Who will Toronto add to reinforce bullpen?

June 3rd, 2022

This story was excerpted from Keegan Matheson’s Blue Jays Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The Blue Jays’ bullpen has been through two stressful months.

Plenty of bullpens across baseball have thrown more innings, but few have been handed as many tight games as Toronto’s. This takes a toll, particularly on the high-leverage arms leading up to closer Jordan Romano.

Romano, himself, has been excellent, racking up 16 saves with a 2.66 ERA. In a perfect world, the Blue Jays will find a week when they can ease off Romano and let the hard-throwing Canadian right-hander rest, but that hasn’t been this team’s style.

Charlie Montoyo’s high-leverage group has done everything asked of it, beginning with Adam Cimber, David Phelps, Yimi García and Tim Mayza.

Cimber is quietly one of the most valuable players on this roster, owning a 1.99 ERA over 25 appearances already. The rubber-armed submarine man is a weak contact machine, making him an ideal arm to bring in when the Blue Jays need a ground ball or to keep the ball in the yard.

Phelps and García have given Montoyo reliable options in the seventh and eighth while Mayza, who’s nearing a return from the IL with another bullpen session scheduled for Friday, is the club’s top lefty. Mayza has posted a 2.08 ERA over 13 innings with 13 strikeouts, offering a unique look from the left side with his heavy fastball.

Still, this group will need reinforcements eventually. It continues to look like a reliever will be atop the Blue Jays’ list of priorities come the Trade Deadline on Aug. 2, but that’s still two months down the road.

Looking down to Triple-A Buffalo and the prospect ranks beyond, the Blue Jays will have some internal options to consider, too:

Adrian Hernandez -- Toronto’s No. 18 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, is gifted with a changeup that is among the best pitches in the entire organization. The 22-year-old quickly jumped from Double-A to Triple-A this season, owning a 1.00 ERA with 27 strikeouts over 18 innings. There’s still plenty of development ahead for Hernandez, but his changeup is special.

Matt Gage -- The 29-year-old lefty is a former starter who converted to a bullpen role full-time in ’21 with the D-backs. He’s off to a fantastic start in Buffalo with a 0.59 ERA and 19 strikeouts over 15 1/3 innings. This isn’t a top prospect, but the results speak for themselves.

Kyle Johnston -- Johnston was a young right-hander who stood out during Spring Training in Dunedin, Fla. The 25-year-old throws hard and is all intensity on the mound. With a 2.17 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings in Triple-A, he’s off to a fine start.

Hayden Juenger -- Juenger, the Blue Jays' 2021 sixth-rounder and No. 26 prospect, is being developed in a bulk role in Double-A, where he’s pitched 32 1/3 innings over 11 games with 39 strikeouts. He has the potential to move quickly, and this bulk role gives him some versatility.

Yosver Zulueta -- It takes a deep reach for Toronto's No. 19 prospect, Zulueta, who’s in High-A Vancouver and stretched out as a starter currently. Now that he’s fully healthy, though, Zulueta is still an arm capable of shooting up the system once it all clicks. The right-hander and his 100-mph arm is still one of the biggest lottery tickets in the organization.