Pitching depth is great. Left-handed pitching is even better. Jays From the Couch looks at the Blue Jays potential 2017 Triple-A starting rotation
Under the new front office of Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro, Toronto moved quickly during the 2016 offseason to solidify the starting rotation. The Blue Jays re-signed Marco Estrada after a strong 2015. Left-handed pitcher JA Happ was signed as a free agent, Jesse Chavez was acquired for Liam Hendriks, and oft-injured Gavin Floyd was added to the fold. This group joined veteran knuckleballer RA Dickey and a healthy Marcus Stroman.
Aaron Sanchez was added to the competition for the 5th spot in the rotation, finally putting the reliever/starter debate to bed after a strong spring. Sanchez claiming the 5th spot in the rotation pushed Chavez and Floyd to the bullpen, allowing the young Sanchez to become a stabilizing force in the rotation.
Down the road in Buffalo, the Blue Jays front office put out a starting rotation or Drew Hutchison, Wade LeBlanc, Scott Diamond, Roberto Hernandez and an assortment of 5th starters. Fortunately, the Toronto Blue Jays had another season with minimal time lost to injury and only required Drew Hutchison a handful of times. Wade LeBlanc was shipped off to Seattle for a PTBNL (Tim Lopes). Scott Diamond pitched well. Roberto Hernandez tried to find a better opportunity elsewhere before returning to Buffalo and eventually being released in July. Chris Leroux took advantage of the hole left by Hernandez to claim a starting pitching gig, setting a career high in games started.
LHP TJ House
A sinker ball pitcher that averages 91 mph. House also throws a mid 80’s slider, a low 80’s change, and mid 70’s change. TJ House is one of those ‘average across the board’ types. He does everything well, but not well enough to consistently get major league batters out.
Debuting in 2014, House made 18 starts while being called up and optioned 5 times. He finished with a 5-3 record, 3.35 ERA, 22 walks, and 80 strikeouts over 102.0 innings. The following year, House was unable to find the same success. Shoulder inflammation landed him on the disabled list, which he was unable to fully overcome and his season came to an early end.
Despite being healthy in 2016, House made only 4 appearances out of Cleveland’s bullpen. With the Triple-A Columbus Clippers, the 6-foot-1 lefty was relegated to the bullpen after his June 8th start. A start that saw him allow one run over 5.2IP, lowering his ERA from 5.21 to 4.82. TJ House use in the bullpen could be described as ‘sparingly’; however, the results were much better than as a starter.
As a starter: 4-3, 4.82 ERA with 33BB and 40K
As a reliever: 1-0, 1.54 ERA with 10BB and 10K
When the Houston Astros acquired the 6 foot 1 lefty, he was described as a durable innings eater. Oberholtzer throws a 4-seam fastball and sinker that averages 90 mph. He also throws a low 80’s circle change and high 70’s curve. He’ll mix in the odd slider which averages 81 mph.
It’s odd that Brett Oberholtzer fell out of favor so quickly in Philadelphia. He was expected to chew up innings at the back end of the rotation. He doesn’t cost much. Other than a finger injury that cost him some time in 2015, he’s durable. Unfortunately, he didn’t claim the 5th spot in the Spring and was relegated to the bullpen.
As a member of the Phillies bullpen, Brett walked too many (3.58 BB/9), gave up too many HR (1.97 HR/9), and was just very ineffective (5.67 FIP). When the Phillies decided to go ‘full youth movement’ Brett Oberholtzer was let go.
Oberholtzer and House are similar in many ways. Both LHP possessed pinpoint control throughout their minor league days, but have struggled with walks in the majors.
Signing two 27-yr-old LHP with ML experience to MiLB contracts is never a bad thing. With a good Spring Training both TJ House and/or Brett Oberholtzer could earn a spot in the Blue Jays bullpen. However, I feel the Blue Jays would benefit from both pitchers heading to Buffalo to be stretched out as starters.
It’s possible both pitchers rediscover what made them successful as prospects. It’s also possible that success in Buffalo turns into a second chance, second chance as MiLB starter or as an MLB starting pitcher. Having House and Oberholtzer at Triple-A provides Toronto with the starting pitching depth to get through a 162 game season.
*Featured ImageCredit: slgckgc- UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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