The Toronto Blue Jays organization has been stockpiling left-handed pitchers in the last couple of seasons, which has created impressive depth. At this point in the off-season, the organization could utilize upwards of 10 southpaws in 2009, should the need arise. With left-handed pitching always in short supply around the Majors, the organization could also use that depth to acquire some much-needed offence.
The majority of the left-handed pitching for the Jays comes in the form of relievers. Those relievers include B.J. Ryan, Scott Downs, Brian Tallet, Jesse Carlson, Fabio Castro, Reid Santos, and Davis Romero. The starting pitchers include youngsters David Purcey, Ricky Romero and Bill Murphy.
From a Fantasy perspective, Ryan is the most likely pitcher to have an impact in 2009. The closer missed almost all of 2007 after having Tommy John surgery but returned for 2008 and saved 32 games in 36 attempts. Despite the save total, Ryan’s stuff did not return to its pre-surgery levels and he lost a couple miles per hour off both his fastball and slider. His command also wavered and his walk rate worsened by more than one walk per nine innings from his days as a dominating reliever. On the plus side, he still saved quite a few games despite not having his best stuff. Ryan is now even further removed from his surgery so there is some hope that he will regain some velocity on his pitches in 2009. If he does, he has the potential to reach the 40-save plateau.
Downs has been a valuable pitcher for the Jays after being saved from the scrap heap prior to the 2005 season. In the past two seasons, the reliever has appeared in 147 games for the Jays and has a FIP of about 3.30 during that time frame. In 2008, the left-hander allowed just 54 hits in 70.2 innings of work and posted rates of 3.44 BB/9 and 7.26 K/9. The former starting pitcher has saved his career with the move to the bullpen but the Jays are considering stretching him out in spring training with an outside chance of giving him a starter’s role in 2009. He’s added 3 mph to his fastball in the past three seasons but he’s also gone from relying on four pitches to two. It will be interesting to see how Downs responds in spring training; he’s someone to keep an eye on.
Both Tallet and Carlson could have significant roles on the Jays in 2009 but neither should have a Fantasy impact.
Among the starters, Purcey figures to have the best shot of beginning the season in Toronto. Last season, the former first-round pick finally improved his command and control enough to pitch at the Major League level. The 26-year-old allowed 67 hits in 65 innings of work and posted rates of 4.02 BB/9 and 8.03 K/9. At 6’5”, 240 pounds, he has a workhorse body and the raw stuff to succeed, as long as he can find the strike zone. With a number of holes in the starting rotation, Purcey will have a great shot at pitching 180-200 innings.
Romero is another former first-round selection that has struggled with consistency in the minors, in part due to a lack of command. He finished the 2008 season in Triple-A and showed enough improvement to give hope that he could contribute at the Major League level in 2009. In seven starts, he allowed 42 hits in 42.2 innings. He posted rates of 4.22 BB/9 and 8.02 K/9. When he’s on, Romero works in the low 90s with a good change-up. His breaking balls are inconsistent but the curveball has plus potential. The 24-year-old probably won’t begin the season in Toronto but he could be racking up big league innings by the end of the season.