This post is the eighth part of an
eight-part nine-part series that will be my attempt to predict the Opening Day rosters for the Blue Jays’ four full-season minor league teams which start their seasons on April 9.
There will be a complementary “Countdown to Baseball” post published on Thursday that will feature a member of the projected Buffalo Bisons bullpen.
As I mentioned in the last post on the Buffalo Bisons’ projected starting rotation, the Bisons’ bullpen is extremely difficult to predict, moreso because of Marcus Stroman‘s recent injury that will probably push Aaron Sanchez into the starting rotation and open up at least one spot in the bullpen. Does Miguel Castro jump up all the way from Advanced-A Dunedin to grab a spot thanks to his power arm? Does someone else make the roster if Brett Cecil isn’t able to go on Opening Day? There are so many questions revolving around big league camp that need to be answered before the Buffalo bullpen situation sorts itself out but I’ll do my best to make some predictions.
Once again, there are contractual complexities revolving around who can be sent to the minor leagues without clearing waivers. In this projected roster list, I’ll add symbols to indicate whether a player is on the 40-man roster (indicated by the *) and if the player is out of options (^). If a player has both symbols, there’s a very real chance that if he doesn’t stick at the major league level, he’ll have to be put on waivers and may not make it through to play for Buffalo. For information on options and outrights, head to Bluebird Banter. They have a great reference chart by MjwW that tells you everything you need to know.
On the Big League Bubble
With the reshuffling of the deck following the Stroman injury these four pitchers probably get extended looks to join the Toronto bullpen. Delabar has looked good so far in spring training and is probably the most likely of the bunch to end up with the Blue Jays to start the season. Delabar lost velocity and command last year and spent a lot of the season in Buffalo trying to work things out. We really hope that he can return to his All-Star 2013 form and get back to Toronto.
Drabek is out of options but hasn’t really looked fantastic this spring (though there’s still a long way to go before Opening Day). Once a top prospect and one of the key pieces coming to Toronto in the Roy Halladay deal, Drabek has lost a lot of his shine and has struggled to throw strikes and work effectively. Still, he was much better as a reliever in the Buffalo bullpen last year than as a starter and could put things together enough to come north as a Blue Jay. If he doesn’t, he’ll have to clear waivers and some other team may take a flyer on him before he can become a member of the Buffalo Bisons.
Greg Infante is a hard-throwing fastball/slider pitcher who, when he can command his pitches, can be very effective in the major leagues, hitting 98 mph. He’s a dark horse to take a spot in the Toronto bullpen if he can maintain the improvements he made last year when he walked 9.8% of batters which was the best rate of his career over a full season.
Wilton Lopez has been rumoured as being a legitimate candidate for the Jays. He’s got 305 innings of major league experience under his belt, including three sub-3.00 ERA seasons with Houston in 2010-2012. He’s looked good this spring, throwing a sinker that has a ton of movement on it.
Likely in Buffalo
Here’s where things get dicey. All of these players can be sent to the minors without clearing waivers. I’m favouring the younger pitchers who are either on the 40-man roster or who have minor league contracts and have pitched extensively at Triple-A before. Unfortunately, not everyone here is going to survive the spring.
Cory Burns is a righty who has some big league experience with the Padres and the Rangers. He’s 27 and had a long history of being effective in the minors with a fastball that just grazes 90 mph. He’s not on the 40-man any more and has been sent outright to the minors.
Preston Guilmet was a waiver claim from the Pittsburgh Pirates who has seen some ML action over the past two years. Guilmet has gotten high strikeout numbers throughout his career in the minors while walking very few. He also pitches in the 90-mph range with his fastball and threw a large percentage of split-fingered fastballs last year.
Colt Hynes, 29, got 17 innings with the Padres in 2013 but gave up as many runs as innings pitched. He had a very good year with the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate in Albuquerque and struck out seven batters with just one walk in 8 2/3 innings with the Bisons after being claimed by the Blue Jays off waivers. He’s on the 40-man roster but still has options remaining.
Bobby Korecky was the closer in Buffalo last year and has been extremely effective over the past few seasons in the Blue Jays’ organization. He’s on a minor league contract and is almost certain to start with the Bisons.
Juan Pablo Oramas was claimed on waivers from the Padres but is still just 24 (turning 25 in May). The Mexican lefty has been a starter throughout his minor league career so there’s a very good chance that he could start for the Buffalo Bisons.
Luis Perez is a former Blue Jays who had Tommy John surgery and never really got a chance at the big league level. The lefty was signed to a minor league contract this offseason and could very well start in 2015 in New Hampshire.
Rob Rasmussen is another lefty with a taste of the majors under his belt. He was very good in Buffalo in his first season as a full-time reliever and retired David Ortiz in his first major league appearance. Rasmussen is a very dark horse to make the Blue Jays but with options remaining, he’ll almost certainly be in Buffalo.
Bo Schultz was another waiver claim who survived the winter to join the Jays in big league camp. Schultz has a big fastball that comes in at 95 mph and he seems to get a lot of ground balls and could be a candidate for a big league call up at some point after getting his feet wet in the majors with Arizona last year.
Ryan Tepera is a home-grown, hard-throwing righty who hits the mid-90s with a great sinker that usually comes in a couple of mph slower than his four-seam fastball. Tepera has looked good in spring and will be going into his second full year as a reliever, likely back with the Buffalo Bisons after being put on the 40-man roster this offseason.
Matt West is a converted position player who has had some arm injuries that have resulted in a unique situation in which West has an extra option year. I have a feeling that the Blue Jays will take advantage of that, sending him to Buffalo to get some more experience on the mound as he only has 104 innings of work under his belt in the minor leagues and four in the majors.
Other Relief Pitchers
Scott Barnes was another waiver claim, changing teams three times this offseason before ending up with the Blue Jays. Barnes was effective with Cleveland in 2012 but not as much in 2013 (in limited action) and is looking to get back to the majors. Barnes doesn’t have any options left so if the Blue Jays want to send him to Buffalo, he’ll have to clear waivers.
Greg Burke is a 32-year-old righty who has two seasons of major league action under his belt. He’s lost a lot of velocity since his ML debut, dropping about 3.5 mph on his fastball between his 2009 stint with the Padres and his 2013 outings with the Mets. He gets a lot of ground balls, though, which could be useful. On a minor league deal, Burke could very well pitch for Buffalo.
John Stilson, after a strong season in 2014 with Buffalo, underwent shoulder surgery and he’s still working his way back from the torn labrum that has haunted him for a number of years. He was throwing 95 mph last year and if he can return to that form, he could be a potential back-of-the-bullpen arm for the Blue Jays in 2016. Stilson’s not on the 40-man roster and will be back in Buffalo once he’s healthy.
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