20 Starting Pitching Reasons For a Decade of Jays Success

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Finally, everyone is taking notice of the potent Jays rotation that features young, controllable, cheap, and dominant arms. Ricky Romero leads the staff with his poise and demeanor, Shaun Marcum provides a change of pace and leadership, Brett Cecil may have the best group of pitches that all grade as above-average and looks to be a workhorse style pitcher, and Brandon Morrow….well, you know. When you take a look at that top 4 grouping, and add others to the group in Jesse Litsch, Brad Mills, and Marc Rzepczynski – who are all MLB well-to-slightly seasoned and capable #5 pitchers, it seems like the Jays are set for a decent period of time in their rotation. However, it’s what is coming up the ladder behind them that makes me – and plenty of others – believe that the Jays are entering a new ERA where winning and competing for playoff spots will be the norm and expectation for the club.

Just imagine what that rotation would have looked like if Roy Halladay had stuck around…….ugh. Can you say first place?

The following are my “Top 20 Jays Minors Starting Pitchers” that are stepping up the ladder and are providing wave after wave of pitching for the Jays. I have discounted Rzepczinsky and Mills as we know what they have to offer. As we all know, you can never have too much pitching, and health issues can quickly unravel even the best season.

1 – Kyle Drabek, 23 years old (this month), AA New Hampshire, 6’1″ 190 lbs, RHP (#1-3, 2011)

  • 12-9/ 2.92 ERA/ 142 IP/ 110 hits allowed/ 54 walks/ 110 Ks/ .213 average against
  • There is no doubt that Kyle may very well be one of the most highly touted Jays SP prospects to bless our system in quite a long time. Others who came up the ranks, such as Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter, had a rougher time getting established. Kyle has the potential to be a true #2 pitcher, with the chance of being a #1. He has swing and miss stuff that drops off and tails away from hitters. RHB are hitting .198 against him, showing just how dominant he is against them, while lefties are only hitting a lowly .228 – not too shabby. There’s a reason Drabek was untouchable for a long time in the Doc Halladay deal, he’s a top fo the rotation starter that will be ready to take that role on full time -and for a full season innings wise – in 2011.

2 – Zach Stewart, 23 years old, AA New Hampshire, 6’2″ 205 lbs, RHP (#2-#4, 2011)

  • 8-2/ 3.67 ERA/ 115.1 IP/ 108 hits allowed/ 48 walks/ 92 Ks/ .251 average against
  • Sure, the Jays gave up Scott Rolen in acquiring Stewart, a player that could have helped bring the Jays to the playoffs this season, but the Jays will get many years of performance from Zach. He’s getting better as he gains confidence after being swithed from a RP to a SP, and now has a 2.54 ERA over his last 10 games with a lower .237 average against. He may need a little more seasoning than Kyle does in order to be successful in The Show, but he should be a more than adequate #3-4 once all is said and done.

3 – Asher Wojciechowski, 21 years old, SS Auburn DoubleDays, 6’4″ 235 lbs RHP (#2-3, 2012)

  • 0-0/ 0.75 ERA/ 12 IP/ 6 hits allowed/ 4 walks/ 11 Ks/ .146 average against
  • I’d love to slide Noah Syndergaard in here, but simply due to playing at a higher level and being more seasoned and closer to the majors, I went with Asher. He’s a big guy, strong, a workhorse that pounds the bottom of the zone on a great downward plane. He’s currently on the DL and will hopefully return before the season ends, but everything he showed after signing points to the fact that he could begin the 2011 season as high as HiA Dunedin, possibly AA New Hampshire. He’s more seasoned than the other 2 sandwich picks, and if Deck McGuire doesn’t sign, he will be the first 2010 drafted SP to make an impact with the Jays.

