An aging roster plus a longer than usual Spring Training has given the Blue Jays a chance to take a longer look at some of their minor league prospects. One who has benefited greatly from that opportunity is LHP Tim Mayza.
Mayza, a 12th round pick out of Millersville University of Pennsylvania in 2013, has fanned 4 in 3 innings this spring, topping out at 98, and sitting at about 95 with his fastball. The Toronto media has begun to take notice.
Mayza was brought along slowly by the Blue Jays, spending his first two years in short season ball, and making his full season debut with Lansing in late May of 2015. Initially a stater, the Blue Jays had moved him to the bullpen by the time he reached Lansing. The 6'3" Mayza is a classic tall-and-fall pitcher, and his leg kick provides some deception to left handed hitters. He throws a four seam and a two seam fastball, along with a slider, the occasional curve, and a show-me change. The four seamer is his bread and butter pitch, and when he's on with it like he has been this spring, it makes his secondaries that much more effective.
Mayza started 2016 in Dunedin, and after dominating Florida State League hitters for over two months, found himself in New Hampshire in mid-June. AA proved to be a different story. Mayza struggled with his command, falling behind often in counts, and after surrendering 15 walks in as many innings, he was back in Dunedin by the end of July. He did not fare well against right handed hitters during his time in New Hampshire, who managed a .333 average against him. Facing more advanced hitters at AA, he tended to get hit when he caught too much of the strike zone after falling behind. Against even more elite competition in the Arizona Fall League, Mayza allowed 23 base runners in 15 innings, en route to a 6.14 ERA.
While Mayza has had some success this spring, it's worth noting that early spring training stats can be very misleading. For the most part, the pitchers are ahead of the hitters, many of whom don't start to get their timing down until the middle of the month. As well, Mayza has yet to really prove himself against top-level competition. If we think we've seen this story before, it's only because we have. Two years ago, a pair of pitchers who had never faced a hitter above High A broke camp with the club. One, Roberto Osuna, eventually became the club's closer. The other, Miguel Castro, was lights out in the first half of March, but as hitters began to get their timing down, was hit hard for the rest of the month, and was back in the minors by the end of April. Time will tell which path Mayza will follow.
If/when he sticks with the big club, it will likely be in a lefty specialist-type role. He will have to prove he can get righties out on a consistent basis before his role would be expanded. If he continues to have fastball command, he could be very effective in that somewhat limited role.
Just the same, he bears watching this spring. With the departure of free agent Brett Cecil and the inconsistency of Aaron Loup last year, the competition for jobs amongst left-handed relievers is wide open. Mayza may not beat out Loup or J.P. Howell for a spot with the club on Opening Day, but he may have nosed ahead of Chad Girodo at this point for next-southpaw-up honours at the moment.