Tag: Marc Rzepczynski

Is Marc Rzepczynski the Toronto Blue Jays’ Best Option for a Fifth Starter?

The fifth spot of the rotation is usually the most volatile one, and teams can go through any number of pitchers in the last spot over the course of a season.

Ineffective, injury-prone or young pitchers usually find themselves bringing up the rear of the rotation, and short spouts of poor performance will get a pitcher pulled out of the rotation quicker than its more established members.

By definition the fifth spot is the least important of the five, but more innings get thrown from that position than any position in the bullpen. It comes up about 30 times or so a season, leaving a team to commit to at least 150 innings or so from somebody.

Even if a team went through two or three starters in the five spot over the course of a season, each one would still throw as many innings as most of the bullpen’s top pitchers. It’s far from a team’s most pressing role, yes, but certainly not one to be overlooked either.

Whoever starts the season as the fifth starter is unlikely to last the whole season in the rotation, but it’s still worth taking a look over who that man may be come Opening Day.

The Jays have as many as three in-house options for the fifth spot. This assumes that Kyle Drabek, as has been rumored, is penciled in as the fourth starter behind Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow and Brett Cecil. Whittling it down to the one who will get the assignment out of the gate may not be decided until some point in the spring, but let’s take a look at the candidates and try to see who should be favored to win the spot.

Of all the Jays’ candidates, one is practically guaranteed to get hurt and give way to someone else during the season. That would be Jesse Litsch, who hasn’t worked over 100 innings since at least 2008. Litsch did however make nine starts in the second half of last season for the Jays and should be healthy to start the season.

Litsch threw 83.2 innings in 15 starts across three levels of the Blue Jays system, culminating in 46.2 innings over nine starts with the big club. He wasn’t effective for the Jays, posting a 5.79 ERA and 5.44 FIP, but that’s not a big surprise given that he threw a total of nine innings the year before.

Litsch did have back-to-back seasons of over 100 innings of work for the Jays back in 2007 and 2008. He had sub-4.00 ERAs in both of those seasons. His secondary numbers were much better in ’08; he maintained a 2.54 strikeout to walk ratio despite only striking out 5.06 batters per nine.

Despite having been with the Jays for parts of four seasons, he’ll only be 26 on Opening Day. It wouldn’t be prudent to give Litsch a heavy workload, but 20 or so starts would probably be a safe increase over last year’s work. Having pitched effectively at the top level before, coupled with his age, leaves little reason to put him in the minors or the ‘pen if he’s healthy enough to start.

Other than Litsch the Jays have two potential candidates who are both younger and less experienced than Litsch.

The completely unproven Zach Stewart is one of the two candidates. Stewart spent all of 2010 at Double-A and made 26 appearances, all starts, after only 14 starts in 34 appearances in 2009. He posted excellent numbers across four levels and six teams in two systems in 2008 and 2009 but didn’t pitch a substantial number of innings at any of those six stops.

Last year was different though, as noted he stayed with one team, pitched only out of the rotation and logged 126 innings.

He had a nice and shiny 3.63 ERA, but his other numbers were a bit less impressive. His 0.83 homers per nine innings looks good, but it was actually slightly above the Eastern League average of 0.80. Likewise, his seven strikeouts per nine innings and 3.56 walks per nine innings were more or less league average as well. Average results in Double-A don’t translate to average performance at the big league level.

It doesn’t mean Stewart wouldn’t be effective either, but another go-around with better results should be warranted before he gets promoted.

That bounces Stewart out of the competition and leaves only Litsch and Marc Rzepczynski left standing for the fifth spot. Rzepczynski has racked up 23 starts and 125 innings of about average results for the Jays in the last two seasons.

His control hasn’t been great, as he’s walked 4.32 batters per nine, but he’s countered that with above-average strikeout rates in both seasons with a combined mark of 8.42 Ks/9 IP. Zep has also shown an ability to generate lots of ground balls, getting them on 51 percent of his balls in play.

Rzepczynski will be 25 for most of next season, and looking at his minor league numbers he still has room to progress towards more strikeouts and fewer walks. His ERA did jump from 3.67 in ’09 to 4.95 last year, but his FIP was much less volatile, only rising from 4.14 to 4.57. The rise in FIP came from a drop, not a drastic one, in strikeouts and a slight increase in homers, but his combined numbers from ’09 and ’10 are more telling than either season by itself.

There’s no reason not to let Rzepczynski start the season in the rotation and see what he can do with a full season at the big league level. With his above-average ability to miss bats and get ground balls, coupled with being young enough for further progression, he certainly has the potential for a breakout season.

Litsch, besides being hurt, hasn’t done anything either to rule him out of a starting spot. Their past health issues tip the scale ever so slightly in favor of Zep to get the nod out of spring training. It’s also too hard to get past Rzepczynski’s potential to set down a batter for every inning of work to see him start another year in the minors or move to the ‘pen.

If history is any indication, and it almost always is, Litsch will get his shot in the rotation for the Jays in 2011, but Rzepczynski should get his first. 

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Fantasy Baseball Prospect Watch: Toronto Blue Jays’ Marc Rzepczynski

With free agents flying off the board and the Cliff Lee bombshell dropped on Philly, the hot stove is sufficiently stoked. So let’s keep that fire roaring with more prospect talk.

