As we get into this discussion, the easy complaint would be that none of these guys matter because they aren't "proven" - but just because it's easy doesn't make it right. One year ago, for example, Todd Redmond was "unproven." In the 2013 - you remember the great bullpen in '13? - the Jays got almost 220 above average innings from unproven relievers, most notably Brett Cecil among them You know what Cecil has in common with Redmond, Aaron Loup, Casey Janssen, Jesse Carlson, Scott Downs, and that's just in the last decade or so? Unheralded and unproven before blossoming in the Jays 'pen. I trust I need not review the legacy of well paid "proven" relievers we've employed over that time period. There's definitely some possibilities here.
AAA bullpen and candidates for a surprise job in Toronto
I'm going to start with the basic assumption that guys with a history of starting will be candidates fr the Bisons rotation and are not germane to a discussion of their 'pen. For the moist part, I don't think they are prime candidates to fill an opening in the Jays rotation unless all the other options are sucking.
So I'm going to just stick with looking at all the guys who will be fighting both for a AAA assignment and to force the Blue Jays' hand regarding a major league role. First, the guys on the 40 man roster:
Rob Rasmussen - Very likely the go-to option for additional LH relief. He held his own last year in brief appearances and was excellent in Buffalo after having spent his entire previous career as a minor league starter. He'll turn 26 just before Opening Day, and if Cecil is the closer he could easily break camp with the Jays.
Matt West - converted 3B with only 113.2 IP on his 26 year old arm. Acquitted himself well climbing the Ranger's system, including a respectable showing in the PCL. May demand your attention
Ryan Tepera - another guy who pitched well after shifting to the 'pen in AAA, no accident he was added to the 40 last off-season.
Scott Barnes - the only other lefty reliever on the 40, if he can refine his control. Walk rate is an issue so far.
Preston Guilmet - absolutely dominant until last year when he was good-but-not-great. Said to have a slow fastball.
Colt Hynes, Bo Schultz - Just guys. I'm mystified they are still on the 40.
Greg Infante - One-time hot prospect with a big heater, but little control. He found the strike zone last year and was excellent. If he doesn't forget where he left it, could be a dark horse and definitely one to watch.
Wilton Lopez - damned fine reliever in Houston for 3 years then got traded to hell, I mean Colorado. If he can get back to what he was before, he's the most likely non-roster guy to elbow his way in front of Jenkins and the most obvious choice if there's a spring injury..
Luis Perez - remember this guy? Yep. Same guy. If he can get healthy (less than 15 IP in last two seasons) he'd be worth watching.
The first three and the last three can't be ruled out as long-shot candidates to break camp with Toronto.
Noticed the issue yet? If you assume none break camp with the Blue Jays, then that's nine guys who might otherwise be assumed to be in the Bison's 'pen, plus Perez and John Stilson if/when healthy plus Bobby Korecky (old guy was dominant in AAA last year), Blake McFarland (kicked ass in the AFL after solid AA season), and Dustin Antolin (ready for promotion from AA) to consider. In other words, several of the lesser talents here (Schultz, Barnes?) are not long for the system.
And still there will be guys in AA who don't deserve to be.
The Jays will have at least one relief appearance by 20 or more relievers in every season (judging by recent years) so lets see if we're that deep: Sanchez, Cecil, Loup, Redmond, Estrada, Delabar, Jenkins, Drabek, Lopez, West, Infante, Rasmussen, Tepera, Perez, Hynes, Gulimet, Osuna, Castro, Stilson, Hendriks/Francis/Albers (
More Minor League questions...
Speaking of Dwight Smith...
LF? 2B? Signs are mixed. The AFL trial was before Travis was acquired, and DSJ says it as "just for versatility"....BUT...Travis or no, if he can field it well Smith's bat plays much better at 2B...BUT...Travis at AAA and Smith at AA squeezes out the well regarded (at least by the org) Jon Berti. My guess? Smith is n LF to open the season (less pressure as he adjusts to AA) then, assuming Travis is promoted, Berti is likely to follow and Smith moves to 2B - unless they decide he won't be able to field it.
Alford v. Davis
Anthony Alford needs game reps, so he needs to be on a full season roster. Logically, Lansing. BUT fellow Mississippian, Jays prospect and most of all center fielder DJ Davis played there last year and hit (and ran) so poorly it would be insane to promote him. So either you play one of them out of position half the time or one has to go somewhere else. Watch to see if Alford convinces them to try him at Dunedin.
Back up to speed enough to break camp with a full season club?
EDIT: News breaks today that he needed a second shoulder scope as the one last fall didn't achieve the intended outcome. Projected to need three months before he begins throwing again, that puts him on a solid track to open with the Canadians in June. Good news for Dan Jansen.
Open with a full season club? If so my bet is on Dunedin. Better medical staff, closer to home base, and keeps recovering elbow out of the cold. If he starts there and does well, he'll move as fast as his performance allows next year.
Will he ever stay healthy enough to live up to the potential?
The former opens in Dunedin, does the latter? Or will the Blue Jays be more conservative with the latter and make him force them? Osuna will, if all goes well, spend more time in AA than A+ (I'd guess up no later than right after the A+ ASG) and they may just be thinking that open rotation spot is Castro's to lose.
If they start him in Lansing, he and Jario Labourt will have dibs but might be joined by Chase DeJong, Matt Smoral and Ryan Borucki which is a crazy good rotation if it comes together.
Matt Boyd/Taylor Cole
Regain their momentum at AA this year? If so they'd have to be considered sleeper candidates to slip into the major league 'pen at some point.
Sean Ochinko/Christian Lopes
Did their off-season success (the former in the AFL, the latter Down Under) revive their sagging status? Lopes particularly was well regarded when drafted - is there any there there?
I'll be watching (from, alas, afar)