Breaking Down The Bullpen: Toronto Blue Jays

The Closer: Octavio Dotel
He became the front-runner for the job once he signed his free agent contract, but he is far from a lock to maintain it all year long.  In fact, it is arguable that he is even the best man for the job.

Dotel pitched for three different teams in 2010 (Pirates, Dodgers & Rockies), compiling a 4.08 ERA and 1.31 WHIP.  He certainly still is a strikeout artist, posting a strikeout rate of at least 10.55 each of the past four seasons.  However his fastball, which is a pitch he throws over 80% of the time, has been losing a little bit of zip in recent years:

  • 2007 – 93.5 mph
  • 2008 – 92.5 mph
  • 2009 – 92.6 mph
  • 2010 – 91.7 mph

That certainly makes you wonder if he will be able to sustain the lofty strikeout rates or if a regression could be in order.

Another question is his control.  He’s never posted good control numbers (career BB/9 of 4.09), but he has been even worse over the past two years with walk rates of 5.20 and 4.50.  Throw in his struggles against lefties (they hit .301 against him in 2010 while his strikeout rate was just 7.66 and walk rate was 7.25) and there should be major concerns with his ability to shut down games (in the AL East he’ll have to face batters like Mark Teixeira, David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez and others).

The Alternative: Jason Frasor
The last man standing from the 2010 Blue Jays bullpen, he easily could win the job out of Spring Training.  He was solid last season, posting a 3.68 ERA and 1.38 WHIP to go with over a strikeout per inning and decent control (3.82 BB/9).

The numbers came courtesy of a .332 BABIP, so there certainly is a lot of room for improvement.  The Blue Jays could prefer his more stable performance against righties and lefties (.254/.253), allowing them not to have to play matchups in the ninth inning.

Chances are that he opens the season in a setup role, but will get a look once Dotel struggles.

The Rest: David Purcey, Shawn Camp, Casey Janssen, Jesse Carlson
I have always been a believer in Purcey and he should find a role as the lefty specialist/long man, but he is not going to hold fantasy appeal outside of AL-only leagues.  Camp is coming off an impressive 2010 (2.99 ERA, 1.23 WHIP), but he lacks the true blow away closer’s stuff.  He posted a 5.72 K/9 and easily could see a regression.  Janssen & Carlson are decent middle relievers, but aren’t likely to see late game action.

Those looking to draft a relief pitcher who will not open the season as the closer, though has a good chance to take over should be focusing on Frasor.  It appears to be just a matter of time before Dotel hits a rough patch, leading to a change.  In fact, it wouldn’t be a complete shock to see Frasor win the job outright, so be sure to monitor the situation throughout Spring Training and early on in 2011.

What are your thoughts of Toronto’s bullpen?  Who do you see as the best option to close games?  How long do you think it will be until Frasor has the job?

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Make sure to check out our previous Breaking Down The Bullpen columns:

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