Having had a record number of players pass through the Buffalo Bisons’ roster, the relief pitching corps was extremely unstable from month to month as the Bisons went through their season. Still, some interesting names made appearances out of the bullpen for the Herd in 2014.
Bobby Korecky, our Reliever of the Year, was clearly the cream of the crop, accruing 22 saves over 55 appearances with a 1.97 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 60 strikeouts and 18 walks in 64 innings. Korecky has chosen free agency and the 35-year-old Korecky will see what else is out there this winter.
Making the second most appearances for the Bisons was Ryan Tepera, a 26-year-old righty who was getting some attention (particularly from Fangraphs’ Marc Hulet) over the offseason. In his first full season coming out of the bullpen, Tepera made 51 appearances and threw 64 innings with a 3.66 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 24 walks and 67 strikeouts over 64 innings. Tepera’s numbers have definitely improved over last season in Double-A when he was a starter for most of the season; his strikeout rate is up almost four percent and his walk rate is down over two percent. His FIP is even lower than his ERA (3.25) thanks to a somewhat high BABIP, meaning that with better defense around him, Tepera could have been a little more successful.
Lefty Rob Rasmussen, 25, is another pitcher who spent 2014 pitching his first season out of the bullpen. A starter in several organizations around the minors, Rasmussen’s Triple-A numbers were very strong thanks to his good stuff and his ability to throw strikes. The 2010 second rounder logged 43 innings for the Bisons, posting a 2.72 ERA and 1.14 WHIP with 17 walks and 44 strikeouts and he acquitted himself well in his first 10 big league outings, throwing 11 1/3 innings and posting a 3.18 ERA and 1.32 WHIP with 13 strikeouts and seven walks.
Righty Kyle Drabek may have found himself a home in the Buffalo (and hopefully Toronto) bullpen after converting to that role mid-season. While his ERA was fairly high (4.18), coming out of the bullpen, his numbers were much better with a 3.16 ERA and 1.37 WHIP (as opposed to a 1.51 WHIP as a starter). Drabek is still 26 and could certainly offer the Blue Jays a bullpen option going forward.
Lefty Mike Zagurski proved to be a valuable arm in the Buffalo Bullpen after coming over from the Cleveland organization at the end of May. The 31-year-old started off slowly by walking 12 batters in his first seven appearances for the Bisons but he was dominant from then on, walking only seven and striking out 46 the rest of the way over 34 innings, allowing just a 1.06 ERA and letting batters hit for a .528 OPS against him. Overall, Zagurski posted a 1.83 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over 44 1/3 innings for Buffalo but the veteran will likely be a free agent after the World Series ends.
John Stilson, the big, 24-year-old righty who was the Jays’ third-round pick in 2011, had a very solid start to the year, posting a 3.18 ERA and 1.62 WHIP over 34 innings, walking 18 and striking out 32 before getting shut down for the year with a shoulder injury. We later found out that Stilson underwent surgery for a torn labrum which is never a good thing. This surgery has a much lower success rate than Tommy John surgery and we’ll have to see what 2015 brings for Stilson.
Steve Delabar, the 31-year-old former big league All-Star struggled so much in 2014 that he was sent back to Buffalo and made 24 appearances, throwing 28 innings with a 2.89 ERA, 1.39 WHIP and 18 walks and 38 strikeouts. While his stuff appeared to be overpowering to Triple-A hitters, his walk rate was still very high at 14.6% in Buffalo, down from 16.7% in Toronto. Delabar is another big question mark for the Blue Jays’ 2015 bullpen.
Chad Jenkins didn’t have the best numbers in Buffalo with a 4.70 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 27 strikeouts and nine walks in 44 innings although his 3.00 K/BB ratio is very good. Jenkins isn’t a strikeout pitcher as his very high, 57.3% ground ball rate in the major leagues this year attests and he was excellent in 31 2/3 innings for the Blue Jays, with a 2.56 ERA, solid 3.48 FIP and a 1.26 WHIP. Jenkins has been very good throughout his brief major league career and should merit much more consideration for the big league bullpen going forward.
Sergio Santos made 11 appearances with the Bisons, posting a tidy 0.00 ERA and 0.84 WHIP, striking out 16 batters and walking six over 10 2/3 innings. Lefty Colt Hynes was selected off waivers by the Blue Jays in mid-August from the Los Angeles Dodgers and the 29-year-old posted a 1.04 ERA and 0.58 WHIP over 8 2/3 innings with just one walk and seven strikeouts.
Several pitchers didn’t survive the season with the Blue Jays’ organization. 31-year-old Ryan Rowland-Smith posted a 5.14 ERA and 0.93 WHIP over 14 innings with the Bisons and his peripherals were very strong (11 strikeouts and only three walks) before he was released. Luis Ayala had a 5.40 ERA over 11 2/3 innings but his WHIP was much higher at 1.97 despite just four walks and nine strikeouts. Neil Wagner had some bad luck, tearing his UCL and requiring Tommy John surgery after nine innings with Buffalo. In order to make room on the 40-man roster for some the season’s late acquisitions, the Blue Jays released Wagner and he was promptly signed by the Tampa Bay Rays. Marcus Walden started the season with the Bisons but was quickly called up to the Blue Jays at the beginning of the season when they realized that they couldn’t recall any of the other pitchers who had been optioned at the end of spring training. Walden only threw four innings with Buffalo and was claimed by the A’s when he was put on waivers.
Who are these players? Find out in The 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, now available as an ebook at Smashwords.com for $7.99 US. It’s coming soon to Amazon, Apple iBooks, Kobo and other fine retailers. You can purchase and preview the book at our Smashwords.com page! If you like us here,“like” us on Facebook!
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