Thursday, December 10, 2015

What (If Anything) to Expect From Joe Biagini

 With the 26th selection in the 2015 Rule 5 draft, the Blue Jays selected RHP Joe Biagini from the Giants.

  The Blue Jays have been noticeably quiet on Rule 5 day, after using it very effectively in the first years of the franchise to select players like Willie Upshaw, Jim Gott, Manuel Lee, Kelly Gruber, and one of the greatest sluggers in team history, George Bell.

  The Rule 5 draft was originally developed to keep teams from hoarding minor league talent; it essentially put a limit on the length of time a team could keep a player in the minors without placing him on their 40-man roster.  Last year's draft was one of the better loads of talent in some time, but most of the talent was gone by the time the Blue Jays turn came up.  Changes to eligiblity rules several years ago now allow teams to hang onto their talent for an extra year, so the Rule 5 lost some of its luster.  And even though it's a risk to stash a Rule 5 draftee on a big league roster for a year, teams have found value in it by changing their preference from projectable players to ones who can fill an immediate need.

  Pickings were slimmer this year, but it helped that a number of teams (15 in all) passed before the Blue Jays, meaning that Biagini was actually the 10th player picked.

  A number of other sites have weighed in on Biagini, and truth be told, there's not a lot more that I can offer.  But I'll try.

  Bay Area native Biagini was taken in the 26th round of the 2011 draft out of the University of California-Davis, by way of San Mateo Jr College.  He sat out a year between the two schools because of an apparent arm issue. A good summer in the Cape Cod League the summer before his draft year boosted his stock considerably, and he signed for a surprising $175K bonus.

  He signed too late to play in 2011, so Biagini was sent to the Northwest League the following year, and even made it as far as Low A before 2012 finished.  As one might expect with a low draft choice, he was brought along slowly after that, one step at a time.  He has been ranked in the 20s in most Giants' Top Prospects lists that I've seen.

  Here's what Josh Norris of Baseball America had to say about Biagini prior to the Rule 5 draft:

    Following the draft, Norris called Biagini " (a) savvy righthander (who) doesn’t possess a plus pitch, but average arsenal and pitchability makes stuff tick up." calls his fastball a plus pitch, sitting from 91-94, and touching 96.  He trusts his change-up more than his curve, although the latter has been described as flashing plus.  His strikeout totals have never been high, topping out at 7.4K/9 in his first full season, but his command has improved considerably, as his walks/9 have dropped from 3.9 to 2.3 over three seasons.  Biagini does not give up a lot of home run balls, either.  One graphic kind of jumped out during the course of researching him: 

   Clearly, Biagini pitches to contact, and I would hazard a guess that his fastball is of the two-seamer variety. suggests that he has a shot at a back-of-the-rotation spot, but with that part of the Blue Jays roster more than full at the moment, perhaps the club is thinking of auditioning him in the departed Liam Hendriks' role in long relief, especially with new GM Ross Atkins expressing a preference for durable bullpen arms who can get guys out.  The 6'4", groundball-inducing Biagini fills the first role, but not necessarily the second, with the traditional bullpen arm being of the flame-throwing variety.  Pitching in relief, Hendriks experienced a bump in his fastball velocity this season, and it's likely the same could be projected for Biagini.  He already generates plenty of weak contact, so maybe this represents a bit of a paradigm shift for the Jays - K's from relievers are nice, but with the vastly improved Jays' defence, may not be a necessity.

  Whatever the case, Biagini still has to be considered a long-shot to break camp with the team next March.  They either have to keep him on the roster for the entire season, or offer him back to the Giants for half his draft price of $50 000.  The Jays could also try to work out a deal with the Giants, who currently have no room on their 40-man roster.  Just the same, the cost to bring him into Spring Training is minimal, and well worth the risk.  He sounds very much like a two-pitch guy whose change may be made even more effective by a possible bump in velo.

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