Spring Training Preview: Bullpen Spots

Spring Training Preview: Bullpen Spots

With spring training days away, InsideTheDome analyzes the Jays bullpen, and looks at the lock-ins for the pen and also those competing for the final spots. We also examine the internal competition of which bullpen arm will take the lead role and become the closer for the 2005 season.

Justin Speier
The Jays re-signed Speier to a two-year, $4.15 million contact this past December, and the thirty-one year old reliever is expected to enter spring training as the favorite for the closers spot in the Jays bullpen. Jason Frasor will also compete for the closers role, along with Brandon League, who is the young hard throwing prospect of the Jays. Speier's has proven he can pitch through the toughest circumstances as he spent three seasons playing for the Rockies while posting an ERA of just 4.38 and allowing 169 hits in just 191 innings pitched. The right-hander features a mid-90's fastball which he keeps low in the zone, a slider, and a split-finger. You don't have to look any further than his repertoire to figure out why Speier's was successful in the mile high city as his entire repertoire features pitches that remain low and cause batters to hit them on the ground. Another feat of the hard throwing reliever that makes him a perfect fit for the closers role is the fact that he allowed 27 of 118 inherited runners to score the last four seasons.

Year

Team

G

IP

H

BB

SO

K/9

W-L

Hld

Sv

BS

BAA

WHIP

ERA

2004

Toronto

62

69

61

25

52

6.78

3-8

7

7

4

.239

1.25

3.91



Jason Frasor
The 27-year-old right hander has come a long way in his career to reach the big leagues as he went through two separate Tommy John Surgeries, and was spectacular for the Jays in the early part of 2004, however, fatigue caught up to him the last two months of the season as his performance faded. Through the first four months of the season Frasor went 4-3 with a 2.51 ERA while saving thirteen of his fourteen opportunities, and had a twenty-inning scoreless streak during the year. His arm weakened toward the end of the season because of his lack of experience pitching that deep into a season as Frasor went 0-3 with an8.18 ERA, though he did close four of his five save chances. The young reliever uses a mid-90's fastball along with a nasty curveball to get hitters out. He also features a changeup that is a work in progress and Frasor should spent the spring using his changeup more to get more comfortable with it. Frasor will compete for the closers role this spring, but, nevertheless, he will be a intricate part of the Jays pen late in the game when they are leading.

Year

Team

G

IP

H

BB

SO

K/9

W-L

Hld

Sv

BS

BAA

WHIP

ERA

2004

Toronto

63

68.1

64

36

54

7.11

4-6

8

17

2

.251

.146

.408



Billy Koch
Koch was the first player that Ricciardi traded during his tenure as the clubs General Manager, however, did not hesitate to bring back the flamethrower as the Jays needed some help in the back end of the bullpen for the 2005 season. It's unrealistic to expect Koch to revert back to old form, as he has lost his blazing fastball, which he now throws in the 92-94 MPH range. The right-hander will have to prove in spring training that he deserves the closers role, and right now we don't see him being much more than a middle reliever. If Koch can keep runners off base by keeping the ball in the strike zone we feel he will be a successful reliever, as we see his command and wildness as his biggest problem. At this point in time, Koch will be used strictly as a middle reliever as Justin Speiers, and Jason Frasor will be featured in the eighth and ninth innings of close games.

Year

Team

G

IP

H

BB

SO

K/9

W-L

Hld

Sv

BS

BAA

WHIP

ERA

2004

WSox/Marlins

47

49

45

36

50

9.18

2-3

4

8

3

.241

1.65

4.41



Scott Schoeneweis
Many Jays fans were confused when the signing of Schoeneweis was announced, and could not understand why he will be getting paid $1.75 million in 2005, after going 6-9 with a 5.59 ERA in 2004. However, when you examine Schoeneweis' numbers closer, you would see he is not as bad as many think, as long as he is used correctly. During the past three seasons, Schoeneweis has held opposing left-hand hitters to a .222 batting average against, and his opponent's batting average was .249 when he pitched out of the bullpen, as opposed to .283 as a starting pitcher. We do feel Schoeneweis is overpaid to be a left-hand specialist, however, if he performs well out of the bullpen, nobody will question his contract. The left-hander will likely be used mostly against left-hand batters, however, with his salary, you can expect the Jays to expect much more out of him from the bullpen.

