As the season winds down for the Blue Jays, Thomas Pannone is making a strong case for a spot in next season’s starting five
Short answer, yes. The real question is will he be on the Opening Day roster as a starter or reliever?
It seems like every September there is a prospect who puts up strong numbers. This typically causes fans to ponder the question, “what role will player X fill the following year?”
Starting pitcher Thomas Pannone is currently having one of those months for the Toronto Blue Jays.
The left-handed pitcher came, along with Samad Taylor, to the Blue Jays in a 2017 Deadline deal which sent relief pitcher Joe Smith to the Cleveland Indians. At the time, Pannone was having an impressive season for the Indians Double-A affiliate (6-1, 2.62 ERA) but seemed to stumble when he was added to the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats (1-2, 3.63 ERA). Despite not making it out the 6th inning in his first three starts with the Fisher Cats, Pannone finished strong with a pair of 6-inning starts and an impressive 7.o IP, 3-hit, 1-run start to close out the campaign.
This strong finish combined with his pre-trade numbers had many of us thinking he’d challenge Ryan Borucki during Spring Training for the Blue Jays 5th spot in the rotation. At the very least Pannone would provide Toronto with depth in Buffalo. Unfortunately, Pannone received an 80-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s Drug Prevention and Treatment Program and the Blue Jays signed Jaime Garica….not sure which was more unfortunate?
Let’s put the past in the past.
With the suspension served, Pannone made his first start of 2018 on June 22nd as a member of the Advanced-A Dunedin Blue Jays. Five days later he made the first of two starts with New Hampshire before heading to Buffalo on July 4th. Pannone wasn’t overly impressive as a member of the Bisons’ rotation but was promoted anyways. He arrived in Toronto on August 9th, making his MLB debut a day later. Pannone came out of the bullpen to pitch the 6th inning. He allowed 2 runs and struck out 3 in 1.2 IP. He was made two scoreless relief appearances before being returned to Buffalo on August 15th only to be recalled on the 19th.
Back in the BIGS
Since being recalled, Pannone has made 3 relief appearances and 4 starts.
On August 22, at home and facing off against the lowly Baltimore Orioles, the 24-yr-old earned his first major league victory going 7 shutout innings, allowing just one hit (in the 7th), walking 2 and striking out 3. Pannone threw 108 pitches with 13 strikes looking and 14 swinging strikes. He generated 8 groundballs and 11 flyballs.
He followed that little gem with a stinker 5 days later against the same lowly Oriole but this time in Camden Yards. Pannone’s record was evened 1-1 as he was unable to make it out of the 4th inning. He allowed 7 runs on 9 hits, including 2-HR, in 3.1 IP.
The lefty from Cranston, RI, made a pair of impressive relief appearances to kick off September, as a lefty who could go multiple innings. On September 2nd, Pannone pitched the 8th and 9th innings, allowing two hits and three strikeouts in Miami. On the 4th, he was asked to pitch the 8th inning in a 4-0 loss to Tampa. He allowed one hit, hit a batter and struck out a batter in one inning of work.
Back to the Rotation
Pannone was re-inserted into the rotation for a September 9th, facing off against his former organization and playoff-bound Cleveland Indians. Pannone allowed a solo shot to MVP candidate Francisco Lindor (34) in the 3rd inning and a solo shot to Brandon Barnes in the 7th inning to end his day. Thomas Pannone outdueled Mike Clevinger (11-8, 3.16 ERA) going 6.1 IP, allowing 2-runs on 4 hits while walking 3 and striking out 2 batters. He improved to 2 and 1 and lowered his ERA to 4.13.
His last start came on September 16th against another playoff-bound team, the New York Yankees. Pannone struggled in the first inning, allowing a leadoff homer to Andrew McCutchen, a walk to Giancarlo Stanton, a single to Aaron Hicks, and a sac fly off the bat of Didi Gregorius to score Stanton from 3rd base. Thomas Pannone retired the Yanks in order until a Gregorius one-out walk in the 7th, followed by a Gleyber Torres single. Fortunately, managed to retire Gary Sanchez and Luke Voit to get out of the inning unscathed. The Blue Jays scored 2-runs in the Top of the 8th to give Toronto a 3-2 lead and Pannone was lifted for Mark Leiter. Pannone would improve to 3-1 with 3.77 ERA.
Looking to ’19
Opening Day is a long long ways away. A lot can happen over the offseason. Injuries. Suspensions. Trades. Free Agent signings and Free Agents leaving. All these factors could impact the role which Thomas Pannone can and will fill. Blue Jay fans can expect rotation made-up of Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Ryan Borucki, and maybe Sam Gaviglio.
The rumor mill has already started on Toronto potentially shopping Stroman this offseason after going off on a Toronto sports media person but like Sanchez, Stroman’s value is very low after a disappointing season. Therefore, it is more likely both pitchers will be back. There is a possibility that Estrada could be signed to one deal to fill the 5th starter role ala, Jaime Garcia. Lastly, has Gaviglio done enough to push Pannone out of the rotation?
He has shown the ability to come out of the bullpen (0-0, 2.45 ERA in 7.1IP) and start (3-1, 4.18 ERA in 23.2 IP). Thomas Pannone also won’t turn 25-yr-old until April 28th, 2019 and has all his minor options.
Competition and Final Thoughts
Gaviglio may not be the only pitcher standing in Pannone’s way to claim a spot in the Blue Jays rotation next season. Recently acquired David Paulino, if healthy, will compete. Sean Reid-Foley has looked like he could use some more seasoning but he could surprise in Spring Training.
There is a 40-man roster crunch coming. Players will need to be dealt to clear room for arms like Hector Perez, Jon Harris, Patrick Murphy, Danny Young, Travis Bergen, Conor Fisk, and Corey Copping. There are several positions deserving of Rule 5 protection. We can expect to lose some of the names mentioned but trades would help clear room and improve the organization. A player like Dwight Smith Jr. packaged with Yangervis Solarte for one or two lower level intriguing prospects are the trades I’m talking about.
What are your thoughts? Come Opening Day in 2019, will Pannone be in:
- Toronto’s rotation
- Buffalo’s rotation
- Toronto’s bullpen
- with another organization
*Featured Image Credit: JFtC
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