There’s something beautiful expecting to be disappointed and then surprised about just some solid average production. That essentially sums up Jacob Waguespack’s tenure with the Blue Jays so far.
When acquired from the Phillies in a deadline day deal for Aaron Loup, it was initially seen as a win just to get anyone back for a reliever that most likely wasn’t long for this club anyways. At that time, he was pitching in his first season in Triple-A as a 24-year-old and one year later, he’s suddenly thrust into one of the top spots of the Blue Jays rotation.
It essentially wasn’t an earned position — there just wasn’t many polished starters in the Jays system this year beyond some veterans and the established Stroman and Sanchez being hopeful for a comeback season. When those free agent veterans like Clay Buchholz, Matt Shoemaker, and Edwin Jackson were either injured or just downright terrible, there really was no one left.
Now with both Sanchez and Stroman gone, the team has turned to Waguespack to do some work in the rotation and he’s certainly done that. He won’t ever provide that jaw-dropping strikeout or insane movement on his slider, but he has just simply gotten the outs and gone deep into enough games.
With 36 innings pitched as of last night, where the young Blue Jays offence provided just the right amount of run support that he needed, Waguespack has an ERA of 4.00 through seven appearances. He spent his first two appearances for Toronto as the post-opener pitcher and he did that well enough to earn some starts. 11 strikeouts and only a single walk through nine innings is a sure way to get some attention.
Now with a total of five starts, he is starting to really show his ability to get outs and stay in the game long enough to hold the team together. To be a decent starter for the current team, Waguespack just needs to stay healthy and pitch more than half of the innings; it’s a low expectation but that’s where this club is right now this season.
Waguespack has certainly done that, but hasn’t stretched his innings deep into the game yet. Last night and his prior start mark the highest total of innings he has pitched; to go six is surely enough for the bullpen to takeover and get some relief.
If this is any sort of trend, perhaps the Blue Jays will be able to rely on the 25-year-old starter to provide some decent production and give the post-trade deadline depleted bullpen some rest. That is essentially all that’s needed from him, just get an average number of outs and keep this team in the game.
At an age where some fans can instill some hope into the player for a year or two, Waguespack could be here when this team wants to be good again. But when trading away a player like Aaron Loup, if you get back a major-league stopgap for when the team is terrible, that’s still a pretty decent return.
The most shocking thing about Waguespack’s performances has been that he’s getting these outs without anything significant. He doesn’t have a high-velocity fastball — sits at a 92.8 MPH avreage — there’s no gif-worthy movement from any of his pitches either. The only above-average pitch when it comes to movement is his cutter that has about three inches of break, 77 per cent more movement than major-league average. Even then, batters are hitting his cutter with a .281 average and a .561 slugging percentage.
It might not show the most sustainable output, but he’s getting some important performances with some not very noteworthy aspects of his game. Most of his expected stats show that all of this should eventually regress with more innings this season. He’s allowing a higher-than-average hard hit percentage, barrel percentage, and exit velocity — he might come crashing back to earth but right now he’s getting through his starts.
If Waguespack is able to keep this up — and lower some of those underlying rates — he will certainly earn a spot on next year’s rotation. With Nate Pearson, Anthony Kay, and the hopes and dreams of every single fan, there will be some empty spaces to fill and a 26-year-old starter could certainly have a nice ring to it.
All that matters right now is getting through these last couple of months and with Waguespack in the rotation, it could be a lot worse.
Imagine getting a better return for Aaron Loup than Josh Donaldson.