Monday, April 1, 2013

2013 Blue Jays Preview, part 4

44 - RHP Casey Janssen 

Age: 31
Nationality: American
2013 Contract: $3.9 million

Over the past two seasons, bullpen arms don’t come as reliable as Casey Janssen’s.  In fact, he’s been very good or better over the past three seasons, since returning to form more than a year after surgery to repair a torn labrum that caused him to miss the entire 2008 season.  Casey took masterful to a new level last year, picking up 22 saves, but more importantly being a shutdown closer in a non-overpowering way.  He did it with good (but not great) stuff and superior control.  Typically (like Sergio Santos), dominant closers will walk a lot of batters, but Janssen walked (unintentionally) 11 batters all year and only gave up 44 hits in 63 2/3 innings while striking out 67 batters.  Some people look to the K/BB ratio as an indicator of a pitcher’s performance (others have decided that a K%/BB% is much better), but in either case, Janssen is a rock star.
We will see what happens this year.  Coming off surgery to clean out his shoulder, Janssen has been brought along slowly this spring but is said to be ready to start the season.  He and Santos (also recoving from surgery) will probably close in tandem early in the season to ensure that neither pitches on back to back days for at least a couple of weeks.  This said, Janssen has been anointed the “closer,” but my hunch is that Santos will settle into that role (with Casey being a high leverage and 8th inning guy) by the end of the season.

48 - LHP J.A. Happ 

Age: 30
Nationality: American
2013 Contract: $3.7 million

Coming off a newly minted contract extension as well as a spot in the Blue Jays’ starting rotation, J.A. Happ will be the Jays’ 5th starter.  After a very good spring and deepened concerns for Ricky Romero, Happ is looking to make a name for himself in Toronto, rather than being that guy they got from Houston after all the pitchers got hurt last year, or the guy the Jays sent to AAA after they added 3 better pitchers to the rotation.

Which brings us to the question of “Who is J.A. Happ?” (as a pitcher at least).  Happ’s career goes from Philadelphia to Houston to Toronto and he has pitched decently (or worse) in every season except for his 2009 season with the Phillies.  Apparently, Happ has been on Alex Anthopoulos’s radar since that season in which he started 23 games and went 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA and a decent 1.235 WHIP.  Not all was great in the state of Pennsylvania, though, as Happ’s FIP was 4.33 and xFIP was 4.43 that same year, numbers he actually outperformed in his 40 1/3 innings with the Blue Jays last year (4.48 FIP, 3.75 xFIP).  Happ should give the Jays a decent or better 5th starter, even if Romero fails to recapture his previous self.

50 - RHP Steve Delabar
Age: 29
Nationality: American
2013 Contract: $498,900

I’ve written about the Velocity program that Delabar attended after breaking his arm and thinking he’d never pitch professionally again.  Not only did he regain health in his shoulder, he gained arm strength and velocity as a by-product and made his unlikely return to professional baseball and even the majors.  Acquired from Seattle last season for the paltry cost of OF Eric Thames, Delabar came to the Blue Jays and continued his resurrection.  The only major difference between the 4.17 ERA he posted in 36 2/3 innings with the Mariners and the 3.38 ERA he posted in 29 1/3 innings with the Blue Jays is his significantly lower HR ratio.  For the Mariners, he was giving up 2.2 HR/9 while he only gave up 0.9 HR/9 with the Blue Jays.  That and his strikeout rate skyrocketed (while his walk rate also rose). 

The myth was that he became a different pitcher and was way more dominant with the Jays, but that just isn’t true.  While he threw far more split-fingered fastballs with the Blue Jays (and fewer 4-seamed fastballs), he actually gave up more fly balls and fewer ground balls than he did in Seattle.  Whatever he did, it kept the ball in the park and increased his already excellent K%.  If he continues that trend and even (hopefully) brings his walk rates in line to what he did in Seattle, he will be a dominant arm out of the bullpen.

53 - OF Melky Cabrera 

Age: 28
Nationality: Dominican
2013 Contract: $8 million

Much is known about Melky’s 2012 suspension for the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs).  However, he is the type of hitter that the extra strength may not benefit.  Many writers wonder if Melky was so dominant last year (with an NL leading .346 batting average) because of his .379 BABIP rather than the PEDs. 

From watching Melky in Spring Training, I can say that he was a hitting machine.  He’s going to be a great presence at the top of the lineup (batting second) hitting mostly singles and doubles.  His defense looked very good (even in CF where he played a couple of times) and has shown a very good arm.  I’m very comfortable with Cabrera, and he seems to fit in well in the Jays’ heavily Dominican populated clubhouse.

55 - RHP Josh Johnson 

Age: 29
Nationality: American
2013 Contract: $13.75 million

Another new addition to the Jays, Johnson brings an outstanding pedigree over from the Marlins in the National League.  While A.J. Burnett never pitched as well in the AL Beast as he did in the NL, most pundits think that Johnson will make the transition a little bit easier than Burnett did.  The reason is that, while he has had to deal with decreased velocity after an arm injury cost him most of 2011, he has made up for it by reintroducing his curveball and changing speeds more. 

Johnson's numbers last season (the first back after an injury) were solid, I expect even better from him this year.  He looked dominant in Spring Training, and while ST numbers aren't indicative of anything, it's good to see the imposing righty look good. 

56 - LHP MarkBuehrle 

Age: 34
Nationality: American
2013 Contract: $11 million

Buehrle (yes, that's spelled right) will have to pitch this season without the support of his beloved family and dogs, but that might just make the majors fastest worker work even faster.  Buehrle is known for his consistency, his durability, and his no-nonsense "get the ball and throw it" demeanor on the mound.  This finesse lefty gets batters out with guile, movement, changing speed and relying less and less on a fastball that averages 85 miles an hour. 

Coming back to the AL shouldn't be a problem for Buehrle but the man who is possibly the next incarnation of Jamie Moyer is owed $48 million over the next three seasons.  This means that he will have to really produce at a level that is higher than expected when a player signs one of those long-term, backloaded contracts. 

62 - LHP Aaron Loup 

Age: 25
Nationality: American
2013 Contract: 494,200

Loup was one of the biggest surprises of 2012 coming up and showing the "ice water in his veins" (as the TV announcers like to say) while really showing pinpoint control (only walking 2 batters in 30 2/3 innings).  He had a strong spring and looks to make an impact again, securing his spot in the Jays' bullpen. 

Loup is mostly a fastball/slider pitcher from the left side, averaging 92.1 mph on his fastball.  He's not a power guy, but from the left side, that's pretty good.  He saw about an equal split of righties and lefties and was effective against both, but did post better numbers against lefties than righties.  While his strikeout and walk numbers aren't much better, it looks like that Loup induced a lot more weak contact from the left-handed batters.  This is encouraging, but with a bullpen with three lefties (Loup, Oliver, Cecil), being able to pitch to righties too will definitely help him get some more innings.


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