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2020 Blue Jays: The Triple-A rotation is a mess, a good mess

The Blue Jays Triple-A rotation is a hot mess. A beautiful mess of talented young and hungry starting pitchers

 

 

 

What difference a year can make. The Toronto Blue Jays did a fine job this offseason filling the major league rotation with veteran starters. To recap, Chase Anderson was acquired for Chad Spanberger from the Milwaukee Brewers, Tanner Roark and Hyun-Jin Ryu were signed as free agents, Shun Yamaguchi was purchased from Yomiuri Giants. Throw in the return of a healthy Matt Shoemaker and the Blue Jays rotation on Opening Day will have an average age of 32.8.

 

I understand Spring Training has just gotten underway. The first game has yet to be played; therefore, a lot of good things and a lot of bad things can happen between now and March 26th. The club is doing what it can to limit the bad things from happening, such as, taking the slow and cautious approach with Matt Shoemaker’s knee or Ryan Borucki‘s elbow is barking. I am sure we will hear about several other pitchers dealing with fatigue or tightness.

 

A bunch of injuries early in the season completely dismantled the 2019 Blue Jays rotation. While it’s possible injuries could come into play once again in 2020, Toronto positioned itself much better to cope in 2020. Unfortunately, it will result in several of the organizations promising young pitchers spending time in Triple-A.

 

Back to 2019, because of the issues that Toronto had filling their rotation, the Bisons’ rotation suffered. The group from 2019 wasn’t devoid of talent. Actually, I had high hopes for the group. I was hoping Sean Reid-Foley would continue to take strides in his development. The Herd’s Opening Day starter, Jacob Waguespack, performed admirably during his time in the Blue Jays rotation. David Paulino was supposed to excel. Instead, he was released after posting a record of 1-1 with a 3.45ERA. The rotation had several key starters fail to take the next step in their development:

 

 

The constant shuffling of the rotation resulted in a couple of bullpen arms making spot starts or taking a regular turn in the rotation.

 

 

In 2020, things should be different. The club has stated they will be keeping everyone stretched out in the event one of the expected starting pitchers need to spend time on the IL. If everything goes swimmingly this spring and a starting rotation of Ryu, Anderson, Roark, Shoemaker, and Yamaguchi comes to fruition, this would be my expected starting five for Buffalo:

  1. Ryan Borucki
  2. Trent Thornton
  3. Anthony Kay
  4. Sean Reid-Foley
  5. T.J. Zeuch

Before you get excited about big Nate Pearson not making the starting five, hear me out. It is possible the Buffalo Bisons run with a 6-man rotation. In this case, Nate Pearson would have his innings managed similarly to 2019. In 2019, Pearson alternated between 5.0IP and 2.0IP starts. By the end of July, Pearson was allowed to pitch consecutive 5+IP starts. In his three starts in Buffalo, Nate went 7IP, 6IP, and 5IP and threw between 88 and 104 pitches.

 

So to start the year, Nate Pearson would alternate between a short outing and a 5IP-ish outing. He would take to the bump every 5th day with the other starters getting an extra day off.

 

Other Options

With the health of Borucki’s elbow, managing Pearson’s innings, and the possibility of Julian Merryweather finally being healthy enough return to a starting gig, the organization could decide to utilize the piggyback system we see so frequently in the lower minors. Limiting Borucki to a pitch count that would see him go between 4 to 5 innings and schedule Julian Merryweather to start the 5th inning, having him prep as though he were starting the game, would protect both pitchers and allow them to remain stretched out.

 

Logjam

By having guys like Borucki, Thornton, and Waguespack return to AAA, several starters will either need to repeat a lower level or assume new roles. To name a few, Yennsy Diaz, Thomas Hatch, Hector Perez, and Patrick Murphy were all expected to compete for a spot in the Herd’s rotation. That doesn’t appear to be in the cards.

 

The undrafted Waguespack could end up as the Blue Jays long man out of the bullpen. Some fans have suggested Thornton or Borucki should also head to the pen. Ultimately, this may happen. I am not ready to move either. However, I am inclined to move guys with electric stuff like Hector Perez, Merryweather, and Hatch to the bullpen. SRF might end up on this list if he can’t make the necessary adjustments to succeed in the rotation.

 

Closing

You can never have enough pitching.

 

Let’s be honest, Nate Pearson will be the Blue Jays 5th starter after the Blue Jays finish manipulating his service time. By this time, the trajectory of the Toronto Blue Jays’ 2020 season should be much more clear. Regardless of where they are in the standings, the Front Office should have the prospect capital in starting pitching to help improve the club in the present and into the future.

 

Until that time, it should be interesting to see how the organization find enough innings to keep this group of starters sharp.

 

Have your say, what will your Triple-A rotation look like?

 

 

 

 

*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.

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Ryan Mueller

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.