As the Toronto Blue Jays will rely heavily on strong starting pitching in 2017, RHP Casey Lawrence could prove to be a valuable depth piece
Depth. Depth wins championships.
The Toronto Blue Jays been lucky enough to avoid the injury bug in 2015 and 2016. By avoiding the injury bug Toronto didn’t require the services of AAAA players for any length of time. Sure we had to suffer through stints of Junior Lake and Darrell Ceciliani in the outfield, and a hand full of relief pitchers.
The starting rotation has benefited from great health during the Blue Jays playoff runs during the past two seasons. This run of good health allowed the Blue Jays a chance to hide a complete lack of starting pitching depth. It also granted Toronto fans mercy. Mercy from having to watch any of the AAAA pitchers to call Buffalo home in 2016.
Toronto will have another strong starting 5 in 2017, but three years of good health may be asking too much. Unfortunately, starting pitching depth isn’t a strength of the Blue Jays upper minors.
After trading away Drew Hutchison to acquire Francisco Liriano, will have to turn to Mike Bolsinger if the injury bug makes an appearance in 2017. A few weeks back Shaun Doyle looked at Bolsinger (full article). So let’s go deeper.
Casey Lawrence has knocked on the door to Triple-A since making his Triple-A debut in 2013, which lasted only one game. Unfortunately the former front office often decided to fill the Bisons’ starting pitching staff with MiLB veterans, keeping home grown talent at Double-A. This could explain why it’s taken so long for Lawrence to advance beyond Double-A.
— Buffalo Bisons (@BuffaloBisons) September 1, 2016
In 2016, under a new front office, Lawrence finally got his shot at consistent Triple-A innings. He started the year in Buffalo before heading back to Double-A at the end of April, thanks to an ugly 0-2 record and 9.24 ERA. Lawrence made 13 starts with New Hampshire, going 0-1, 1.29 ERA in April, 2-2, 5.63 ERA in May and 1-3, 4.25 ERA in June.
On July 5th, Lawrence returned to Buffalo and pitched like a changed man. He went 2-1, 1.78 ERA in July and 3-2, 3.41 ERA in August.
The 29-yr-old Casey Lawrence is a ground ball pitcher who lacks any overpowering pitches, so he pitches to contact (11.0 H/9IP). The 6 foot 2 righty throws a lot of strikes (66%) and limits base on ball (2.48 BB/9IP). The non-draftee finished 2016 with 6 K/9IP, which falls in line with his career average, but won’t cause fans to demand he be promoted any time soon.
Before you glaze over Casey Lawrence, remember it is very important to have a guy who throws strikes, limits free passes, and have the ability to eat up innings (162IP in 2016).
I get it. I really enjoyed the days filled with anticipation over the eventual arrival of Daniel Norris, Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman from Triple-A. Heck I’d even take the Matt Boyd type to look forward to; unfortunately, the under minors are still recovering from the 2015 Trade Deadline.
So Casey Lawrence will continue to be a valuable depth piece until Conner Greene proves he can conquer Double-A (6-5, 4.19 ERA). After Greene the likes of Sean Reid-Foley (Advanced-A), Jon Harris (Advanced-A), and Francisco Rios (Advanced-A) aren’t far behind and have a chance of overtaking Greene if he doesn’t sort out his control problems (4.3 BB/9IP).
*Featured Image Mandatory Credit: Kris Robinson UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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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.