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The Season That Was: Ryan Borucki

A look at Ryan’s 2018 season.

Toronto Blue Jays v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

In 2017, Ryan Borucki pitched at three levels in the Blue Jays system (A+, AA and AAA) and looked good (2.93 ERA, 8-8 record in 27 games, 26 starts and 150.1 innings). That moved him up from 16th to 6th on our Top 40 Prospect List. Matt wrote:

In a year of disappointing seasons for top pitching prospects, Borucki was the notable exception as he aced two levels to finish 2017 three rungs up from where he finished 2016, and on the cusp of the big leagues. Statistically, he did everything one could want, posted a 2.93 ERA in 150.1 inning across the three levels, striking out over a batter an inning while limiting free passes, and managing contact.

Despite all that, Borucki is flying somewhat under the radar, at least from a “national” perspective, as his name has not shown up on any major top 100 lists. But consider, a lefty who: finished the season in AAA, sits comfortably in the low/mid 90s with his fastball and will tickle 96-97 from time to time, has a plus secondary in his change-up and at least a usable breaking ball (that gets a fair amount of swings and misses), and who throws strikes. At the end of the day top 100 lists don’t really matter, but that’s the profile of a potential mid-rotation starter, who could be MLB ready as soon as the second half of 2018. Personally, I’m quite high on him.

Of course, there’s good reason for the maxim that if you want to develop a starting pitcher, draft 10 of them. The biggest risk factor for Borucki is probably health, as his progress over his first four professional seasons was slowed by a variety of injuries, including Tommy John surgery from an injury in his senior year of high school that dropped him down boards and allowed the Jays to take a flyer and sign him in the 15th round with slots savings. But he’s pitched two full, mostly injury free years in a row, and with the exception of April 2016 has always performed well when on the mound.

There’s a lot to like here.

He didn’t have a great time of it in spring training, putting up a 9.38 ERA in 7.2 innings and he started the season in Buffalo.

Things went well there. He had a 3.27 ERA in 13 starts. In 77 innings he allowed 62 hits, 28 walks and 58 strikeouts.

Ryan got called up June 24th, made 4 starts, had a 3.52 ERA. The fourth start wasn’t good, just 3 innings, giving up 7 runs (4 earned), 8 hits and 4 walks. Back to Buffalo he went, but just for 10 days and then he was back to stay.

And he was good:

Standard Pitching
4 6 3.87 17 17 97.2 96 42 7 33 3 67 2 2 109 3.80 3.0 6.2
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/28/2018.

Both Baseball Reference and FanGraphs had him at a 1.7 WAR giving him a value of $14 million to the Jays.

He had a 3.80 FIP and a 4.62 FIP.

His strikeout rate was 16.1%. Walk rate 8.0%. I’m expecting both will improve.

Ryan gave up line drives 19.5% of the time, ground balls 46.8% and fly balls 33.8%. Always a fan of ground ball pitchers. 6.7% of his fly balls left the park.

Hard contact rate was 31.3%, soft contact 15.7%.

His BABIP was .291.

A lefty, Ryan was slight better vs. LHB (.242/.286/.354) than RHB (.261/.329/.399).

He was much better at home (2.64 ERA, batters hit .248/.300/.333) than on the road (.262/.332/.429).

Ryan had a better ERA in the first half than the second half (3.52, compared to 3.98), but batters hit him better in the first half (.287/.356/.394 first, .246/.305/.384).

Borucki by month:

  • June: 0-1, 3.00 ERA, batters hit .261/.370/.435 in 1 start.
  • July: 0-1, 2.79 ERA, batters hit .282/.320/.376 in 5 starts.
  • August: 3-1, 6.59 ERA, batters hit .317/.371/.508 in 6 starts.
  • September: 1-3, 2.65 ERA, batters hit .165/.250/.261 in 5 starts.

I kind of worried that MLB hitters had figured him out in August, but he was terrific in September.

The team was 7-10 in his starts.

Ryan’s best start by GameScore? He had an 82 for his September 17th start in Baltimore. He went 8 innings allowed 3 hits, no runs, 1 walk with 7 strikeouts. He 74 in his August 3rd start in Seattle. I’m going to take credit for it, since I was there (hey, I get blamed when pitchers get hurt when I’m at games, it is only fair to take credit for the good starts).

His worst start? An 18, for his August 19th start at New York against the Yankees. He gaves up 6 earned, on 4 hits (including a home run) and 2 walks, while getting just 2 outs.

Ryan’s 1.7 WAR was fourth among AL Rookie pitchers and 11th among all AL rookies. And, of course, tops among Blue Jays Rookies.

Checking Baseball Reference, Ryan is tied for the 17th best Blue Jays rookie season for pitchers by WAR (not quite the 7.3 WAR that Mark Eichhorn put up in his 1986 rookie season. 157 innings pitched in relief as a rookie, wow).

FanGraphs says he averaged 91.9 mph on his fastball. That might tic up a bit in the future.

It is nice to watch a rookie have a very good season and to imagine there is room for him to grow and improve. OF course, it might not be a linear improvement, but he’s just 24. He’ll be coming into his prime years just at the right time. We can dream that he’ll be the Ace we need when Vlad and Bo and all are leading our offence.

It’s going to be fun watching his career.

This was a pretty nice play.