By Jay Blue
Blue Jays from Away
Now that the season is over, the crew at Blue Jays from Away will take a look at the Blue Jays one by one and review how each player’s season went, whether he met expectations (or not) and look at how he fits into (what we think of) the Blue Jays’ plans going forward.
Like Aaron Sanchez and Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ also missed time in 2017 due to injury, making 2017 very much unlike 2016 (when the club used just seven starting pitchers all season). But aside from his slow start recovering from injury, Happ was fairly steady, giving the Jays another solid season which is pretty much what they expected and were paying for.
Pitching in four games in the spring, Happ was outstanding, striking out 10 without walking anyone and giving up just three earned runs in 15 1/3 innings. But when the season started, Happ allowed three runs in his first game (over seven innings, so not bad) but four runs in 4 2/3 innings in his second start. While he allowed only one run in his third start, he came out of the game after 4 1/3 innings and went on the DL with a sore elbow, with the MRI revealing no serious damage.
Happ was out until the end of May and came back with four innings of two-run ball but he showed some rust by walking three batters and giving up two home runs. He followed that up with another two home runs in his next outing on June 5, allowing five runs with another three walks in 5 1/3 innings.
Happ turned things around starting June 11 when he began a run of five starts going at least six innings and giving up no more than three runs, including games of eight and nine strikeouts. In July, Happ tossed 27 innings with a 5.00 ERA (mostly thanks to giving up seven runs in one start) and he threw another 35 2/3 innings in August with a 3.53 ERA but could have done even better if it wasn't for two consecutive five-run games on August 18 and 25 despite striking out 15 batters over 11 innings in those two games.
Happ's September was outstanding as he made five starts and threw 31 2/3 innings, striking out 32 and walking eight while posting a 1.99 ERA and holding his opposition to a .594 OPS.
That September run gave Happ a 3.53 ERA over the course of his 145 1/3 innings while he had a solid 1.31 WHIP and posted healthy 22.7% strikeout and 7.4% walk rates. Fangraphs had Happ with a decent 2.9 fWAr while Baseball Reference has him at 3.6 rWAR.
Happ looks like he can fairly easily duplicate his 2017 season's success, making himself an approximately three-win pitcher for the foreseeable future. Happ isn't getting younger and will be 35 for the 2018 season but his fastball velocity, a good indicator of decline in older pitchers, has remained steady over the past three years, going from 91.9 mph in 2015 to 91.6 in 2016 and back up to 91.8 mph in 2017. Even if the velocity slips slightly, there's a good chance that Happ will continue to be an effective big league starter.
The Blue Jays are counting on him to be an average or better starter in 2018, the final year of his contract as they hope for better health overall from their other pitchers, keeping the club from necessarily needing so much starting pitching depth as they did in 2017.
Happ has one more year and $13 million on the three-year deal he signed with the Blue Jays in the 2015/16 offseason.
2017 Regular Season Grades
Jay Blue: B
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The 2017 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook is now available! Visit the Handbook page for more information!