Fantasy Relievers on Non-Contenders: Blue Jays

The Blue Jays have the highest projected win total (77) of any team I am writing about in this series, but it’s fair to say they will be non-contenders in the AL East. Their biggest moves have been to sign Matt Shoemaker and Freddy Galvis and to trade for Clayton Richard, and they haven’t been linked to any deals for impact players. As currently constituted, they don’t appear to have either the offense or pitching to keep up with the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays.

They do, however, have a talented closer in Ken Giles, who could be a luxury when and if they fall out of contention. As long as he is on the Toronto roster, it is highly likely he will go uncontested for save chances, given that the team lacks a sure-fire closer-in-waiting to challenge him. However, if Giles is dealt this season, Charlie Montoyo will need to find a successor. Let’s take a closer look at the Blue Jays’ bullpen to see if we can find relievers other than Giles who may have some fantasy value.

Ken Giles

The good: While Giles’ struggles in non-save situations last season have been well documented, he did not blow any of his 27 save opportunities, and he allowed only one run in 25.2 innings in those contests. He has been consistently adept at missing bats, posting a SwStr% of at least 16.0 percent in each of the last three seasons. Giles’ skill set is notably well-rounded, as he throws strikes, gets chases and is not especially prone to allowing hard contact.

The bad: Giles did not have a problem with non-save situations prior to 2018, but his difficulties last year were acute. He allowed 27 runs (25 earned) in 24.2 innings when a save wasn’t at stake. Giles acknowledged he needs to address the mental side of the game, and he is aiming to perform more consistently this season.

The outlook: A run of bad performances cost Giles the closer’s job in Houston, and inconsistency can make nearly any reliever vulnerable to a demotion to a lower-leverage role. However, the Blue Jays don’t have as many clear alternatives to close as the Astros did last season, and Giles settled in nicely for his new team over the final seven weeks of the season, allowing two earned runs over 16 innings. A trade seems like the most likely scenario by far that would lead him to lose his closer status.

Ryan Tepera

The good: Tepera is no slouch at inducing swinging strikes, having compiled a 13.0 percent SwStr% over his career. When he has allowed contact, it has often been of the harmless variety, as he has posted a soft contact rate of at least 24.0 percent in each of the last three seasons. Tepera also gained some closing experience last season, collecting seven saves while Roberto Osuna was on administrative leave subsequent to having domestic assault charges filed against him.

The bad: We should not anticipate Tepera being near the top of the K-BB% leaderboard. Low called strike rates have helped to keep his strikeout rates below 26.0 percent, while a lack of control has led to walk rates in excess of 9 percent for each of the last three seasons.

The outlook: Tepera’s skill profile falls short of Giles’, so there is no reason to think he would be a serious challenger to the incumbent closer. He would, however, be a strong candidate to replace Giles if he were to get traded away. Perhaps if Giles had an extended slump, Tepera could supplant him, but that scenario seems unlikely.

Tim Mayza

The good: Though he has a different pitch mix, Mayza profiles like a left-handed version of Tepera, with a high whiff rate (13.6 percent SwStr% in 2018), poor control (39.2 percent Zone% in 2018) and an aversion to called strikes. To date, Mayza has been a much better strikeout pitcher than Tepera, with a 29.1 percent K-rate over parts of two seasons in the majors.

The bad: Mayza is far and away the Blue Jays’ best left-handed alternative in the bullpen, and allowing him to close would leave Montoyo short-handed when the team was facing tough lefty hitters prior to the ninth inning. His low rates of pitches in the zone and called strikes also limit his ceiling.

The outlook: As one of the Blue Jays’ better strikeout pitchers, Mayza seems like one of the more likely candidates to get saves if Giles is not around, but his odds of closing are long compared to those for Tepera.

David Paulino

The good: Tepera and Mayza may have limited strikeout upside because they don’t get called strikes, but you know who does freeze batters? Paulino, that’s who. Admittedly, he has done this over a small sample of 42.2 major league innings and 784 pitches. If the trend doesn’t pan out over a larger sample, there is still a chance he could become a good swing-and-miss pitcher, his career 9.6 percent SwStr% notwithstanding. Three years ago, Paulino had a 16.7 percent SwStr% at Double-A Corpus Christi, and over a handful of starts at Triple-A Fresno in 2016 and 2018, he posted rates well above the Pacific Coast League average (per StatCorner).

The bad: Paulino has not thrown many innings over the last two seasons. He missed 80 games in 2017 due to a PED suspension and lost much of the 2018 season recovering from surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow and then sustaining a shoulder injury. Even if he winds up not being a health risk, his lack of a recent track record makes it difficult to know what to expect.

The outlook: Due to his missed time and disappointing stats during his time with the Astros, expectations should be tempered for Paulino. However, he does have the potential to be an effective reliever, and his usage is worth tracking as the season progresses.

We hoped you liked reading Fantasy Relievers on Non-Contenders: Blue Jays by Al Melchior!

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Al Melchior has been writing about Fantasy baseball and sim games since 2000, and his work has appeared at CBSSports.com, BaseballHQ, Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster and FanRagSports. He has also participated in Tout Wars' mixed auction league since 2013. You can follow Al on Twitter @almelchiorbb and find more of his work at almelchior.com.

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