Starting pitching depth was definitely a problem area for the Blue Jays in 2017 but should be a strength in 2018
Hey Couch Nation, this season we’ve suffered through some horrible spot starts. The Front Office felt some heat for their lack of initiative in filling the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons with adequate 6th, 7th, or 8th starting pitching options.
I feel that some of that heat was unfair but the results quash any arguments or reasoning that I may present.
Water under the bridge. Let us look to the future.
The Blue Jays GM, Ross Atkins, expressed a desire to retain the services of Marco Estrada. He did so despite Estrada’s two-month hiatus from being the Marco Estrada that Blue Jay fans grew to know and love in 2015 and 2016. While Estrada’s August numbers (3-1, 5.35 ERA with 1.47 WHIP) hardly erases an 0-4, 9.11 ERA June or a 0-1, 6.48 ERA July, Marco looks as though he will finish the season strong.
Re-signing Estrada will give the Blue Jays solid four in the rotation. Stroman continues to produce ‘top of the rotation’ numbers, J.A. Happ looked good when healthy, and we are all praying to the baseball gods that Aaron Sanchez leave the blister issues in 2017.
This leads me to number 5. Fransico Liriano is gone and it looks as though the club is determined to make Joe Biagini the 5th starter in 2018. I’m not on board with the decision, but that is a discussion for a later date.
The Blue Jays have used 14 different starting pitchers this season, getting starts from the likes of Mat Latos, Mike Bolsinger, Nick Tepesch, Cesar Valdez, and more. I don’t expect that this will happen next season because I expect that quality of the depth in Buffalo will be far superior.
The Buffalo Bisons’ starting rotation in 2018, without any free agent additions, should consist of Ryan Borucki, Chris Rowley, Thomas Pannone, and Luis Santos. Despite up and down seasons in Double-A from Conner Greene, Sean Reid-Foley, and Jon Harris, one of the trio of top pitching prospects could end up filling the final spot in the rotation.
Taking it step further, any pitcher to start the season in Double-A could easily be ready to contribute at some point in 2018. Chris Rowley, Tim Mayza, and Carlos Ramirez are prime examples of guys who started 2017 with the Fisher Cats and have not looked out of place during their time in Toronto.
So who are some of the guys which are most likely to start 2018 with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats?
The 22-yr-old Fransico Rios will return to New Hampshire. Rios struggled with injuries in ’17 and was forced out of the rotation because of them. A return to health will result in a return to the rotation.
Rios will be joined by Dunedin standout Jordan Romano. The Markham native has put up excellent numbers for the D-Jays it appears the arm issues that kept him out in 2015 are behind him. I also expect to see 6’6″ LHP Angel Perdomo head north with Romano despite missing the final two months of the season.
If it T.J. Zeuch had stayed healthy in 2017 and not missed June and July, the 2016 1st round pick would have finished the season beside Ryan Borucki in Buffalo. At the time of his injury, Zuech was dominating the Florida State League and frustrating its hitters with a plus 3.00 GO/AO. If fully healthy, T.J. will be a member of the Fisher Cats rotation and will be a candidate to make the jump to the Major Leagues directly from Double-A.
Anything can happen. Rios and Perdomo are Rule 5 eligible. Injuries and trades happen. Progression and regression could add or subtract any of the pitching prospects I’ve listed above.
One thing is for certain, I would rather the Blue Jays front office fill their Triple-A rotation with three top pitching prospects with +5.00ERA in Double-A than three borderline MiLB vets.
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