Toronto Blue Jays 2016 Triple-A Starting Pitching

A look at the Buffalo Bisons starting rotation options exemplifies the lack of pitching depth in the Toronto Blue Jays upper minors

To say that I’m not excited about the 2016 Buffalo Bisons potential starting rotation is an understatement. My overall lack of enthusiasm for this season’s rotation is less to do with the new Bisons starting 5 and more to do with who isn’t in the Bisons starting 5.

During the 2014-15 off-season Buffalo fans anticipated a rotation consisting of Blue Jays Top Prospect Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris, which didn’t materialize, but it was nice to dream. The 2015 Bisons, did however, got a glimpse of former top Blue Jays pitching prospects Norris, Matt Boyd, and Miguel Castro before they were all used to acquire reinforcements for Toronto’s playoff push.

The 2015 Buffalo Bisons rotation also received contributions from veteran pitchers Randy Wolf (9-2, 2.58ERA), Andrew Albers (2-11, 5.70ERA), Jeff Francis (6-3, 2.35ERA), and Felix Doubront (1-3, 2.44ERA).

The 2016 Buffalo Bisons rotation consists mostly of minor league veterans with major league experience, lacking any hope for the future in the form of Top Prospects.


RHP Scott Copeland

Scott re-signed for another year and will return to the Bisons rotation after posting an impressive record of 11-6 with 2.95 ERA. The ground ball expert generated 2.17 GO/AO in 20 Triple-A starts. The 28-yr-old made his Toronto Blue Jays debut in 2015, seeing action in 5 games with 3 starts. Copeland pitches to contact and has excellent control (1.17 BB/9).

Prognosis for 2016

Scott will travel the QEW a few times in ’16 as a spot starter and is 7th on the SP depth charts; however, he will need to be added to the 40-man roster. Copeland will reach double-digit wins and eat innings.


LHP Scott Diamond

The native of Guelph, ON will bring 8 MiLB season of experience and 58 MLB starts with him to Buffalo in 2016. Diamond spent 2015 with the Durham Bulls, the Tampa Bay Rays’ Triple-A team, finishing the year with a record of 11-6 and 3.71 ERA in 25 starts and 150.1IP. Like Copeland, Diamond relies on keeping the ball down and location. Scott Diamond walked only 1.56 BB/9 and 5.45 K/9 in 2015.

Prognosis for 2016

Diamond isn’t on the 40-man roster and things would need to go terribly wrong for Diamond to get any time in Toronto. Scott will spend his  9th professional season entirely with the Bisons, providing Manager Gary Allenson with over 900 MiLB innings of experience. Scott only needs 20.1IP to reach 1000IP in his career.


RHP Roberto Hernandez aka Fausto Carmona

Hernandez will be 35 on Opening Day 2016, and has pitched for 4 different major league teams in the past 4 years. During this time Roberto has gone 17 and 32 with an ERA of 4.56. He’s struggled with his command and keeping the ball in the park with a 3.04 BB/9 and 15.1% HR/FB, while pitching to 0.4 WAR.

Prognosis for 2016

Roberto Hernandez could earn himself a bullpen position in the Toronto, but he would service the Blue Jays organization better taking the mound every 5th day at Coca-Cola Field. I still think that Copeland gets the call to Toronto before Hernandez.


LHP Wade LeBlanc

The 31-yr-old Lake Charles native is a former 2nd round pick of the San Diego Padres. Wade has over 100 major league games under his belt, and pitched for the Seibu Lions in Japan in 2015. Wade’s pitched for 6 major league teams over his 9 year MLB career, with a major league record of 21-33 with a 4.47ERA and minor league record of 60-39 with a 4.10ERA.

Prognosis for 2016

Since 2012, LeBlanc has played in 53 major league games, but has only made 19 starts. LeBlanc will use his 89mph fastball and 77mph change to provide the Bisons with starting depth.


RHP Brad Penny

The 37-yr-old Penny still throws low-90’s sinker and fastball with a curve and splitter that he throws in the 80’s. After several successful seasons with the Florida Marlins and Los Angeles Dodgers between 2002 and 2007, Penny has struggled with consistency and health since. Penny spent 2015 with the Charlotte Knights making 24 starts, finishing with a record of 7-10 with a 4.46ERA.

Prognosis for 2016

Penny is Triple-A depth with a slim chance of sticking in Toronto’s bullpen. It will be interesting to see if he uses his opt out and sticks with the Bisons.


Other Bison rotation options

RHP Drew Hutchison

Drew’s rough 2015 has put his chances of locking down a rotation spot with Toronto in 2016. To further cloud the situation Hutch still has minor league options; therefore, he could be sent to Buffalo if he has a bad spring or if Chavez has a really good spring.

RHP Chad Jenkins

The former 1st round pick has spent the past few seasons bouncing between Toronto’s bullpen and Buffalo’s starting rotation, finding success in both roles.  The 28-yr-old is out of options and stands a good chance of sticking in Toronto’s bullpen in 2016 as long man, but it’s just as likely that he passes through waivers and returns to Buffalo. With the Bisons, Jenkins will battle the veterans for a rotation spot.

RHP Casey Lawrence

Lawrence struggled with the Fisher Cats in 2015, and continues to struggle to claim a Triple-A rotation gig. Casey got his first taste of Triple-A in 2013 and again in 2015. The 28-yr-old is an inning eater, who pitchers to contact and generates a ton of ground balls. Depending on how many of the veteran pitchers stick around with determine whether or not Lawrence makes his way to Buffalo.

*Featured Image: Mandatory Credit: Patrick-flicker-CreativeCommons

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Shaun Doyle

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.