Blue Jays 40-man Roster Review: Examining Zach Pop’s odd 2023 season

Photo credit:© Dan Hamilton - USA Today
Ryley Delaney
3 months ago
What a weird season it was for Zach Pop.
This is the 40-man Roster Review, in which we’re going to take a look back at each player on the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster, and how they performed in 2023, as well as their outlook for 2024.
The Blue Jays acquired the Brampton-native in a trade with the Miami Marlins at the 2022 deadline, also receiving Anthony Bass and catching prospect Edward Duran. Pop finished the 2022 season in great form, posting a 1.89 ERA and a 3.11 FIP in 19 innings pitched, along with a 50 ground ball percentage and a 14.9 K% and 2.7 BB%.
It looked like it was going to be much of the same over his first nine appearances, as he had a 1.08 ERA and a 3.26 FIP, giving up just a single earned run in 8.1 innings pitched. Moreover, his K% went from 14.9% in 2022 with the Jays, all the way to 37.9%, along with a 60 GB%. However, his walk rate did jump to 10.3%.
Then came the game, where he pitched to a line of 0.2 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, which ballooned his ERA to 5 and his FIP to 3.59 in just two thirds of an inning extra. Pop had a couple of good appearances, but finished his season in the big leagues giving up five earned runs in just 2.1 innings pitched for a 6.59 ERA and a 6.33 FIP in 13.2 innings pitched, along with a career-high 25 K%, but an elevated 10.7 BB%. Pop last game in the big leagues was on May 4th due to a right hamstring strain. He was removed off the 15-day IL and optioned to Buffalo.
What’s even odder is that Pop struggled for the first time in his minor league career as well with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons, posting a 5.51 ERA and a 4.49 FIP in 32.2 innings pitched, where he had a 22.1 K% and a 9 BB%.
This begs the question: What the heck happened? Well, I have one theory. It’s well known that Pop throws hard, as his two-seam fastball averages 95.4 mph and touches the high-90s. He pairs that with a mid-80s sharp slider. I think the Jays put in effort to make Pop more of a strikeout artist as his stuff leans, rather than the ground ball pitcher he had been for the majority of his career.
Of course, it could be a litany of other reasons, but organizations are always trying to find ways to improve their team, and the sinker/slider combination makes Pop incredibly intriguing. There’s also a case that the injury impacted his season, but at this point, it’s just speculation.
Thankfully, the 27-year-old still has an option season remaining, mean that the Blue Jays are free to send him down up to five times before he is automatically designated for assignment. Hopefully, Pop returns to the form he had in his first 27.1 innings pitched, instead of whatever the 2023 season was for him.

As always, you can follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Threads @Brennan_L_D.


Check out these posts...