The Toronto Blue Jays need help in the bullpen. Toronto may not need to look any further than farmhand LHP Travis Bergen
This offseason, the Blue Jays Front Office added several starting pitching options; however, the bullpen remains a work in progress. In the past, Ross Atkins added veteran budget relievers around Spring Training or Spring Training.
For the most part, the results of slow playing the reliever market have been fruitful. The Blue Jays got good results from Seung-Hwan Oh, Tyler Clippard, John Axford, and Daniel Hudson. Each of these relievers was also traded away for a decent return, helping to add depth to the farm system.
This offseason, the Blue Jays have said good-bye to Justin Shafer, Ryan Tepera, Derek Law, Jason Adams, Brock Stewart, and Buddy Boshers. They have signed A.J. Cole and Justin Miller to minor league deals and claimed Anthony Bass off waivers.
The Blue Jays are expected to carry 13 pitchers (5-SP and 8-RP); therefore, this leaves two or three spots open in the bullpen. Not including potential injuries.
I recently looked at Jackson McClelland (link), Hector Perez (linK), and Kirby Snead (link) as possible options. Shaun Doyle checked in on Sean Reid-Foley as another option (link). Today, I’d like to offer up another lefty reliever who many fans seem to forget is still in the system.
LHP Travis Bergen
Selected in the 7th round of the 2015 Draft, the Blue Jays drafted Bergen out of Kennesaw State as a starting pitcher. Unfortunately, injuries held Bergen under 30 innings over his first three seasons and relegated him to the bullpen. In 2018, a healthy Travis Bergen breezed through Advanced-A and Double-A. In 27 games at AA, Bergen posted a record of 4-1 with 7 saves and a 0.50ERA.
Surprisingly, the Blue Jays left the lefty unprotected at the Rule V draft where the San Francisco Giants scooped him up. The 6-foot-1 native of McDonough, GA, made his Major League debut on March 29th facing one batter. He made 9 appearances in April, posting a 2-0 record and a 5.19ERA while allowing 5 earned runs, walking 4 and striking out 8 over 8.2IP. He was much better in May, dropping his WHIP down to 1.13 while posting 3.38ERA in 7 appearances (8.0IP).
Bergen landed on the IL on May 21st with a strained left shoulder. On June 7th, Travis started a rehab assignment. He made a pair of outings for the San Jose Giants of the Californa League. On June 12th, Bergen made his Pacific Coast League debut with the Sacramento River Cats where he made 7 relief appearances before being shelved after a July 1st appearance. He was transferred to the 60-day IL on July 18th to reset his rehab assignment.
After 15 appearances with the River Cats, the lefty reliever posted a 0-0 record with a 3.78ERA, a save, 10BB, and 15K. On August 8th, Travis Bergen was activated from the 60-day IL and made three appearances before being DFA’d. He cleared waivers and returned to the Blue Jays who assigned him to Buffalo.
Overall, Travis Bergen posted a record of 2-0 with a 5.49ERA, 5.24xFIP, and an ugly 17.4% HR/FB in 19.2IP. Bergen finished with a 8.24 K/9 and 4.12 BB/9 while allowing opponents to bat .240 for a 1.37WHIP.
According to Baseball Savant Bergen threw 375 pitches in the major leagues in 2019. Baseball Savant tells us that 12% of Bergen ball in play were barrels with league average being 7%. He allowed an exit velocity of 90.9MPH versus the league average of 87.7MPH. This tells us that he wasn’t missing enough bats and batters were hitting him hard.
Fangraphs tells us that Travis Bergen relied heavily on his FB (68%) which was thrown at 90.5MPH on average. He threw his curve 27.7% of the time at an average of 78.5MPH. Lastly, he only threw his changeup 0.3% at an average of 85MPH.
With changes to how clubs use relievers in 2020, a lefty who can get RHB and LHB out is very important. Unfortunately, this wasn’t something Travis Bergen excelled at during his time with the Giants. Bergen held LHB to a .192BA with a 0.82WHIP, and 1 HRA. Against RHB, Bergen allowed them to bat .265 with a 1.70WHIP, and 3HRA.
With LHP Tim Mayza out for 2020, the Blue Jays are in the market for a lefty reliever. LHP Thomas Pannone should be considered the favorite to lay claim to this role; however, it is possible the organization still wants Pannone to start which could happen at Triple-A. That would definitely open the door for a guy like Travis Bergen.
Travis Bergen will get a long look during Spring Training, competing with Pannone, Kirby Snead, and whichever veteran lefty reliever the Blue Jays add over the next couple weeks. Bergen would need to be added to the 40-man roster which presents a problem but I do think Bergen, if healthy, has a very good chance at making the team.
Featured image credit: R.Mueller
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