BlueJay Hunter blog something was up with Frasor at the beginning of last year that made him suck and blow at the same time, but his second half numbers are almost exactly the same as 2009 (the year in which he added a third pitch):

2009: 2.50 ERA/1.02 WHIP
2nd half 2010: 2.48 ERA/1.10 WHIP

By the way, it is an absolute must that you watch the Journey video in the Blue Jay Hunter blog link above.

5. Shawn Camp - had a very good season last year, the ball dances out of his hands and he continues to get unappreciated. That being said, my money is on him to flop this year.

6. David Purcey - Most likely the sole lefty out of the bullpen to start the year, he also put up some decent numbers last year. Many think he could eventually be the teams closer and that wouldn't at all surprise me.

7. Casey Janssen - Many forget that Janssen was very good as a reliever in 2007 with an ERA of 2.35. Then he missed all of 2008 due to injuries and the Jays tried to make him a starter in 2009, albeit a very short stint. Last year back as a full time reliever he was merely okay, but I still think it is in him to be very good again.

8. Carlos Villanueva - this guy is a bit of an enigma, after a dominant 2008 season with a 2.12 ERA as a reliever, I was convinced that he should take over as the Brewers closer. Since then he's been an all or nothing pitcher with mediocre overall results. He may get the short end of the stick as I can't see the Jays carrying 8 bullpen pitchers.

The Others

9. The loser of the fifth spot in the rotation - We're hoping Marc Rzepczynski walks away with the 5th spot in the rotation, which most likely means back to the minors for Zach Stewart, Jesse Litsch, Robert Ray, Dustin McGowan, Brad Mills, Scott Richmond, etc.

10. Jesse Carlson - he'll be the back up lefty in the minors should it become apparent that the Jays really need more than one lefty reliever on the big league squad.

11. Josh Roenicke - Roenicke apparently has electric stuff, however nothing I have seen from him has impressed me, and something tells me the Jays feel the same way.

12. Rommie Lewis - this is just a guy, minor league filler/depth if you will.

13. Jo-Jo Reyes - see Rommie Lewis. In fact it amazes me that this guy and Scott Richmond for that matter are still on the Jays 40 man roster.

Looking at the Jays options, there definitely are too many cooks in the kitchen and I do expect someone to get moved before the season starts. All signs were pointing to Frasor, but him recently signing a one year deal with an option makes it appear less likely. Therefore, it now looks like Villanueva is the guy without a chair.


  1. Peter,

    Do you know what the option situations are for all these guys? I would expect that will play a role in who they keep to start the year (keeping in mind that a bullpen is never set in stone). I think they'll go with Francisco, Rauch, Dotel, Frasor, Camp, Purcey and Jo-Jo Reyes. The first five are arguably the best five and Purcey and Reyes are out of options. I'm pretty sure that Janssen, Villanueva, and Carlson have options and can be stashed in the minors until the Jays figure out what they have in Reyes and/or Purcey. The loser(s) of the battle for the final two rotation spots (most likely Drabek has one, but AA will [and should] make him earn it) should probably be starters in New Hampshire or Las Vegas so they can get their reps and keep up their pitch counts. It depends on how many prospect starting pitchers are on those two minor league teams. As far as I'm concerned, Lewis and Roenicke are AAAA dime a dozen types, who can be let go and others of their ilk can be signed should the need present itself.

  2. I would be very surprised if Reyes sticks with the team, that would mean both Villanueva and Janssen get sent to the minors (as you are right in that they both have an option year left). I expect Reyes will be placed on waivers and may get through and be assigned to the minors at some point before the season starts. Janssen sticks with the team and Villanueva gets sent to the minors.

  3. What ever happened to Chad Cordero who the Jays signed in January. He was a former closer as well was he not?!

  4. Cordero is among a group of relievers including Winston Abreu, Brian Stokes, Willie Collazo, Sean Henn, Wil Ledezma, etc. that are all signed to minor league contracts.

    I didn't include these guys in the article because they have very little chance to make the major league roster. However I probably should have mentioned them