Is the 2019 Blue Jays Rotation Already In-House?

Even with veterans JA Happ and Marco Estrada likely done in Toronto, the 2019 Blue Jays rotation may already be in-house.

 

Sean Reid-Foley comes up and in against the Syracuse Chiefs on July 1, 2018.

 

This season has been rough. For those of you that have followed along through the highs (of which there weren’t many) and the lows of the 2018 Toronto Blue Jays, thank you. We’ll get through this together.

 

That introduction was only slightly in jest. Not just for the the fans – but the players, the manager, the upper management and the media types covering this team, 2018 has been a real slog. There was some excitement early on, but blisters and other maladies to the pitching staff and strained calves for a former-MVP third baseman and an aging shortstop sealed the fate of this team quickly. Not to mention playing in a division with two slam-dunk contenders and one lurking in steamy St. Petersburg.

 

If you’ve held on, though, you’ve been treated to the emergence of a trio of young starting pitchers. One is a sometimes overpowering righty named Sean Reid-Foley. The others are the crafty lefties Thomas Pannone and the Mark Buehrle-inspired Ryan Borucki. All have struggled at times this season, but they’ve all shown up and shown off at the highest level of the game, and that alone gives many fans hope for a more enjoyable 2019 season.

 

A season in which the starting rotation may have already sorted itself out.

 

The Rotation As-Is

On Opening Day 2019, the Blue Jays rotation should look something like this:

  • Aaron Sanchez (4-6), 4.89 ERA, 58 BB, 86 K, 85 ERA+ in 105 IP
  • Marcus Stroman (4-9), 5.54 ERA, 36 BB, 77 K, 75 ERA+ in 102 IP
  • Ryan Borucki (4-4), 3.86 ERA, 26 BB, 57 K, 108 ERA+ in 84 IP
  • Sean Reid-Foley (2-3), 5.54 ERA, 16 BB, 32 K, 76 ERA+ in 26 IP
  • Thomas Pannone (3-1), 3.77 ERA, 9 BB, 21 K, 111 ERA+ in 31 IP
  • *Sam Gaviglio (3-8), 5.25 ERA, 32 BB, 97 K, 79 ERA+ in 108 IP

 

That is, assuming health through spring training, which Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez did not deliver on in 2018. Those two could also easily be swapped for each other for the first and second spots in the rotation, and that is if the stronger performer in recent memory, Marcus Stroman, is still a Blue Jay in 2019. While it’s purely speculation at this point, the front office has certainly pondered that move and the assets it could essentially net the club.

 

Assuming Stroman does stay – which at the moment seems likely – and both he and Sanchez recover from recurring blister issues, there’s not much at the upper levels of the minors to challenge Reid-Foley, Borucki and Pannone for those final three spots. Seeing as Sam Gaviglio isn’t even arbitration eligible until 2021, he may factor is as well, should someone totally bomb in Spring Training or not escape Florida without injury. Ideally, he doesn’t start for the club in 2019. At all.

 

Depth

The Gaviglio scenario also leads into the discussion of starting pitching depth for 2019. Taylor Guerrieri is also under team control through 2023, but again, if you’re relying on him for starts, something has gone wrong. Beyond Guerrieri, David Paulino could potentially factor into the rotation, but he’s much more suitable in the bullpen – and super fun to watch back there as well. So let’s look at the Bisons and Fisher Cats rosters.

 

Buffalo:

 

Oh, boy. There’s some mediocrity there, with the highlight being Murphy Smith and the return in this summer’s Aaron Loup trade, Jacob Waguespack. Waguespack might have the highest upside of the three, but at 24, doesn’t even rank in the Blue Jays Top 30 at MLB Pipeline.

 

While these three might be something to think about for an injury spot start or as part of a bullpen taxi squad, if any of them are getting regular starts in 2019, it’s going to be hard to watch.

 

Fisher Cats:

 

Here’s where things get more interesting. Perez currently ranks as the team’s 11th best prospect, Zeuch as their 15th. Jon Harris has fallen out of the Top 30, but that can be attributed to the system’s growth since 2015, rather than any shocking decline in play. While unexciting, Harris might be the quickest of the group to rise, already being at the age of 24 after repeating Double-A in 2018, albeit with unsexy results.

 

Perhaps a little more exciting would be the continued rise of Markham, Ontario’s Jordan Romano. Across three levels he posted a 4.13 ERA, which isn’t great, but some outlier starts may have contributed to that number in both directions. The walk rate isn’t great and he can get worked over now and again, but if you put him on the Bisons roster right now, he’s the most interesting arm.

 

That being said, it’s probably more likely that one of Hector Perez or T.J. Zeuch reaches the majors first. They have the best stuff, the most advanced approach, and look to be the closest to MLB-ready. Should Perez sort out some control/command issues early on this spring, the 22-year old is my pick to make it first. Should those control issues continue, the college-polished 23-year old Zeuch should get an early nod.

 

Reinforcements

Of course, the Blue Jays may still want to remain relevant in 2019, and with the call-up of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., continued success of Danny Jansen, Billy McKinney and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and the potential blossoming of Anthony Alford – this team might be a bit of a surprise.

 

That’s where the free agent market contributes to the rotation in 2019.

 

You’ve probably heard a lot about the hitters in the 2019 market, including Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson and others. But the pitching isn’t so bad either, and there might be some very strong MiLB deal types out there that could being the season with Toronto, but not necessarily stay the whole season. Some names to consider:

 

 

Some of the mix include wily old MLB veterans, who could earn a deal similar to this offseason’s boner of a contract to Jaime Garcia. But there’s some sneaky reclamation projects in there as well, and some of these guys might be searching for MiLB deals due to recent surgery (Ross – Tommy John), a mediocre 2018 (Lynn, Santiago) or may have even been quite good in 2018, but have had issues in the past (Holland, Harvey, Buchholz.)

 

However, with the depth in the organization already, there’s a good chance that the front office sticks more to the in-house arms and some minor league contracts and hoping for the best.

 

Of course, a lot can happen between now and the end of March, 2019. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it should.

 

*Featured Image Courtesy Of Photo by Roy Widrig.

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Roy’s earliest memories all involve baseball from the early 90’s and the Blue Jays dream teams. He became a Blue Jays fan while watching Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green evolve in Syracuse, NY at the run-down confines of MacArthur Stadium, nestled between highway and swamp. A lifelong baseball player, Roy still plays (P, C, 2B, 3B) in the 25+ Syracuse MSBL for the Liverpool Mets. He watches almost all games with his best buddy Sebastian, a five year old Pug, who could care less.

Roy-Z

Roy’s earliest memories all involve baseball from the early 90’s and the Blue Jays dream teams. He became a Blue Jays fan while watching Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green evolve in Syracuse, NY at the run-down confines of MacArthur Stadium, nestled between highway and swamp. A lifelong baseball player, Roy still plays (P, C, 2B, 3B) in the 25+ Syracuse MSBL for the Liverpool Mets. He watches almost all games with his best buddy Sebastian, a five year old Pug, who could care less.