As usual with the Blue Jays, they dipped into the Buffalo well for pitchers quite frequently this season and there were a fairly large number of pitchers who spent quit a bit of time on the QEW between the teams. In addition, the Blue Jays seemed to think of the Buffalo and New Hampshire bullpens as somewhat interchangeable so that we have a lot of pitchers pitching at both levels.
The busiest reliever for the Buffalo Bisons in 2015 was fireballer Greg Infante who pitched with Buffalo from April until mid-August before making an end-of-season stop in New Hampshire. Infante’s numbers in Buffalo (for 48 2/3 innings) are interesting in that he outperformed his 4.25 FIP, logging a 2.77 ERA. His 84.8% LOB rate probably contributed to that difference while he posted a decent 1.54 WHIP despite a 15.0% walk rate and a decent (but not spectacular) 19.2% strikeout rate. Sent down to New Hampshire for just eight innings, Infante had a BABIP of .429 and stranded only 47.4% of baserunners to finish with a 5.63 ERA and a 3.64 FIP with a 2.38 WHIP. Unfortunately, his walk rate regressed (rising to 15.9%) while his strikeout rate only improved to 20.5%. Infante’s 28 now and pitching in winter ball but he seems to have lost that edge that had him in consideration for a major league bullpen role.
Who doesn’t root for Bobby Korecky? The soft-tossing righty is now 36 year old but still remains effective against Triple-A competition. With 48 1/3 innings with the Bisons in 2015, Korecky posted a 3.72 ERA and 3.45 FIP, with a 1.53 WHIP, a 16.2% strikeout rate and 6.5% walk rate. While he took a big step back from his outstanding numbers in 2014, Korecky remained a solid bullpen option for Bisons’ manager Gary Allenson. Korecky is likely a free agent and we’ll have to see if he returns to Buffalo.
Another popular pitcher, Chad Jenkins was used mostly in a swingman role for the Buffalo Bisons in 2015. A reliable pitcher for the Bisons, Jenkins had a 2.98 ERA, 3.47 FIP and 1.32 WHIP in Triple-A and only threw 3 2/3 innings for the big league squad, the first year since 2012 in which he didn’t throw about 30 innings. His strikeout and walk rates in Buffalo were pretty much in line with what he did in 2014, a 14.9% K rate and 6.4% BB rate, although his walk rate ballooned to 17.7% in a very sample in Toronto. Jenkins is out of options next year and could get a big league bullpen spot in 2016 much in the same way that Liam Hendriks did in 2015.
Righty Colt Hynes looked like he was going to earn a bullpen spot out of spring training with the Blue Jays and the 30-year-old did, posting a 6.00 ERA in three innings before getting optioned back to Buffalo (and eventually sent outright to the minors, taking him off the 40-man roster). Hynes threw 33 1/3 innings for Buffalo and 13 1/3 for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats posting a 3.51 ERA and 1.50 WHIP for Buffalo and 3.38 ERA and 0.90 WHIP for New Hampshire. His strikeout rates were much better at the lower levels (and with the Blue Jays) at 23.5% in NH and 17.3% in Buffalo and his walk rates also reflected the level difference: 5.9% in NH and 10.0% in Buffalo.
Included in the deal for Mark Lowe, lefty Rob Rasmussen had a great season in Buffalo before changing leagues. Rasmussen put up a 2.36 ERA, 2.99 FIP and 1.10 WHIP with a 23.0% strikeout rate and an 11.5% walk rate. After the trade to the Mariners, he pitched for the big league club, got sent down for just one appearance and then spent the rest of the season in the majors. While Rasmussen was hit hard in his first go-round in the bigs (16.20 ERA, .394 batting average against), he was better (but not much) for his final 11 appearances, posting a 5.87 ERA and .353 batting average against. Overall, his 2.30 WHIP and 10.7% walk rate will need to drop but his 21.3% strikeout rate was pretty solid.
Steve Delabar was another pitcher who split his 2015 almost equally between the Bisons and the Blue Jays. With 25 1/3 innings in Buffalo, Delabar showed a return to All-Star form, posting a 1.42 ERA, 2.49 FIP, 0.87 WHIP, 30.9% strikeout rate and 10.3% walk rate. In 29 1/3 innings with the Blue Jays, however, most of those numbers took a big jump as his 5.22 ERA, 4.84 FIP and 1.43 WHIP can attest. Delabar’s strikeout rate took a big hit, down to 23.3% (which was higher than his 2014 big league total) and his walk rate remained mostly stable at 10.9%. Still his strikeout rate is well down from the 32.4% he had in his All-Star year in 2013. Delabar is out of options and could be traded or claimed on waivers if he fails to make the 2016 Blue Jays.
