Now that he’s healthy Blue Jays’ #17 prospect Ryan Borucki is starting to find his form and turn heads in the process.
Background: From Mundelein, IL (about 40 miles NW of Chicago). Drafted in the 15th Rd by the Blue Jays in 2012 out of Mundelein High School. Borucki is pitching in his age 22 season, his first full season of professional baseball. In fact, the 125.2 IP in 2016 is near double the 68.2 he logged in his entire professional career between 2012-2015.
Ryan Borucki missed the entire 2013 season recovering from UCL replacement surgery, as well a large majority of the 2015 season with elbow soreness and eventual shoulder problems.
The lefty began his 2016 season in Dunedin (A+) despite never pitching above short-season baseball (A-) in Vancouver. Though not knowing the exact reason for the promotion, I suspect it was due, in part, to his age. With Borucki logging only 5.2 innings on the mound a season earlier, this proved to be a misstep for the organization. Obviously, this is a results based assessment on my part. However, skipping a level after an extremely injury shortened season, is very uncommon. The outcome was Borucki being sent down a level to Lansing after six very unsuccessful starts.
Why am I writing about a prospect rated #17 in the organization, in August? Well, back in July I made the trek to Lansing to catch a weekend full of Lugnuts games. In all honesty, I went into the weekend with the idea to just sit back, and watch some baseball while a look at some Blue Jays prospects. Prospects the likes of Max Pentecost, John La Prise and Jon Harris were tops on my mind going in. Then Borucki happened.
After checking in at the park, I took a look at the starting lineups I saw Borucki’s name penciled in for the start, and didn’t think more of it. I heard of the young lefty but, after his injury history and disastrous start, I’d be lying by saying I was expecting much. I’ve never been happier to be wrong.
I got witness a young pitcher who is fighting his way back into top prospect status. The game which I was fortunate enough to take in was a 7.2 IP, 6H, 1ER, 0BB, 6K performance. What stuck with me was the command of his fastball which he threw between 92-96 most of the evening. Including carrying 95 into the eighth inning with perceived ease. Borucki was mixing in his off-speed pitches with nearly the same command, especially his change-up, which looks to be a plus pitch. The 6’4 lefty had great downward plane and action with all his pitches on this night. To say I had more questions after the game than before would be a mild understatement.
The next afternoon while in the press box, and meeting with the gracious radio voice for the Lugnuts, Jesse Goldberg-Strassler. I took the time to ask him more about the lefty, wanting to get a little more background information. After doing so, I decided to keep a close eye on Borucki’s season, and follow-up after several weeks.
Borucki’s season in Lansing consists of a (9-4, 2.56 ERA, 1.174 WHIP, 2.1 BB/9, 7.9 K/9, 3.72 K/BB) record over 18 starts. Incredibly, the Illinois native has only surrendered one home run over his 18 starts. Even with the Lugnuts’ home field being pitcher friendly, it is an impressive feat.
Despite running up against and over career highs in professional innings pitched, Borucki has been getting stronger it seems. His last 11 starts have produced a (6-1, 1.85 ERA, 0.990 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, 1.6 BB/9, 4.7 K/BB) record over 66 IP. It should be noted, however, the organization is winding down the lefty’s pitch counts/innings in August. He hasn’t been over 88 pitches since that night, but has managed five innings in six starts, and seven in one other. He appears to be making the most of the team imposed limits by averaging an efficient 76 pitches per start. Including an impressive 14.34 pitches per inning.
This week I was fortunate enough to bend the ear of Jesse Goldberg-Strassler for a short time about Borucki’s season. As well as getting his thoughts on what we could expect going forward. His report was glowing.
Goldberg-Strassler, stated Borucki is an incredibly smart pitcher. Often seen spending his bullpen time not only working on mechanical maintenance, but also pitch sequencing with pitching coach Jeff Ware. He believes the lefty could be the best left-handed pitching prospect in the Blue Jays system, at the moment. And, though he may not have the upside or overall stuff of an Angel Perdomo, Borucki is definitely more polished. Goldberg-Strassler personally believes Borucki is ahead of most left-handed pitching prospects he has seen at that level.
Our discussion naturally went to the 2017 season, and where we should expect to see Borucki land. We were both in agreement Dunedin would be the most likely starting point for the Illinois native. Goldberg-Strassler, also believes Borucki could have a real opportunity to see Double-A New Hampshire should his progression continue.
Personally, I believe, if it weren’t for the glut of high-end prospects in front of him, Borucki, would more than likely see his stock rise after the season. Even if his ranking on MLB Pipeline does not change from its current #17 spot, there’s a good bet recognition will come from inside the organization. Only time will tell, but it is exciting to ponder what the future has in store for this young man.
*Featured Image Credit: Wade Black (Flickr) – UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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Wade is a long time baseball fan who has been involved with the game for over 30 years. Including as a former college player, amateur pitching coach, and blogger.