Jays From the Couch goes level by level comparing potential 2018 bullpens within the system
In today’s game, teams are placing an enormous emphasis on developing dominant bullpens. The New York Yankees have built a bullpen which is being considered to be the best of all time (link). The Yankees bullpen is led by Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, and David Robertson with the additions of Tommy Kahnle (trade), Chad Green, Chasen Shreve, and Giovanny Gallegos.
The Yankees dominant bullpen assisted New York’s starting rotation by shortening their outings.
It appears the New Hampshire Fisher Cats bullpen has a chance to be the best in the Blue Jays system. Forecasting the makeup of a major league bullpen can be tricky. Forecasting how the bullpens will look like for an entire minor league system is much more tricky.
I’ve based my analysis on a 5-man bullpen made up of the relievers I believe will make the largest impact for their respective team.
I collected FIP, K%, and WHIP from Fangraphs.com for each group listed below and averaged each category. To make it fair, I used a player’s stats where they amassed the majority of work in 2017. To provide you with an example, Andrew Case made 32 appearances in Double-A, 14 appearances in Advanced-A, and 4 appearances in Triple-A; therefore, I will be focusing on his Double-A stats.
However, if a pitcher amassed enough innings at the level he will likely be assigned to, I used these stats. Example, Tim Mayza amassed more innings at Double-A (33.1IP) but should be an important part of the Bisons bullpen (maybe Toronto’s???) and threw close to 20IP at this level.
Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) is a better representation of a pitchers performance because it focuses on what the pitcher can control. What occurs after the ball leaves his hand is out of his control and is dependent on the quality of the fielders on the field.
The main characteristic you want from a reliever is the ability to strike out a batter. More often than not, a reliever enters a game with runners on-base or in scoring position; therefore, a higher K% will result in fewer balls being put in play.
I went with WHIP because it’s a very good indication of a reliever’s ability to prevent base runners.
Lastly, I applied a simple scoring scheme of 1 point to the team with the poor value for each category and 4 points to the team who scored the best for each category. Each team’s score can be found in brackets beside their name.
Buffalo (6 pts)
FIP- 3.62, K%- 20.1%, WHIP- 1.26
Every member of Buffalo’s bullpen selected has a chance to start the season in the majors. If Toronto loses a lefty RP to injury, Girodo (deceptive delivery with great movement), Mayza (mid-90’s FB), and Dermody (lo-90’s FB with a decent slider) will battle it out for a chance to establish themselves as a major league reliever. NB native Andrew Case (not overpowering but tonnes of GB%) will hope to build off a successful 2017 and push himself onto the 40-man roster. I feel that Dusty Isaacs is the best-kept secret in the system. He keeps the down, commands all four pitches with a repeatable delivery, and uses his low 90’s FB effectively.
New Hampshire (10 pts)
FIP- 2.98, K%- 21.7%, WHIP- 1.18
I think the trio of Jackson, McClelland, and Snead have a chance to shorten the game for Manager John Schneider and help with the development of Jon Harris and Sean Reid-Foley. If healthy, Robson has a chance to really make this group special. Lastly, Young is only back in a Fisher Cats uniform because of the depth in the Herd’s bullpen. young will provide NH with an effective lefty-specialist.
Jackson’s success will hinge on his ability to limit the free pass but there’s no denying his high 90’s FB and knee-buckling curve are legitimate major league offerings. McClelland continues to get stronger and improve since correcting an issue with his shoulder two years ago. McClelland is touching triple digits with his FB and has a chance to rack up saves in New Hampshire.
Snead’s success in 2017 adds even more depth to the organizations strong LH bullpen options. He is deceptive with a 3/4 slot which has frustrated LHB since joining the system in 2016.
Dunedin (4 pts)
FIP- 4.14, K%- 21.5%, WHIP- 1.43
I am banking on Bergen finally being healthy and Leitz having a better luck than 2017. Hartman with his mid to high 90’s FB and Eller with his starter’s repertoire, deceptive delivery, and mid-90’s FB will form a solid setup duo for 2017 Canadians closer Ouellette.
Lansing (10 pts)
FIP- 3.76, K%- 26.9%, WHIP- 1.09
According to the parameters I set, Lansing’s bullpen should be a force in 2018. The Vancouver Canadians relied heavily on the strength of their bullpen to take home the championship in 2017. These young men will hope to carry that success into 2018 as they will get their first taste playing a full season. They will need to improve on their FIP if they hope to succeed at the next level. Hall’s ability to touch the high 90’s, Bouchey’s 6-foot-6 frame and devastating curve, and Fishman’s late movement will make it easy for Manager Cesar Martin to call on his bullpen.
While Lansing bested the Fisher Cats in K% and WHIP, I feel that NH’s bullpen will shine more bright in 2018. The numbers Jackson, McClelland, and Snead posted across two levels last season give me confidence they will conquer Double-A in the same manner. I don’t expect a seamless transition, after all the jump from Advance-A to Double-A is considered the toughest in the minor leagues.
The trio is entering the season at age 23 with McClelland the first to become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft in at the end of this year. This allows the Front Office to take their time developing them before making a decision.
I expect other teams have already taken notice and we should begin hearing their names linked to trade rumors sooner rather than later.
*Featured Image Credit: DaveMe Images
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