The 30-year-old Todd Redmond split the season between Buffalo and Toronto but found that he couldn’t regain the magic that kept him in the Blue Jays’ bullpen over the past few years. Redmond had strong numbers (4.00 ERA, 3.56 FIP, 1.41 WHIP) in Buffalo but his performance in Toronto was lacking, despite posting fairly similar peripherals with a 16.8% K-rate and 7.4% BB-rate in Buffalo and 18.1% K-rate and 9.7% BB-rate in Toronto. Redmond was sent outright to the minors and cleared waivers and elected free agency at the end of the season.
By virtue of one more inning with the Bisons than the Fisher Cats, we’re talking about Greg Burke here. Burke had an excellent season in the minor leagues for the Blue Jays, posting a 2.08 ERA, 2.74 FIP and 1.05 WHIP in 30 1/3 innings with New Hampshire as well as a 3.16 ERA, 4.15 FIP and 0.99 WHIP in 31 1/3 innings with Buffalo. Burke only walked 5.7% of batters faced in New Hampshire but that number rose to 8.5% in Buffalo while his strikeout rate, 29.5% in NH, fell to 23.3% in Buffalo.
Our Buffalo Bisons Pitcher of the Year, Ryan Tepera, was absolutely dominant in Buffalo while more than holding his own in the big time. Tepera threw 34 innings with the Bisons, posting a 1.06 ERA and 2.51 FIP with a 0.85 WHIP, striking out 28.5% of batters and walking 10.0%. When he got to the majors, he didn’t fool quite as many batters, striking out 17.2% but he cut down on his walks to just 4.7%. His 3.27 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in the majors was belied by his sky-high 2.18 HR/9 rate and his 21.6% HR/FB rate, both are very high, and contributed to a 5.77 FIP. Fortunately, that HR/FB usually normalizes at around 10% and his xFIP reflects that. Tepera is likely to be a bullpen option in 2016 and, because he has two options left, he’ll be one of the first to go down.
Bo Schultz was another pitcher to spend much of his season with the Blue Jays, throwing 43 innings for Toronto and 21 1/3 for Buffalo. Schultz posted a 1.69 ERA with the Bisons and a 3.56 ERA with the Blue Jays, having a 4.86 FIP, 4.21 xFIP and 1.07 WHIP. I’m sure the Blue Jays liked his decent 8.1% walk rate but his 17.9% K-rate was probably a little on the low side for a guy who throws with an average velocity of 95.6 mph. Like Tepera, Schultz has an option remaining and if the bullpen is getting crowded, he could be optioned to the minors.
The Blue Jays claimed 6-foot-3 righty Ben Rowen from the Chicago Cubs in August and he managed to get into 14 games with the Buffalo Bisons, posting a 2.00 ERA, 2.60 FIP and 0.78 WHIP in 18 innings. He had a 16.2% strikeout rate with an exceptional 2.9% walk rate. A submariner, Rowen has an option remaining is another option for the Bisons next year and, despite not having any kind of overpowering stuff, has been able to get batters out, usually via the ground ball.
20-year-old righty Miguel Castro was supposed to a be, along with Roberto Osuna, a breath of fresh air for the Blue Jays’ bullpen coming out of spring training. Castro couldn’t deliver with the big league club, however, giving up seven earned runs on 15 hits and six walks in 12 1/3 innings at the major league level. Sent down to Buffalo to find himself, Castro worked out of the rotation, only compiling 11 2/3 innings with eight walks but 15 strikeouts in five starts. After a stint on the DL and five innings in Dunedin (no hits, one walk, seven strikeouts), Castro was back in Buffalo for less than a month, working out of the bullpen for eight innings, allowing six runs on 11 hits, four walks and six strikeouts. Castro was traded to Colorado in the Troy Tulowitzki deal and was excellent in Triple-A but struggled in two of his five appearances with the Rockies.
Preston Guilmet was a true journeyman in 2015. Claimed on waivers by the Blue Jays in December of last year, Guilmet played 10 games for the Bisons, posting a 1.26 ERA and 2.11 FIP with a 0.91 WHIP, 21.4% K-rate and 5.4% walk rate before being claimed on waivers by Tampa Bay in May, by the Dodgers in July and the Brewers on July 31.
The Blue Jays signed Joba Chamberlain to a minor league free agent deal and he only saw five innings of action for the Bisons, giving up eight earned runs on nine hits and four walks with seven strikeouts. He was released on August 14 and signed by the Royals (and left off their playoff roster) on August 19.
Aaron Loup threw only six innings in Buffalo, giving up three runs on nine hits and four walks with just five strikeouts before he was recalled to Toronto. Phil Coke also had a brief Bisons career, throwing four innings in Buffalo and giving up two hits and three walks with four strikeouts before moving up to Toronto. He was granted free agency in June and was signed (and released) by the Oakland A’s. 25-year-old Donn Roach was claimed on waivers by the Blue Jays on August 25, threw 12 innings for the Bisons, allowing just two earned runs on 10 hits and three walks with two strikeouts before the end of the season. He’s become a free agent.
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