Now that the season is over, the crew at Blue Jays from Away will take a look at the Blue Jays one by one and review how each player’s season went, whether he met expectations (or not) and look at how he fits into (what we think of) the Blue Jays’ plans going forward.
R.A. Dickey is still the most interesting man on the Blue Jays. His charity trips, book writing, and overall eloquence endeared him to sportswriters looking for quotes that go beyond “I’m going to give it 110%” or “I’m just glad the team won.” Still, rookie Joe Biagini took over the mantle as being the most entertaining interview on the club this year. Selected in the Rule 5 draft, the 6-foot-5 righty had spent his entire career as a starter since being drafted in the 26th round of the 2011 draft by the San Francisco Giants. The Blue Jays put him in the bullpen where he thrived, going from the last guy in the pen to one of John Gibbons‘s most trusted relievers in high leverage situations, pitching regularly in the most important games into the playoffs.
While the Jays were trying to figure out who they had on the club, using pitchers like Franklin Morales, Arnold Leon, Jesse Chavez, Gavin Floyd and Drew Storen, Biagini only threw 6 2/3 innings in April over five appearances, allowing only two runs but walking five and striking out seven while starting to earn some trust from his manager and the fans.
In May, the 26 year old was used 12 times, walking just one batter and allowing batters to hit with a .443 OPS (and just a .196 batting average) over 14 1/3 innings. In June, he took a step back, throwing 7 1/3 innings with an 8.59 ERA, and gave up runs in six of his 10 outings. Turning things around in July, Biagini got his WHIP back under 1.00 again, throwing 12 1/3 innings with two runs allowed and 14 strikeouts to just two walks. As things heated up in August, he continued to pitch well, striking out 12 with one walk over 15 1/3 innings while he regressed a bit, pitching deep into September/October for the first time in his career, giving up nine earned runs and the only three home runs he allowed all year.
Still, overall, Biagini finished with a 3.06 ERA, 1.2 fWAR (or 0.8 rWAR) in 67 2/3 innings, striking out 21.0% of batters and walking only 6.4%, having far more good outings than bad ones, especially when it counted.
Taking his 94 mph fastball (on average) into the playoffs, Biagini came up big with Joaquin Benoit on the shelf. He struck out both batters he faced in the Wild Card game against Baltimore, threw three scoreless innings against Texas in the ALDS and threw another 3 2/3 innings without giving up a run (with just one hit and one walk) and striking out three against Cleveland in the ALCS.
At one point in the season, there was talk of Biagini moving to the rotation next year. Biagini has a lifetime 4.06 ERA in 448 innings as a starter in the minors and it’s an intriguing idea, but with his history and number of solid pitches, there are several options for him. With J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada, Marcus Stroman, Francisco Liriano and Aaron Sanchez all under contract for next year, there is no immediate or compelling need for the Jays to empty a bullpen that might already be without Brett Cecil, Joaquin Benoit and Scott Feldman next year.
Biagini performed way beyond what was expected of him. Normally a Rule 5 draft pick, if he’s half decent and not hurting the team, will be the last man out of the bullpen or on the bench. Biagini not only became a useful part of the ‘pen, but he was one of the most reliable relievers who was called upon time and time again when the pressure was on.
Now that Biagini has spent a year on the major league roster, he is eligible to be optioned to the minors. That’s very unlikely to happen to start the season next year, the only reason being that the Jays decide to stretch him back out to be a starter down in Buffalo.
Joe Biagini was one of the best surprises for the team this season. A Rule-5 draft pick who had never played above Double-A, he impressed in Spring Training and made his major league debut in the home opener on April 8th. He recorded his first career strikeout in that game, against David Ortiz.
He had two runs allowed (only one earned) across 6.2 outings in April, then the same number over 14.1 innings in May. June was considerably worse, as he allowed seven earned runs over 7.1 innings, but he dialed things back in for July and August. In his first September appearance, he allowed his first home run of the season, to Kevin Kiermaier – ending a 49-appearance streak to start his career without allowing a homer. He would then give up home runs in two of his next three outings, and nine runs total over 11 innings for the month.
He ended the season with 67.2 innings pitched over 60 games, an ERA of 3.06 and a WHIP of 1.30. He struck out 62 and walked 19, for a K/BB ratio of 3.26. He also exhibited great composure in important situations – off 26 runners he inherited over the season, only five scored. Team management is apparently considering stretching him out to become a starter, which I’d really like to see.
Biagini made six appearances in the postseason: one in the wild card, two in the ALDS and three in the ALCS. He threw more than one inning three different times, and allowed just three hits, one walk, and zero runs. He also struck out six batters. However, he failed to strand runners at his usual pace – of five runners he inherited, three of them scored, including two on a Mitch Moreland double in Game 3 of the ALDS which gave Texas the lead at the time.
Regular Season Grades
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