The Toronto Blue Jays needs to improve their rotation for 2020, but Trent Thornton has earned himself a spot
Rather than mailing in a bunch of posts recapping the 2019 season for the entire Toronto Blue Jays roster, Jays From the Couch is going to look at what players have done in 2019 to earn in 2020. To kick things off, the argument will be made that, while the Blue Jays will scour the Earth for starting pitching, Trent Thornton has earned himself a rotation spot in 2020.
When Ross Atkins sent Aledmys Diaz to the Houston Astros, it wasn’t clear exactly how much we should make of the deal. Thornton was said to have the potential to be a starter in the next year or so, and for a piece like Diaz, it was worth a shot. He’d just come off some not very awe inspiring seasons in the Astros organization, but had a bit of a clear path to at least making his big league debut with Toronto in 2019.
That path became much more clear when Matt Shoemaker blew his ACL in April and Aaron Sanchez began his season of mysterious ineffectiveness. In a season where the club turns to Edwin Jackson for starts, it is no wonder that Thornton would be called upon. Fast forward 6 months and the 26 year old from Pittsburgh made 29 starts and put up 2.0 fWAR, second only to Marcus Stroman‘s 3.0 after a rather excellent start to the season.
When you stop and look at his season, Squints 2.0 has had some very nice starts and some rather forgettable ones, which is to be expected from a rookie. In total, he went 6-9 with a 4.84 ERA, which doesn’t sound too impressive. Considering his 4.59 FIP and 4.94 xFIP, there is no arguing that there is room for improvement with Thornton. A walk rate of 9%, a HR/9 rate of 1.40 and a WHIP of 1.41 all point to the need for improvement.
But, this simple glance doesn’t take into account the improvements the bespectacled one made thanks to the tutelage of Clay Buchholz. The former Red Sox starter helped his teammate out and taught him some adjustments to his curveball. According to Brooks Baseball, Thornton’s curveball usage went from under 10% in July to nearly 20% by the end of the season. The changes made show the following results:
The first image shows a the alterations resulted in a decreased speed out of his hand, which helped Thornton go from an opponents’ batting average of .333 in July to .083 by the end of season. In fact, he ended the season with a 2.19 ERA in September, giving us reason to think that changes made will set him up for success next year. He held batters to a slash line of .155/.245/.226.
We know that Toronto is going to be seeking starting pitching this offseason and that the 2019 season has shown us that you can never have enough of it. There are a number of question marks surrounding this club and how much improvement they can make over the winter. Will Ryan Borucki return to reclaim a spot in the rotation? Will Matt Shoemaker return to the club and return healthy? There is one question that has answered itself. Trent Thornton has earned himself a rotation spot for 2020. He has made adjustments in his rookie campaign that point to his ability to start.
If he can make further adjustments to allow himself to go deeper into games (his 154.1 innings is not comforting), he will not only have a rotation spot for the foreseeable future, but he will give this Blue Jays club a much needed boost as they climb back into contention.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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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.