Year

Team

G

IP

H

BB

SO

K/9

W-L

Hld

Sv

BS

BAA

WHIP

ERA

2004

Whitesox

20

112.2

129

49

69

5.51

6-9

0

0

0

.291

1.58

5.59



Kerry Ligtenberg
The 33-year-old reliever spent most of the 2004 season with discomfort in his hip, and it is unknown as to what his health status will be for the 2005 season. The bullpen veteran has shown in the past that he has the ability to be successful out of the pen when healthy and if he has a clean bill of health in 2005 we like how he compliments the rest of the Jays bullpen and feel he will be an effective arm in the middle innings of games. However, if his hip begins to act up again it will be a very long season for him and the Jays.

Year

Team

G

IP

H

BB

SO

K/9

W-L

Hld

Sv

BS

BAA

WHIP

ERA

2004

Toronto

57

55

73

25

49

8.02

1-6

4

3

2

.313

1.78

6.38



Competition time…
We just went trough the five relievers that should be write-ins to win a bullpen spot out of spring training, but several pitchers will be fighting the final bullpen spot.

Vinny Chulk
The 26-year-old right-hander is a product of the Jays system and will be one of the main candidates trying to win the last bullpen spot. Chulk added three MPH to his fastball last March, and the Jays moved him to the first-base side of the pitching rubber as the move allowed him to hit the outside corner, and also improved his slider against left-hand batters. One of the biggest weaknesses of Chulk is hit ability to pitch to left-hand batters. Last season right-handers batted just .228 against him, while left-handers batted .308 against him. The youngster made his first appearance during the end of May and he allowed just three runs during his first nineteen innings of work, but struggled during July, August and September, posting a 6.68 ERA following the All-Star Break. Chulk must prove he can pitch to left-hand batters if he wants to stick around in the major leagues.

Year

Team

G

IP

H

BB

SO

K/9

W-L

Hld

Sv

BS

BAA

WHIP

ERA

2004

Toronto

47

56

59

27

44

7.07

1-3

13

2

3

.271

1.54

4.66



Justin Miller
After coming on the scene in 2002, Miller sat out the entire 2003 season due to shoulder surgery, before coming back last season, but struggled on the mound. Miller needs to work on several aspects of his game before he can be relied on to be a successful reliever. Left-hand batters hit .360 against him last year, and his fastball has been straight at times which resulted in batters hitting .455 off him when they swing on the first pitch. Miller has two-seam fastball with late movement, and when that is on he often induces ground ball outs, but inconsistency and mechanical issues are his main problem.

Year

Team

G

IP

H

BB

SO

K/9

W-L

Hld

Sv

BS

BAA

WHIP

ERA

2004

Toronto

19

81.2

101

42

47

5.18

3-4

0

0

0

.316

1.75

6.06



Brandon League
League will be the arm that everyone is watching this spring as he is one of the jewels in the farm system. Many fans would like to see League begin the 2005 season at Triple-A Syracuse to work on his entire repertoire so he can be a starter, however, the entire organization views League as a reliever, and that is the role in which he will be most successful at. League will be given a chance not only to win a bullpen spot, however, to also win the spot as the teams closer. Although League will be the future closer of the Jays, we see him spending the 2005 season in middle relief and setting up Jason Frasor and Justin Speier's. League is the likely candidate to win the final bullpen spot, and we see him coming north with the club after spring training with a spot on the 25 man roster.

Year

Team

G

IP

H

BB

SO

K/9

W-L

Hld

Sv

BS

BAA

WHIP

ERA

2004

Toronto

3

4.2

3

1

2

3.86

1-0

1

0

0

.176

0.86

0.00



Chad Gaudin
The Jays acquired Gaudin in a December trade from the Devil Rays for catcher Kevin Cash. Gaudin will get couple of starts this spring, however, we don't see him competing with Josh Towers and Gustavo Chacin as his best chance of making the club will be as a reliever. Gaudin is very young, and at age twenty-one he already has some big league experience. He could be a long term-fourth or fifth starter, however, for now the quickest way to the majors will be in the pen. Gaudin has a good late moving fastball, and a good slider, which is part of the reason we believe it will be best for Gaudin to begin April with Triple-A Syracuse. The right-hander should be placed in the rotation and strengthen his repertoire, as he does have potential to be a major league starter.

Year

Team

G

IP

H

BB

SO

K/9

W-L

Hld

Sv

BS

BAA

WHIP

ERA

2004

Toronto

26

42.2

59

16

30

6.33

1-2

0

0

0

1.76

.337

4.85



Email: BVangelatos@aol.com

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