This series on prospects will cover a wide range of players as well as positions. We’ll cover sleepers as well as some of the more obvious stars of the future.

The next prospect in the series is a guy who has already seen some big league time and just like Dustin Ackley, Marc Rzepczynski dominated the Arizona Fall League. The Toronto Blue Jays pitching prospect was 4-0 in seven starts with 1.16 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP in 31.0 innings pitched with a 27/9 strikeout to walk ratio in the 2010 AFL. That’s good stuff in a league that is full of up and coming hitters. He led the league in wins, ERA, IP and was fourth in strikeouts and WHIP for starting pitchers.

Rzepczynski was Toronto’s fifth-round pick in the 2007 MLB Draft. He’s a lefty who stands 6’1” and was drafted out of the University of California-Riverside.

His repertoire includes an 88-92 mph fastball with good sink, a plus slider, an above average changeup, and an average curveball. He lacks a true out-pitch, but still gets a lot of strikeouts.

The big lefty has 23 MLB starts and 125 innings under his belt, so he is not considered a rookie, and has about a full season of Major League experience. In the majors, he is 6-8 with a 4.32 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP. That’s nothing to get excited about, but his minor league stats lead one to believe that he can become quite successful at baseball’s highest level.

Before being called up to Toronto in July 2009, “Zep” posted a 21-11 record with 9.8 K/9 and a 61 percent groundball rate in two-and-a-half seasons at four different minor league levels. Those numbers are promising, but for a guy with groundball and strikeout talent, he has average control (3.5 BB/9). His 8.4 hits per nine against hitters who are inferior to MLB hitters and 1.32 WHIP may lead one to wonder how well he will actually perform as a regular in the big league.

Helping his cause, Rzepczynski gets a good number of pop-ups. The large number of pop-ups combined with his high groundball rate leads to a very low line-drive rate (12.7% minor league rate) which keeps batters’ ability to hit for average low. He walked too many in general, but he has always posted good strikeout numbers and also has good groundball stuff so the rallies will be minimized.

As a 25 years-old, he has a lot of promise heading into next season. He will need to find a way to keep the ball in the park at the Rogers Centre. Seven of the eight home runs allowed by Rzepczynski came at home in 2010.

This newfound “gopherballitis” is a bit troublesome considering he gave up just five homers in more than 250 innings pitched before his 2009 MLB debut. Since then, he has given up 25 gopher balls in 192 innings pitched.

Is this because the hitters are better at the highest levels or did Zep finally hit a wall?

Probably more the former than the latter.

So now it is time for the big lefty to adjust. Rzepczynski started his 2010 Major League stint a bit shaky but finished strong, posting a 2.31 ERA over his last four starts, fanning 26 batters over 23 1/3 innings and winning his last three decisions.

His dominance in the minor leagues combined with his strong finish to 2010 should give fantasy owners the confidence to draft Rzepczynski as an upside middle to back end of the rotation starting pitcher in 2011.

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New York Yankees: Dustin Moseley Can’t Beat theToronto Blue Jays Alone

After losing the first game 3-2, the New York Yankees need to win Tuesday night against the Blue Jays at Rogers Center.

The Tampa Bay Rays have caught up to tie in the standings, and the Boston Red Sox are still very much alive.

Translation…inter-division games can kill a team’s chances for playoff berth, so the Yankees cannot lose this series for starters.

The Blue Jays are making things difficult against all AL East teams. Toronto is not making the playoffs this season, but in any other division, my bet is circumstances would be different.

In all honesty, handing the ball to RHP Dustin Moseley is risky because he brings no stability on the mound.

Moseley has fared better because Yankees bats have backed him by scoring runs. This will be essential once again, as Moseley is no match for the home-run hitting Blue Jays.

Toronto’s Jose Bautista has demolished the Yankees in 2010, hitting six homers and 12 RBI with a .511 on-base percentage. Against Moseley, the slugger is 0 and 4, striking-out once and walking one time as well.

Still, Moseley in his last start against Toronto gave up nine hits, five earned runs, two home-runs, walked one, managed two strikeouts and a game ERA of 6.14.

Moseley has made five starts since Andy Pettitte hit the DL, pitched 29 innings, allowing 16 earned runs, seven home runs, with 14 strikeouts and 10 walks.

Problem is Moseley has only had three strikeouts, while allowing four home runs and eight hits in his latest two outings.

The Blue Jays are countering with LHP Mark Rzepczynski, who is even more inexperienced than Moseley, making his fifth start for Toronto.

Rzepczynski is 1-1 over four starts in 2010. He mirrors Moseley with a ERA of 4.76.

On the season, in 22.2 innings pitched he’s allowed 12 earned runs, two home runs, but has struck out 19 batters.

His last start was awful as Rzepczynski has zero strike-outs, giving up 5 hits, with three runs scoring before getting pulled in the fourth inning.

Yankees need to watch for Rzepczynski’s change-up, as that is his strongest pitch but only if he can execute it.



Yankees need to run on base-pads against Blue Jays catcher Jose Molina. This is not easy, but the Yankees know Molina and the Blue Jays don’t focus on runners as much as they should.

Hint: Brett Gardner can cause chaos.

With Derek Jeter back in the line-up, the Yankees will win 6-1.

Moseley will get the win over Rzepczynski, but this is a close call.

Yankees know how to win when they need to, and this is against any team.

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