Many Blue Jays fans (including yours truly) have been speculating on which of the Jays’ pitchers in the high minor leagues might be the next to get the call to The Show, a la Ryan Borucki, who has proven himself the equal to the Astros and the Tigers. With a couple of signings, the Blue Jays may be indicating that they’re looking to keep the farmhands on the farm in order to allow them to continue to develop. The Blue Jays signed pitchers Zach Stewart and Brandon Cumpton to minor league deals and, today, assigned them to the Buffalo Bisons.
The signings could also be to get some help for a burnt out bullpen that had to throw 8 2/3 innings of relief against the New York Mets on Tuesday and another 4 1/3 innings on Wednesday.
Blue Jays fans are more familiar with Zach Stewart of the pair. Stewart, 31, was a third-round pick by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2008 draft and then was traded to Toronto the following July along with Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Roenicke in exchange for Scott Rolen. In his first full professional year in 2009, he had reached Triple-A as a reliever with the Reds and made 11 appearances with Triple-A Las Vegas with the Blue Jays’ organization, posting some strong numbers.
Stewart went back to starting in 2010, pitching for the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats and posting a solid 3.63 ERA and 1.38 WHIP over 136 1/3 innings. Stewart started 2011 with the Fisher Cats and pitched with Toronto starting in mid-June for three starts before making four more starts in New Hampshire before he was traded again, this time to the Chicago White Sox along with Jason Frasor while the Jays received Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen. In 2012, Stewart pitched mostly out of the bullpen for the White Sox but he had a 6.00 ERA over 30 innings and opponents hit for a .924 OPS and he was traded yet again, with Brent Lillibridge to the Boston Red Sox for Kevin Youkilis.
Stewart’s travels continued as he was traded in November of 2012 to Pittsburgh for a player to be named later and was selected off waivers in January 2013 by the White Sox. Stewart spent all of 2013 in Triple-A Charlotte with the White Sox and was traded for cash to the Atlanta Braves in March of 2014. He’s bounced around since then, spending a part of 2015 with the Angels’ organization and 2015 and 2016 in Korea. In 2017, he pitched seven times for Norfolk in Baltimore’s organization and has been very good this year with the New Britain Bees in the Atlantic League, with a 3.42 ERA and 1.23 WHIP over 11 starts.
Cumpton also joins the Blue Jays from the independent Atlantic League, having made 11 starts for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs with a 4.11 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. Cumpton, 29, was drafted in the ninth round of the 2010 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates out of high school and made a nice splash in the majors in 2012 with a 2.05 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 30 2/3 innings with the Pirates in 2013. He struggled a bit in the majors in 2014, posting a 4.89 ERA and 1.43 WHIP over 70 innings, pitching better in Triple-A Indianapolis.
Cumpton had Tommy John surgery and didn’t pitch in either 2015 or 2016, returning with the Pirates in 2017 and pitching in the minors before becoming a free agent at the end of the year. He signed with Texas in the offseason but was released before the season started and signed on in the Atlantic League.
Both of these pitchers can start but both have experience in the bullpen, giving the Buffalo Bisons some interesting depth with big league experience.
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