After a successful 20-save campaign in 2015, Roberto Osuna began his sophomore season with the newly acquired Drew Storen threatening to take the closer role. By the end of 2016, the latter was no longer on the roster and Osuna had locked down 36 saves in 42 chances. Among AL relievers, the right-hander finished sixth in saves and tied for fourth with 72 appearances. He demonstrated elite command by averaging more than a strikeout per inning and 1.7 BB/9. The 22-year-old's average fastball (95.8 mph) is the real deal, while his 0.93 WHIP ranks among the best in MLB. His Achilles heel was a tendency to give up the long ball. After serving up three home runs over 39.2 innings prior to the All-Star break, Osuna surrendered six in 34.1 second-half innings. Needless to say, his post-break ERA of 3.15 was significantly worse than the 2.27 he posted before the Midsummer Classic. Osuna has the tools to be a perennial top-10 closer.
Osuna (neck) gave up two hits, including a home run, while striking out one batter in one inning against the Phillies on Monday. If it weren't for a Josh Donaldson error at third base, Osuna would have escaped unscathed in his first Grapefruit League appearance since March 5. However, Osuna gave up a homer to Tommy Joseph following the error, and then allowed another hit before finally recording the third out of the inning. Osuna had one disastrous appearance in the WBC and missed time in Blue Jays camp recently with a neck stiffness, but he appears healthy now. The 22-year-old remains locked in as the Toronto closer.
Osuna (neck) threw a side session Saturday and is expected to return to game action Monday, John Lott of The Athletic reports. Osuna has been bothered by a bad mattress, but says he's feeling better after a few days of rest. The young right-hander is already back on the mound and should be good to go for Opening Day as he looks to build off his 36-save campaign last season.
Osuna was held out of Wednesday's Grapefruit League game due to a stiff neck, Sportsnet's Jeff Blair reports. Osuna was scheduled to face the Tigers but will instead have his appearance moved back by at least a day or two, joining the growing list of Blue Jays sidelined by nagging injuries. It's a bit worrisome this close to the start of the season, though there's been no suggestion Osuna is dealing with anything serious.
Osuna allowed five runs (four earned) without registering an out in Team Mexico's World Baseball Classic loss Thursday, but Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said coaches who watched were not concerned with his stuff and velocity, Mike Wilner of Sportsnet reports. Osuna has been tinkering with ways to add velocity to his fastball this spring, so perhaps that was baked into his collapse. The reliever was sitting around 96 mph last season with his four-seam heat, so he already has plenty of life on his fastball. The WBC setback may give the impression of a negative regression after he posted a 2.68 ERA and other excellent stats in 2016, but it's likely the outing was just a blip on his way to another year as a top-10 fantasy closer.
Osuna spent the winter working to add velocity to his fastball, Paul Hagen of MLB.com reports. Last year, Osuna's average four-seamer sat around 96 mph, marginally above its velocity from the prior season. According to FanGraphs, the Jays' closer employed his favorite pitch on 66.5 percent of his deliveries, significantly lower than the 72.1 percent usage rate from 2015. Osuna relied more on his slider to get hitters out in 2016, racking up 41.6 percent of his punchouts with it. Over his first two MLB seasons, Osuna owns a 0.92 WHIP and 9.8 K/9 while converting 56 of 65 save chances (89 percent success rate). The 22-year-old, who became the full-time closer midway through 2015, has more saves (56) than any reliever his age in MLB history. If his winter workouts pushed his fastball into the upper 90s, then Osuna could continue to increase his strikeout rate.