The Blue Jays Triple-A Buffalo Bisons rotation went from a tantalizing group of prospects to mixture of minor league veterans
This post may come across as a bash-fest towards having MiLB vets on the roster but that is not my intention. My intention is to shed light player movement, development, and the importance of filling a roster.
But first, let me start at the beginning of the 2018 season and the reason why I chose the title you see above. To the start the year, the Buffalo Bisons rotation was expected to be filled with mostly homegrown talent. Ryan Borucki was set to lead the staff, followed by Thomas Pannone, Chris Rowley, Joe Biagini, Deck McGuire, Sam Gaviglio, and Taylor Guerrieri.
The term de-evolution is the backward evolution or reverting to a less evolved state of a species. In this case, the Bisons rotation went from a promising group of prospects with the potential to impact the major league club to a group of minor league veterans being utilized to bridge the gap until the end of the 2018 season.
Deep breath. Here we go, Thomas Pannone was lost to the Bisons with a drug suspension, removing some of the luster from the rotation before the Opening pitch was even thrown.
Joe Biagini spent parts of April and May going between Toronto and Buffalo. Ultimately, Biagini showed he is better utilized out of the bullpen and remained with the Blue Jays since May 11th.
Sam Gaviglio made 5 starts for the Bisons without registering a win or a loss but did own a sparkling 1.86 ERA. This earned him a promotion on May 11th and he remains in the Blue Jays rotation.
In case you aren’t keeping track, that is 3/7 of the expected rotation candidates gone prior to May 11th.
Deck McGuire saw some time with the Blue Jays in May but was called off waivers by the Texas Rangers when Toronto DFA’ed him on June 9th.
Chris Rowley was called up to Toronto on July 14th, pitched 0.2IP with the Blue Jays before being optioned back to Buffalo. Rowley was mishandled (IMO) by the Blue Jays Front Office which led to him being claimed on July 23rd by the Texas Rangers.
Fortunately, Sean Reid-Foley was added to the rotation on May 24th after posting a record of 5-0 with a 2.03 ERA in 8 Double-A starts. SRF had a shaky start to his Triple-A but quickly established himself in the Bisons rotation. SRF has since made his MLB debut and remains with Toronto.
The 25-yr-old and former 1st round selection of the Tampa Bay Rays, Taylor Guerrieri, made a handful of unsuccessful starts in May and into June. He landed on the DL on June 23rd and returned on July 24th. Taylor continues to work out of the bullpen but the results have not been favorable.
That leaves us with one, Ryan Borucki. The Prize. Ryan Borucki made 13 starts for the Bisons posting a 6-5 record and 3.27 ERA. After struggling (1-2, 4.30 ERA) in April but steadily improved with each passing start until being called up to Toronto to make his MLB debut on June 26th. Borucki continues to shine and should be penned into the Blue Jays rotation for 2019.
Thomas Pannone returned from his suspension and made 6 starts for the Buffalo Bison. Pannone spent some time with Blue Jays, making his MLB debut out of the bullpen on August 10th (1.2IP, 3-H, 2-R, 3-K). He was returned to the Bisons on August 15th but may head back north with Marcus Stroman expected to miss time with a blister.
The Bisons tried Nick Tepsech (1-6, 7.90 ERA in 10 games in Triple-A) in the rotation but he was released on August 9th. Buffalo has gotten spot starts from Jordan Romano, Jon Harris, Josh DeGraaf, Conor Fisk, Luis Santos, Zach Stewart, and Justin Dillon.
It now appears the Buffalo Bisons will have a starting rotation which consists of LHP Thomas Pannone (24), RHP Jacob Waguespack (24), RHP Mike Hauschild (28), LHP Matt Tracy (29), and LHP Shawn Morimando (25). The Bisons will turn to RHP Murphy Smith (30) and RHP Brandon Crumpton (29) for spot starts.
While the Bisons rotation, with Pannone and Waguespack, still holds some prospect excitement it is mostly filled with minor veterans. This is a necessary evil for the final month of the season. In a perfect world, Borucki and SRF would move up to the ML and Jon Harris or Jordan Romano or T.J. Zeuch or Hector Perez would step up from Double-A; however, it appears the FO doesn’t feel they are ready and that’s okay.
Having the minor league vets in Triple-A will allow the Double-A arms to experience meaningful baseball. The New Hampshire Fisher Cats hold a 3.5 game lead in the Eastern League Eastern Division with a 68 and 51 record while the Buffalo are playing out the season. With less than a month remaining, it is more important for these starting pitchers to learn how to win games in a stretch run and hopefully deep into the playoffs than getting Triple-A experience.
First, I want to applaud and thank all the MiLB vets as they continue to chase their dream of one day playing in the MLB. Your dedication to your craft is amazing.
Secondly, I hope that I did not make any of the MiLB out to be heels. Matt Tracy (1-1, 2.06 ERA in 9 games) has pitched exceptionally well for Buffalo. So too has all the other names mentioned above.
Lastly, let’s stop and consider the possible 2019 Triple-A rotation candidates. It is possible that SRF and Pannone begin the year in Buffalo. Maybe a healthy David Paulino. We can expect that Jon Harris, Jordan Romano, Hector Perez, and T.J. Zeuch will challenge Jacob Waguespack to be one of the Bisons’ 5. That is 8 starting pitching prospects, not including the inevitable MiLB vets signings.
*Featured Image Credit: R.Mueller
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Lover of all things Toronto Blue Jays. Blue Jays MiLB fanatic. I strive for average while stumbling onto above average. Rogers isn’t cheap. Baseball is a business. Your right, but I’m more right.