Recent comments from President, Mark Shapiro, point to 3 ‘waves of pitching’ in the Blue Jays system. Is it enough to contend?
The Toronto Blue Jays are need of pitching to match their offense if they are going to contend in a couple years. Recent comments from club President, Mark Shapiro, indicated that he thinks his team could compete faster than people might think. Likely, those who would never give this front office the benefit of the doubt will dismiss this comment as ‘telling people what they want to hear’, etc etc etc. But, if that is the real intention, then pitching has to be at the forefront of any plans.
Shapiro went on to point out that there are 3 waves of pitching in the system now, not to suggest they have all the pitching they need, but to say that there are some potentially quality arms already in the system. If you think back to when he first took the job, he mentioned “waves of talent” as being how you sustain a winning organization. If that is the case, then perhaps the Blue Jays are headed in the right direction. It all depends on how much you value these waves.
Shapiro pointed to 3 waves of arms in #BlueJays' system today
Thornton, Waguespack, Pannone, Borucki, SRF
Pearson, Merryweather, Patrick Murphy, Yennsy Diaz, Zeuch, Hector Perez
Pardinho, Manoah, Woods Richardson, Maximo Castillo, Adam Kloffenstein, Joey Murray, Zach Logue
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) August 8, 2019
With the departure of Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, the Blue Jays committed themselves to testing the first wave of arms. Trent Thornton, Jacob Waguespack, Thomas Pannone, Ryan Borucki and Sean Reid-Foley have all been given the opportunity to show what they bring to the table. Obviously, Borucki’s need to have bone spurs removed from his elbow removes him from the current conversation, but you can bet he will get his shot at a rotation spot for next season.
Of the remaining 4, it is not really clear if anyone can be said to have run away with a job. SRF has given the club a mixed bag to work with. He’s shown the ability to get strike outs, but his inability to keep free passes down will cost him until he figures it out. In 5 big league starts this year, his ERA sits at 2.36, providing proof that ERA doesn’t tell the whole story. Pannone has been arguably worse this year than last. Waguespack has put forth five starts worth of interesting. His last outing against the Rays showed some effectiveness that the performances before and after it didn’t show.
Of this group, Thornton has been the most up and down of all. He has had great starts and some real clunkers. He might be the stand out of this group (Borucki aside), but his 5.07 xFIP is somewhat scary. It is entirely possible that no one in this first wave is going to be someone the club thinks they can win with.
Of the second wave, Nate Pearson is the one most people have their eye on. Proving that A+ wasn’t + enough for him with a K rate of nearly 50%, he moved to AA and is still tossing a WHIP of 0.96, 63 K and 18 BB. He’s the most legit arm the Blue Jays have right now. After him, T.J. Zeuch has thrown an ERA of nearly 5 in 53 AAA innings. Alarming are his 27 walks to 26 strike outs. The 24 year old is going to need to show he is healthy and can take his game to the next level if he is going to be considered for a rotation spot in Toronto. Patrick Murphy has an xFIP of 2.95 in 82 AA innings and Fangraphs projects he’ll put up 2 fWAR over the next 3 seasons.
Julian Merryweather is still making his way back after missing all of 2018, so it is not overly clear if he’s a serious contender for a rotation spot next season or the one after, which is interesting given that he is 27. Yennsy Diaz put up a 4 ERA in 118 innings at AA and did not have a great first big league experience in his 0.2 innings of work this season. Don’t expect the 27.00 ERA at the MLB level to weigh into any decisions. Finally, Hector Perez has thrown 105 innings in New Hampshire, but is having trouble limiting free passes. Outside of Pearson and maybe Zeuch, this wave of arms is not going to get fans drooling over the future right now.
When we get to that final wave of arms, which is likely 3 years away at least, we get some more intriguing arms. The newly acquired Simeon Woods Richardson is showing why he was worth getting for Stroman:
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 12, 2019
Another 18 year old, Eric Pardinho, is healthy and enjoying success in A Ball. 2019 draft pick (11th overall), Alek Manoah, has tossed 6 nice innings in Vancouver, while 20 yr old, Maximo Castillo is 8-5 with a 2.85 ERA in Dunedin. Adam Kloffenstein has a 2.72 ERA in Vancouver and is holding hitters to a .206 average. This group has the quantity advantage over the 1st and 2nd wave, and appears to have the quality edge as well. It is such a young group that the Blue Jays won’t really know what they have yet.
Perhaps, among these three waves of pitching, the Blue Jays can find their 4-6 arms they think they can find. Perhaps. But, that is not going to be enough. They will need to get creative with how they find pitching if they are going to compete in 2 years time, if that is the realistic goal. They will have to spend on the open market, which they insist they will be able to do. And, they’ll likely need to dip into their position player depth to acquire some higher end pitching.
If Mark Shapiro’s comments are to be believed (and why wouldn’t they?), the Toronto Blue Jays could begin adding pieces that will help them win as early as this offseason. They won’t be big names that will cost a fortune, but they’re still in the building phase of their plans. Once they’ve built up their depth and their waves of pitching continue their climb, then maybe we’ll see some bigger names coming to Toronto…MAYBE. Until then, there is much work to be done to develop these waves of arms into actual big league pieces.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.