Join Jays From the Couch as we take a look back at Blue Jays rookie reliever Justin Shafe’s 2018 season
Taken in the 8th round of the 2014 Draft from the University of Florida, Justin Shafer made his major league debut with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2018 on August 19th in Yankee stadium. He allowed one hit, hit a batter, walked a batter, and registered on strike out for a scoreless 5th inning.
The 6-foot-2 righty reliever finished the season with the Blue Jays, making another 5 appearances over the final month and a bit. Despite holding opponents to a .194 BA and registering a 3.24 ERA with no record, Shafer walked 7 batters and struck out 2 across 8.1 innings.
You might think rookie nervous and you might be right; however, Shafer has a tendency of walking too many and not striking out enough over the course of his 5 minor league career.
In 360.1 innings, the 26-yr-old walked 131 batters and struck out 252. Focusing on his AAA and AA stats, Shafer strikes out 7.75 batters per 9 innings and walks 3.65 while allowing 6.6 hits. In his 2018 audition, he walked 3.3/9IP and struck out 5.3/IP.
Nothing to get too excited about, right?
Well maybe. Justin Shafer’s repertoire consists of 4 pitches which are thrown in the mid-80s to low-90’s range. His sinker and fastball top out around 94 mph while his slider and change sit around 85-88mph. He does a good job of keeping the ball low in the zone thanks to the downward action of his pitches. If you’ve been paying attention this offseason, you’d notice a lot of sinkerball pitchers being added.
This downward action has allowed Shafer to consistently produce groundball rates in the min-50% range throughout his career. He finished with the lowest GB% (42.7%) during his with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons (38.1IP) in 2018. He allowed just 2 home runs in 2018, one with the Fisher Cats and one with Toronto.
Shafer opened the season with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats where he made 13 appearances, registering 1 save and finishing 7 games. Between 2017 and 2018, Shafer recorded 7 Double-A wins and 4 losses with a 2.75 ERA in 50 appearances.
He made his final AA appearance of the season on May 15th with 3.0 scoreless innings (1 unearned run allowed), striking out 3 and lowing his ERA to 0.52.
Shafer made his Triple-A debut on May 20th, registering a save. He would register a save in his 4 Triple-A appearances and finished with 15 before his mid-August promotion to Toronto.
The native of Lake Wales, Florida made 34 appearances, finishing 30 games, and posting a record of 3-3 with a 1.41 ERA. His 3.07 FIP and 4.33 xFIP show the possibility of regression but .252 BABIP indicates luck had nothing to do with his excellent results with the Herd.
During his time with the Bisons, he held left-handed batters to a .196 batting average with a 1.25 WHIP and right-handed batters to a .205 with a 1.04 WHIP.
With runners in scoring position, Shafer held opponents to a .140 BA. He did a good job of stranding baserunners with a 77.8 LOB%.
Looking Ahead to 2019
Shafer was outrighted from the Blue Jays 40-man roster on November 2nd. Luckily he was not claimed. He will get an invite to Spring Training where he’ll have a slim chance of cracking the roster.
Therefore, Shafer will open the 2019 season back with the Buffalo Bisons and serve as the club’s closer. He will need to replicate his 2018 numbers if there’s a chance of getting added to the 40-man roster. While he does possess an excellent repertoire for inducing groundballs, he lacks the hi-90’s power FB which this Front Office seems to be targeting.
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