Jays From the Couch brings you the 2016 Toronto Blue Jays Highlights & Lowlights. This time: Rule 5 pick, Joe Biagini
Last December, the Toronto Blue Jays took a chance and drafted Joe Biagini in the Rule 5 proceedings. At the time, the move didn’t exactly send shock waves through the fan base. Like many Rule 5 picks, you never really know how much of an impact they will have on the selecting club. But, in a rare case of success, Biagini became a vital part of Toronto’s bullpen.
Given the rules around the Rule 5 pick, it didn’t really come as a surprise when Biagini was named to the big league squad at the end of Spring Training. That is especially true when you consider that not bringing him onto the roster would have meant offering him back to the Giants. And, in all honesty, it would have meant losing him. It is still hard to imagine the Giants not protecting him to avoid him being claimed. But, their loss is Toronto’s gain.
Biagini went on to be a solid force out of the bullpen in 2016. A starter in the Giants system, the 26 yr old righty saw his role evolve over time. Starting the season as an add on in the ‘pen, he would grow into a vital part of the team’s success, putting up solid rookie numbers.
|162 Game Avg.||5||3||3.06||68||14||1||77||78||26||3||22||70||2.95||1.300||3.26|
Part of what made the 6′ 5″ righty so successful was the fact that he was able to keep the ball in the park for most of the season. That’s no small feat pitching in the AL East. Giving up just 3 HR all year in a relief role cannot be discounted. His 26.3% flyball rate was a welcome sight, as was his 52% ground ball rate. Add to that the fact that he gave up just 23% hard contact, and you start to see why he became such a force.
It is hard to imagine anything being more exciting than Biagini’s first big league strikeout, considering the batter at the time.
Biagini got David Ortiz on a fastball that saw Big Papi swing right over it. It was the first of 62 K’s on the season. What is even more impressive than his strike out total is the walk rate that came with it. He walked 19 batters in 2016, good for a rate of 6.4%. By comparison, his whiff rate was 21%.
His repertoire as a starter has afforded him quite the bag of tricks. According to Fangraphs, he featured a fastball that averaged 94 mph and relied on it quite a bit. And, with a PITCH/fx value of his pitch at 4.3, you can see why he used it over 60% of the time. But, to accompany this offering, he used his slider (15%), curveball (17.4%) and change up (7%) and the rare cutter (0.1%). And, looking at the values Fangraphs assigned to his offerings, his fastball, slider combo offered reason for excitement.
As effective as his performance was, what really solidified his following in Toronto was his quirky, dry sense of humor. And, after the fan base lost Munenori Kawasaki, Biagini filled a role that people seem to love. He became somewhat of a comedy figure for the major networks. Take, for example, his appearance on Intentional Talk during the postseason.
It is tough to find negativity in the 2016 season for Joe Biagini. If we’re into picking nits, we could point to the amount of time he spent in the strike zone compared to the amount of contact made. He reached the zone 41% of the time, but gave up contact at a rate of nearly 88%. Of course, this is mitigated by the SwStr rate of 11.5%. His WHIP of 1.30 suggests too much contact (considering his walk rate above). Again, this is really stating something just to keep this whole highlights/lowlights gig together. There is not much to be down on with Biagini.
As well, something that may rub people the wrong way has nothing to do with Biagini himself. The media attention and forced interviews were sometimes too much to take. One can hardly blame the outlets for trying to get him on camera, but it became a bit forced sometimes. Of course, none of us blamed the player for this, because we really ate up the attention he got.
The future for Joe Biagini is a bit more comfortable with the Blue Jays. Just how they use him moving forward will be very interesting. In 2017, he could be used as a long man, with an eye to possibly starting him in 2018. Bringing him back to his starting roots very well could be in the cards.
Of course, he established himself as a reliable entity in a bullpen role. So, for the immediate future, we can expect him to fill a much needed role in Toronto’s ‘pen. Necessity will likely dictate that he returns as a reliever in 2017. Though, the success he had this past season will mean that he starts the season with a lot more trust from his manager. And, we can expect that he will be trusted with much more this coming season.
*Featured Image Credit: Bliss Noguiera – blissphoto.ca
THANK YOU FOR VISITING JAYS FROM THE COUCH! CHECK US OUT ON TWITTER @JAYSFROMCOUCH AND INSTAGRAM. LIKE US FACEBOOK. BE SURE TO CATCH THE JAYS NEST PODCAST.