Letters of Intent
Bullpen Survivor: Who Makes the Jays for Opening Day?
By Jay Blue
Blue Jays From Away
Today, we’re going to play a little game here at Blue Jays from Away. I’m out of commission for the day, taking the bus to Buffalo and then flying to Tampa to catch some spring training action of my own.
Today’s game is Bullpen Survivor. To win the game, you make the Blue Jays’ Opening Day roster without getting injured or sent to the minors. The benefits of winning are obvious: Prestige, a big league salary, plane rides, posh accommodations, playing in major, world class cities like New York, Boston and Baltimore (and that’s just if you can hang on for April). The runners up will go back to riding the buses and pitching in cities like Buffalo, Rochester, Pawtucket and Allentown (and that’s just the first month).
It’s a high stakes game for the pitchers that requires nerves of steel, an iron stomach and the ability to keep yourself focused and entertained while sitting in the bullpen waiting for your chance to pitch. Admittedly, it’s probably a little bit easier to do these days with the new pace of play rules being implemented.
The contestants in Bullpen Survivor are looking at trying to grab one of three or four available* spots in the Toronto bullpen. Obviously, individual performance isn’t the only thing that will get you one of the jobs but it can’t hurt!
How do we get those three or four possibly available spots in the bullpen? Let’s take a look. Locks for the Toronto bullpen include returning mainstays of 2014 Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup and Todd Redmond.
I’m also of the opinion that Chad Jenkins makes the team.
That leaves three spots in the bullpen if the Blue Jays carry an eight-man bullpen and four spots if Brett Cecil can’t start the season due to his health.
Now we get into the roster complexities. Of the chief competitors in Bullpen Survivor, Kyle Drabek and Liam Hendriks are out of options. I think that one of these two pitchers will have the inside track but will the Blue Jays be willing to let both of them go over the waiver wire?
Steve Delabar, a winner of Bullpen Survivor in a previous season, has been having a strong spring and could easily put himself back into contention.
The Blue Jays would probably love to Wilton Lopez in the bullpen. The 30 year old has had three extremely good seasons with the Houston Astros and another decent one with Colorado before struggling in 2014. If he returns to form, he could be a very solid and cheap solution. Lopez is on a minor league contract, however, and if the Jays decide to take him, they would have to make room on the 40-man somewhere (which could be by losing a player on waivers or moving Stroman to the 60-day DL).
Jeff Francis is also making a case for himself despite being on a minor league contract. Francis is a big league veteran who can get lefties out and while the quality of opponents he’s faced hasn’t been high, he has done pretty well so far.
Another dark horse candidate who is on the 40-man roster is Ryan Tepera. He’s allowed one run on four hits and two walks in three innings but he’s struck out four and throws 95 mph with his four-seam fastball and can get ground ball outs.
Righty Cory Burns hasn’t done himself any favours and is looking less likely to make the club, especially since he was sent to Buffalo outright earlier in the offseason and is on a minor league deal.
The youngsters Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna are being mentioned in connection to the Jays making camp and while I think they both have had a great showing so far this spring, only one of them will make the club. Remember that both Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez had great showings in spring last year but neither made the Jays’ Opening Day roster.
Other pitchers still in camp include Austin Bibens-Dirkx, Rob Rasmussen, Juan Pablo Oramas and Scott Barnes. Barnes is out of options and will probably get a good look for the rest of the spring while Oramas and Rasmussen have already been optioned to Buffalo, and Bibens-Dirkx, on a minor league deal, will go where he’s needed.
Who will win Toronto Blue Jays Bullpen Survivor in 2015?
My Opening Day bullpen is:
Who wins your version of Bullpen Survivor?