All the bullpen boys are back. Well, almost.
Toronto Blue Jays incumbent closer Jordan Romano returned from the injured list Tuesday after missing just over two weeks with a back injury. He’ll assume his high-leverage duties alongside Jordan Hicks, Erik Swanson, and Tim Mayza, rounding out the locked-and-loaded late-inning core Toronto has dreamed about all season.
Chad Green and Trevor Richards could both return from the IL as early as Friday. And when they do, this bullpen will be a finished product. The group has swing-and-miss, movement, and can attack righties and lefties.
Jays manager John Schneider agreed with the notion that this is the club’s best corps of relievers in years, especially after the addition of Hicks.
“[Velocity] is tough,” Schneider said. “And whenever you have that, it just makes your margin for error a little bit bigger. And it's nice to have that, and … it allows you to really pick your spots to try to just go nuclear.”
Toronto must still be wise managing its crop of arms, especially in leverage. So in the spirit of that idea, here's a Blue Jays bullpen power rankings.
8. LHP Génesis Cabrera
Cabrera’s been absolutely money for Toronto. The fiery lefty has yet to allow a run through 11.1 innings and owns a respectable 7.1 K/9. As the season barrels toward a conclusion, the Blue Jays will be mighty comfy with the 26-year-old working in the lowest leverage possible or as the second left-hander if Mayza is down.
7. RHP Chad Green (once he returns)
When the Jays signed Green this offseason, the idea was, once he got healthy, he’d slide into the spiciest leverage spots in September and October. Toronto no longer needs him to carry such a heavy burden. Green has been excellent in his rehab games (6.2 IP, 0 ER, 7 K, 0 BB), and the Blue Jays will be overjoyed if he returns to the bigs and is anywhere close to his career 3.17 ERA.
6. RHP Yimi García
It’s remarkable García, the club’s trusted set-up man a year ago, ranks on the fringes of our bullpen index. García’s lost some leverage trust because the ‘pen got better, but he also hasn’t done himself many favours. He’s crafty and has added some velocity to his heater, but he still owns a 6.55 ERA in high leverage.
5. RHP Trevor Richards
Richards was having a career year before a neck strain put him on the IL. Once he returns, he’ll regain his role as the club’s strikeout whiz, where he can attack a row of lefties in the middle innings or work for four-to-five outs. The 30-year-old’s changeup is filthy, and Toronto has tons of faith tossing him into game-altering moments if Mayza, Swanson, and Hicks are down on a given day.
4. RHP Jordan Hicks
What a world. Hicks slots in as Toronto’s fourth-most trusted reliever, though after Tuesday’s dashing performance, you could argue he should be higher.
The high walk rate is a little concerning, but there’s evidence he’s improving that, too — Hicks has issued just five walks in his last 15 innings. If the 26-year-old laces together a few more dominant, scoreless appearances, he can easily jump to second or third on our list. For now, though, he’s a high-upside number four.
3. LHP Tim Mayza
The top three spots are hard to rank, and that’s a testament to the Blue Jays’ wealth of steady arms. Mayza’s glowing 1.08 ERA this year comes as a product of elite damage suppression. Opposing hitters are slugging just .303 off Mayza with one home run in 41.2 innings.
If Toronto wants an out in a tight spot, Mayza’s the guy. But if the club needs a strikeout, the next two guys have far more upside.
2. RHP Erik Swanson
If there’s a downside, it’s that Swanson has been nipped by the longball this year. Much like with Richards, opposing hitters play fastball-offspeed roulette, and when they guess right, the ball sails a long way.
Thanks to a fantastic splitter, Swanson’s moments of calamity are few and far between. Hitters are batting just .170 off the split and whiffing at it 33.9% of the time. The 29-year-old is a deadly set-up guy and did just fine as the closer when Romano was out.
1. RHP Jordan Romano
No surprises here. While not quite as untouchable as he was in years past, Romano is still a World Series-calibre closer with electric stuff. He’s been knocked around for more hits (7.3 H/9) this season, leading to some ugly saves, but the other important peripherals like walks (3.1 BB/9) and strikeouts (11.1 K/9) are on par with his career norms.
Romano is the king of the Blue Jays bullpen. And if he were to be dethroned for inconsistent play, injury, or anything else, Toronto can rest easy knowing there are multiple competent replacements.