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.
Ryan Tepera came into his own in 2017. Finally given a chance to stick with the big league team for the full year, Tepera became one of the most relied-upon members of the Toronto Blue Jays’ bullpen, particularly since Joe Biagini was pressed into duty as a starter for part of the year.
Tepera came into 2017 as a reliever who had been a starter for most of his minor league career but he experienced an uptick in velocity when he went to the bullpen, sharpening his pitches. In 2015, he made his major league debut and got into 33 innings. In 2016, he only got into 20 MLB games for 18 1/3 innings, moving up and down between Toronto and Buffalo all year. Despite impressive numbers in both of those seasons, he wasn’t able to hang on to a big league spot.
It’s quite possible that the fact that the Blue Jays were so far out of contention for pretty much all of 2017 was what enabled Tepera to stay in Toronto all year, carving out his niche as a high-leverage reliever.
Looking over Tepera’s stats over the course of the year, I’m pretty amazed at how consistent he was. While he had an incredible May (holding batters to a .421 OPS) and a mediocre July (with batters posting a .780 OPS against him), looking at first- and second-half numbers (3.77 ERA, 1.125 WHIP in the first half, 3.34 ERA, 1.144 WHIP in the second half), they’re not too far off from each other.
Tepera’s effectiveness is likely due to the three different pitches that Brooks Baseball tracks him using most of the time. He throws a cutter in the high 80s that has some sharp break to it, a four-seam fastball that actually got harder as the season went on (averaging 95.00 mph in April and 95.49 mph in September) and a sinker that is thrown slightly harder than his fastball. While he has a slider around 81-83 mph, again according to Brooks Baseball, he only threw seven of them all year. He threw the four-seam fastball 35.25% of the time, the sinker 23.34% of the time and cutter 40.44% of the time, although as the season wore on, he started to favour the sinker over the other two and he threw the cutter less after peaking at 48.02% usage in June.
So what does Tepera’s overall season look like? He threw 77 2/3 innings with a 3.59 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, striking out 25.4% of batters and walking 9.7%. He pitched better against righties (.581 OPS) than lefties (.715) OPS and had a pretty even split of ground balls to fly balls (41.6% on the ground, 40.6% fly balls) which was well down from his high ground ball rate (58.5%) in 2016 albeit in a smaller sample size. Batters also pulled the ball more (40.2% over 33.9%), which is likely due to Tepera relying so much on his three different fastballs, varying velocity much less than when he threw his slider more.
Tepera, now 30, racked up 1.0 fWAR and 1.2 rWAR in his third big league season and he’s poised to be heavily used in 2018 as a high-leverage reliever along with Biagini. I’m excited to see the Blue Jays’ ‘pen in 2018 as it promises to have several young(ish), cheap pitchers with bright futures. Tepera is one of them.
With 2.008 years of MLB service time, Tepera is likely arbitration eligible after 2018 and will probably make slightly over the major league minimum this year.
2017 Regular Season Grades
Jay Blue: A
Wesley James: A
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