Jays From the Couch profiles Mike Bolsinger as an important part of the Toronto Blue Jays pitching depth in 2017
There is no way we can expect that the Toronto Blue Jays will be as lucky as they were in 2016. Where a normal year for a normal team necessitates the use of 8 or 9, or more, different starters to get through a season, Toronto got by on using just 7, with Drew Hutchison (2) and Francisco Liriano (8) being the only two “extra starters”. The starting 5 of Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ and R.A. Dickey combined for 152 starts. It was an exceptional display of health.
While some of the above starters battled through nagging issues, like Estrada and his back, we can’t expect that there won’t be a need for others to step in and make some starts. As well, the 6-man rotation is not likely to show itself, given Sanchez has shown he can start a full season. Like many MLB teams, we can expect that starters will be needed to cover for the good old fashioned trip to the DL.
One of those guys who would be called upon is Mike Bolsinger. The Blue Jays brought him into the organization mid way through the 2016 season and have stashed him in AAA. But, he is now out of options and will have to be given a spot on the club, or be exposed to waivers- where he would surely be claimed. Teams are always looking for pitching depth. Bolsinger provides that, if nothing else.
He made 21 starts for the Dodgers in 2015. His 6-6, 3.62 ERA, 1.36 WHIP were certainly serviceable. In 2016, he made 6 starts and went 1-4 with a 6.83 ERA before being sent to AAA and then traded. He didn’t perform much better in Buffalo (1-4, 6.04). The challenge for the Blue Jays will be to decide how to better use his skills. At this point, with a full rotation, he very well could be given a look as the long man out of the bullpen, with the potential to be a spot starter should the need arise.
But, if that is the case, just what would the Blue Jays be looking at, here? What does he bring to the mound? According to The Baseball Cube, Bolsinger features an odd mixture of pitch usage: Curve- 37.48%, Cutter- 35.75%, Fastball- 14.67%, Slider 11.16% and Change- 0.94%. It definitely is a usual mix of pitches, except for the amount he uses his fastball in comparison to the rest. However, the 87.83 mph on his fastball certainly explains that.
While you might be thinking that Mark Buehrle was able to get by on velocity that was even lower than that, you have to remember that Buehrle could command his offering. Bolsinger has given up 3+ walks per 9 over the last couple seasons. Buehrle was always below 2. According to Fangraphs, Bolsinger was in the strike zone 46% of the time in 2016 and 2015, likely due to his high usage of offspeed stuff. The separation between his fastball and change is 4.5 mph, which makes it clear why he doesn’t go to the change that often. As well, his offspeed stuff doesn’t exactly present much difference from his “heater”.
Bolsinger doesn’t exactly present the kind of “stuff” you’d like to see from a starter. His velocity is not up there. His command needs work as well. But, for the Toronto Blue Jays, the decision of whether (or how) to utilize him lies in just what they need from him. They have to decide if what he brings to the mound is a fit with what they need. For a long man/ spot starter, does he present enough use to carry him on the roster? As of right now, they don’t appear to have many options available to them.
The recent addition of Brett Oberholtzer (MiLB deal) won’t have an impact on Bolsinger’s situation, at least not in the options game aspect. Rule 5 selection, Glenn Sparkman, will have to be given a shot on the roster, or a deal with the Royals will need to take place in order to keep him. So, that could impact Bolsinger. Heck, even Joe Biagini and his role could impact Bolsinger. If the Blue Jays want to stretch Biagini out in advance of moving him to the rotation in 2018, they could put him in that long man situation.
The unfortunate thing for Bolsinger is that he doesn’t offer anything eye popping that would make you scream for his spot on the roster. Perhaps, his best attribute, though, is what will keep him around. He offers depth. As the old adage goes, “You can never have enough pitching”. Well, the Blue Jays will need to have a short memory when it comes to the health of their starting rotation and look to use that pitching depth. 2016’s luck can not be expected to duplicate. In remembering that, consideration has to be given to the role of Mike Bolsinger.
*Featured Image Credit: C Stem- JFtC
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.