by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The news regarding Roberto Osuna has sent the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen into turmoil. Lucky for the team they have numerous alternatives who could step into the now vacated closers role, but who is most likely? Let’s take a look at the names who will be under consideration for the role:
Ryan Tepera – Right-Handed Pitcher
He’s been the primary setup man, leading the team with 7 HLD, and he’s been strong in the role with a 2.70 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. He’s also been prone to home runs (2.16 HR/9), which hasn’t been the case throughout his career, and hasn’t always shown the best control (2.70 BB/9 in ’18, but was at 3.93 and 3.59 the previous two seasons). That’s never a good mix, and when you throw in a 97.2% strand rate it appears that even if he does get the opportunity there’s a good bet that he’d ultimately stumble.
Seung-Hwan Oh – Right-Handed Pitcher
He has the experience of closing games, with 39 saves between 2016 & 2017, but he also has 8 blown saves over that time. A lot of his struggles have come due to home runs (1.52 HR/9 in ’17, 1.17 this season), and given the ballpark and a career 34.1% groundball rate that’s something that could consider to plague him. Throw in a 41.3% Hard% and 98.7% strand rate and would it really be surprising to see him struggle? Like Tepera he could get a shot, but it’s easy to envision him failing once again.
Tyler Clippard – Right-Handed Pitcher
Clippard has experience closing, has long been one of the better setup men in the league. That said while he owns a 1.47 ERA this season, he’s struggled in two key categories:
- Control – 4.42 BB/9, after a 4.62 mark in ‘17
- Home Runs – 1.47 HR/9, which would be his third straight season of 1.40 or higher
That’s not a good mix for the end of a game and will likely keep him from being considered.
John Axford – Right-Handed Pitcher
Another veteran with experience, you can easily argue that he has the best makeup for the role today:
- Strikeouts – 8.27 K/9
- Control – 3.31 BB/9
- Groundballs – 54.5%
He does have a history of control issues (4.51 BB/9 for his career), so that’s going to be the key metric to watch. If he can continue throwing strikes, even at his ’16 mark (4.11 BB/9) he has the highest upside of the uninspiring bunch.
At the end of the day the Blue Jays will likely use an uninspiring committee, and there’s a good chance none of the four names we’re currently eyeing end up claiming the role. It makes sense to grab Tepera and/or Oh in hopes that they can get the job done, but at the end of the day the pitcher who arguably has the best chance to run with the role is Axford. The savvy owner will stash him away now and see how things play out, though in general this is a situation we’d look to avoid.
Sources – MLB.com, Fangraphs
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