With his rehab started, the Toronto Blue Jays will soon have to make a decision on the future of Glenn Sparkman
When the Toronto Blue Jays claimed Glenn Sparkman from the Kansas City Royals in the most recent Rule 5 Draft, it caused more of a stir in the fan base than normal. Usually Rule 5 picks tend not to create much fan fare as they rarely have an impact on a team. But, thanks to the absolute steal that was Joe Biagini, people took notice of Sparkman and placed some expectations on his performance.
Per Rule 5 regulations, the Blue Jays have to give Sparkman a spot on their roster or offer him back to the Royals. This made his Spring Training interesting since so much was riding on his performance. In 2 innings of work this spring, Sparkman didn’t exactly impress. He gave up 4 earned runs on 5 hits. So, if you were someone who put stock in spring numbers, you might look at this and wonder if he is worth keeping on the roster. Hopefully, you are also the type of person who doesn’t put stock in a two inning sample size, regardless of when it occurs.
His performance in Spring Training was cut short as he broke a bone in his pitching thumb on March 2 during a fielding drill. He was moved to the 60-Day DL before the Blue Jays had to worry about whether they would have a bullpen spot for him. Here we are in the first full week of June and Sparkman is working his way back to forcing the club’s decision. He has started his rehab assignment.
He started in Dunedin with a 3 inning performance that saw him give up his share of hits, but was not charged with any earned runs. After that, he was moved to AA, where his most recent outing was not as effective (if we can use that word). He gave up a couple of home runs in 3.2 innings of work that led to numbers that don’t exactly get you excited.
The first thing we have to remember is that rehab outings are meant for players to use to get back into the rhythm of playing again. For a pitcher, it is about commanding the strike zone, etc. With a hand injury, gripping the baseball and whatnot is also going to be an adjustment. So, results don’t matter as much as they would for a minor league player that is looking to be promoted.
What does matter is what Sparkman brings to the table. He is a guy who has good command of the strike zone and mixes up his delivery to add deception. He won’t overpower with his fastball as it lost some velocity after Tommy John surgery. But, he will rely on being a ‘pitcher’ to get his share of strike outs.
Back in February of 2016, Fangraphs’ Dan Farnsworth wrote a projection for Sparkman (#17 on the list of Royals prospects) after the righty pitcher was coming back from Tommy John surgery. Farnsworth noted: “He has a lot of deception with his delivery, using a slow-to-fast tempo that is tough for hitters to time up…there is ongoing discussion over whether his slider or curve is more projectable. He’s not a big power guy but commands his fastball very well. Assuming he comes back fully healthy, there’s a chance he turns his deception and command into middle to back-end starter role.”
Chris Mitchell of Fangraphs wrote on last year’s Rule 5 picks and had this to say about Sparkman: “A closer look suggests he actually pitched pretty well, however, as evidenced by his 24% strikeout rate and 4% walk rate. It’s also likely his 2016 performance undersells his potential, as it was curtailed by recovery from Tommy John.”
The question will be whether there is room for Sparkman in Toronto’s bullpen. The initial reaction to this might be “why not?”. The bullpen has been a revolving door anyway, so why not take a chance and see what Sparkman can do? Considering they have to keep him on their roster, he will definitely get his chance to impress. In this day and age in baseball, do big league teams have room for anyone other than flamethrowers out of the bullpen? Aaron Loup would have something to say about that.
The real decision comes after he’s added. Once he has healed and joined the big league team, what will the club do with him? If he ends up being another Biagini, then the choice is easy. If not, the decision to offer him back to KC will present itself. And, with the club fighting in the standings, how long a leash do they provide him? You can bet that, like Biagini, they’ll ease him into a job. They’ll start him off in low leverage situations and play it by ear.
The Toronto Blue Jays don’t have to rush into a decision about Glenn Sparkman right this second. But, you can bet that that time is coming. It will be interesting to see just how it plays out. Is there a spot for him in an ever changing bullpen? Who will have to be removed form the roster to make room? Normally Rule 5 picks don’t cause this much intrigue. But, if you’re a fan of roster manipulation, this is about to get fun.
*Featured Image Credit: Joel Dinda UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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