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.
In 2016, the Blue Jays did something fairly unusual: they selected a player in the Rule 5 draft and he stuck with the club the entire year. Joe Biagini, a 26th-round pick of the San Francisco Giants in the 2011 draft, came to Toronto as an unknown but he finished the year as one of the most reliable pitchers, posting a 1.2 fWAR and 0.9 rWAR (WAR from Fangraphs and Baseball Reference, respectively) in his rookie campaign.
Biagini got off to a great start in 2017, tossing 18 2/3 innings over the first month of the season, being used mostly in the seventh inning or later, posting a 3.38 ERA with a sub-1.00 WHIP, 17 strikeouts and just three walks.
Following some injuries to Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ, Biagini was pressed into duty as a starter and, making his first major league start at Yankee Stadium, tossed four innings, giving up an unearned run on two hits with four strikeouts. He followed that with five innings of scoreless ball against the Seattle Mariners, giving up four hits without a walk and three strikeouts. Things hit a bump over his next two starts in which he gave up six and three runs over four and 4 1/3 innings respectively. But three solid starts in a row following that had fans believing that Biagini would be in the rotation for the long hall. He allowed seven runs (six earned in a game against the Chicago White Sox on June 16 and, while he was decent against the Rangers and Orioles in his next two outings, he allowed seven more runs against the Red Sox on July 2.
Back in the bullpen, Biagini was mostly strong for another month, but two bad outings, totaling seven runs, gave him a 5.54 ERA in 13 innings from July 8 until August 2. Biagini was then sent down to the minor leagues to get stretched out once again as a starter, making four starts for the Bisons with a 3.12 ERA in 17 1/3 innings.
Back in Toronto, Biagini was inconsistent as a starter, allowing five or more runs in three of his seven starts but also pitched a gem against the Baltimore Orioles, shutting them down on five hits and one walk while striking out 10 in seven inning. He finished out the season with two solid but unspectacular starts against the Yankees, going five innings in each and giving up three runs, taking a loss both times.
Going forward it’s hard to be sure where Biagini fits in the Blue Jays’ plans. He’ll at least be a member of the bullpen and should be able to continue the solid work he’s done in that regard so far. Still, the thought of Biagini as a solid back-end of the rotation starter to complement Stroman, Sanchez, Happ and Estrada is one that the club is likely giving thought to should injuries arise or if they’re unable to add to the rotation in the offseason. His track record of 2016 and 2017 leads me to believe that he may be most effective in the bullpen but his increase in innings (up to 119 2/3 in 2017) allowed him to increase his Fangraphs WAR to 1.4 in 2017 (although his Baseball Reference WAR dropped to 0.0). With a 5.73 ERA as a starter and 4.26 as a reliever, Biagini will have a lot of work to do to make himself a consistent starter if he’s presented the opportunity in 2018.
With one year and 161 days of service time, Biagini is not eligible for arbitration for another year.
Regular Season Grades
Jay Blue: C+ (as a reliever)/C- (as a starter)
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