Can Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Blake McFarlan come back from 2016 shoulder surgery to challenge for spot in Toronto’s bullpen?
To say that 2017 is going to be a make or break season for Blue Jays Blake McFarland would be a giant understatement.
McFarland missed all of 2016 after going under the knife to surgically repair his shoulder. This must have been extremely disheartening for the 29-yr-old right-handed reliever. McFarland had recently been added to Toronto’s 40-man roster during the offseason.
McFarland had gotten positive reviews for his 2014 and 2015 seasons. He appeared to be a serious competitor for a spot in the Blue Jays 2016 bullpen.
A non-drafted free agent out of San Jose State University, Blake McFarland struggled in 2011 and 2012 with the Vancouver Canadians and Lansing Lugnuts. Blake gave up too many hits and posted poor LOB% (59.5% and 63.8%) which caused his ERA to inflate.
In his rookie year in 2011 with the C’s, McFarland struggled to finish off his competitions (4.76 K/9). Fortunately, 2012 was much better as he seemed to figure out how to finish (7.27 K/9) and even notched a couple saves with the Lugnuts. From 2013 to 2015, McFarland would finish with a K/9 between 8.44 and 12.00 while climbing the minor league ranks to Triple-A Buffalo.
An increased ability to strike out batters and improved LOB% resulted in more late-inning opportunities for the right-hander. McFarland converted 40-of-52 save opportunities and finished off 38 games in 2013 and 36 in 2015.
As part of the 2014 Dunedin Blue Jays, Blake held a different role. The ’14 D-Jays had a personal favorite of mine, Arik Sikula, closing out games with Wil Browning and Chad Girodo. This depth pushed McFarland into a middle innings and setup role. Despite the lack of save opportunities the Blue Jays front office saw fit to send McFarland to the Arizona Fall League in the offseason.
As a member of the Mesa Solar Sox, McFarland struggled with walks but managed a strong K rate and a very good 94.1 LOB%.
McFarland bounced between Double-A and Triple-A in 2015. His combined stats showed a bullpen arm, ready to take the next step. Blake finished with a record of 3 and 3 with a 2.03 ERA. He struck out 11+ batters per 9IP and walked just 1.6 batters per 9IP.
The San Jose native was added to the Blue Jays 40-man roster on November 18th, protecting him from being selected in the Rule 5 draft. A shoulder injury limited McFarland to 1.0 innings that spring. He was optioned to Buffalo and had his season come to close on April 4th.
The Blue Jays front office thought so highly of the young man they released him on August 2nd and re-signed him 4 days later.
The RHP has not gotten into any spring training game this year; however, he is listed on the Buffalo Bisons 40-man roster which gives me hope that he will be returning in 2017.
If Blake McFarland can return to form, he has a chance to join Danny Barnes, Chad Girodo, Matt Dermody, and Tim Mayza as possible mid-season relief help. Before his injury, McFarland threw a low 90’s fastball, a mid-80’s cutter, and a low 80’s change and slider.
Jays From the Couch will continue to track Blake McFarland’s progress with high hopes of a full recovery.
*Featured Image Credit: C Stem