May 19, 2017
Joe Biagini put on a couple of clinics the other night, first in how to let it snowball right quick, and then another in how to regain control of a lost cause. After ceding six runs without the benefit of an out—and, we must mind for context, unleashing the most fantastical of crescendos in the form of a three-run shot by Kurt Suzuki—he quietly proceeded to send 12 straight back to the pine and grind out four tidy innings that the bullpen didn’t have to.
Still, as a wise man said, some things once you do, they can never be undone. Biagini entered the week a popular streaming target against a mediocre Atlanta offense, but the first-inning carnage led to over 7,500 drops on Yahoo over the past 24 hours. Were those faithless right to jettison the Jay right-hander on the back of one bad inning? He had, after all, pitched quite well leading up to the Suzuki Uprising, allowing no walks or earned runs in his two, pitch-limited prior turns in the rotation. And he pitched well to the next 12 batters after the blow-up.
So, what are we supposed to make of this guy?
Well, he’s a UC-Davis guy, for one. So that’s good. The 26th-rounder didn’t pitch after signing in 2011, then struck out a bunch of dudes the next season, while also walking a bunch and generally not pitching all that well. He didn’t pitch that well in 2013 either, particularly in the second half, but he did enough to warrant a jump up to High A in 2014. He pitched better in the tough environs of the Cal League, and he put up his best minor-league season at Double A the following year.
That all was enough for the Blue Jays, who selected him in the Rule 5 draft following the ‘15 season. Chris Crawford at the time noted that, “There’s not a single pitch here that’s plus, and it’s very unlikely he’ll able to miss bats at the big-league level. That being said, he throws four pitches for strikes, and his ability to keep the ball in the park makes him a candidate to pitch multiple innings as a 12th man on a pitching staff.” That’s not a half-bad write-up for a Rule 5 guy! We should all be so lucky with our 12th men.
After sticking and pitching a full season of solidly above-average relief last year, and starting in the ‘pen with more of the same this spring, here we are: With a couple of the team’s starters on the shelf, he’s now worked his way into an extended look at rotation work. And he’s done it primarily on the back of an excellent fastball, which is a great place to start. His four-seamer sits 94-95 mph and, as with all of his pitches, comes out of a much higher-than-average release point. Between all 77 of his inches and a high three-quarter slot, Biagini’s able to generate excellent plane on his pitches, and he leverages that strength effectively by imparting quality vertical movement on his pitches. His four-seamer generates an elite amount of ground-ball contact as a result.