4 – Noah Syndergaard, 17 years old, GCL Blue Jays, 6’5″ 200 lbs, RHP (#2-3, 2013)

  • 0-1/ 0.82 ERA/ 11 IP/ 7 hits allowed/ 4 walks/ 5 Ks/ .194 average against
  • Noah is already big and strong and will only turn 18 at the end of August, leaving him plenty of time to add an inch or two and lots of strength. Of all of the pitchers taken in the 2010 draft, Noah and Aaron Sachez come with the highest ceilings and greatest tools. His fastball is dominant, a true power pitcher, and his curve ball and change ups are already showing above average potential. Although it may take him a little longer to get up the ladder, Noah should be ready for LoA Lansing at the very young age of 18 in 2011, making him a very impressive SP in the Jays system.

5 – Aaron Sanchez, 18 years old, GCL Blue Jays, 6’4″ 190 lbs, RHP (#2 -closer – 2013)

  • 0-1/ 3.00 ERA/ 9 IP/ 12 hits allowed/ 5 walks/ 13 Ks/ .324 average against
  • Aaron has electric stuff, but he needs to learn to harness his abilities and pitch more accurately. The Jays selected Aaron ahead of Noah and Asher because they know that his stuff has a very, very high ceiling. He’s already shown that he’ll be more than able to get the Ks as he climbs the ladder. Whether or not he can master other pitches than the fastball will determine whether he winds up in the pen or in the rotation. In either case, he should be dominant and deserves a potential #2 ceiling.

6 – Adonis Cardona, 16 years old, DSL Blue Jays, 6’1″ 170 lbs, RHP (#2-4,2014)

  • Yet to pitch in 2010
  • I know, I know, how can I rank a 16 year old signee from Venezuela ahead of guys like Deck and Chad….right? Well, I’m going by ceiling here, and everything I’ve read about Adonis tells me that he also has #2 pitcher potential. I’m anxious to see how well he does in the DSL (not that we can trust those stats) but am more interested in whether the Jays will allow him to jump to the GCL in 2011. Have you noticed a trend yet? Well, all 6 of my top picks are RHP prospects, which makes the Jays a little RHP heavy.

7 – Deck McGuire Jr, 21 years old, TBD, 6’6″ 218 lbs, RHP (#3-4, 2011)

  • Yet to pitch or sign in 2010
  • We know more about Deck than any other 2010 draftee due to his higher profile and more college stats to consider. His fastball sits between 91-93 MPH and he commands all pitches very well. His slider will be his best weapon to get hitters out, and he has poise and great mound presence. He projects to be a workhorse pitcher who can give his team 200+ innings on a consistent basis and who will provide them with consistent outings. However, due to the lack of movement on his pitches, other than his slider, he will struggle to get past the #3 pitcher status.

8 – Griffin Murphy, 19 years old, TBD, 6’3″ 200 lbs, LHP (#2-3, 2013)

  • Yet to pitch or sign in 2010.
  • Yet another “not signed” pitcher, Griffin is listed here as the top LHP prospect the Jays will have if they get him signed. He had a dominant 1.35 ERA with 110 Ks in 72 IP in his Senior year of HS and will be a tough sign to get as the deadline approaches. Still, if and when he does sign, he will become the best LHP prospect the Jays have by a long shot and has #2 potential. Although his ceiling is higher, Deck gets the #7 spots due to his assuredness of performance. Having said that, don’t be surprised to see Griffin in the top 5 Jays SP by mid-2011.

9 – Henderson Alvarez, 20 years old, HiA Dunedin, 6’0″ 190 lbs, RHP (#3-5, 2012)

  • 8-7/ 4.12 ERA/ 102.2 IP/ 127 hits against/ 24 walks/ 74 Ks/ .304 average against
  • Some are down on Henderson because of his rough start in HiA while I see him as simply learning to trust his stuff. He’s still young for HiA at only 20 years old, and will get a chance to get a full 2011 in HiA/AA in order to sharpen his stuff. Once that’s done, I fairly certain Henderson will turn out to be one of the steadier SP the Jays can rely on if they should need to in 2012, however, I would not be surprised to see him spend most of 2012 in AAA. The Jays still expect a lot from Henderson and he will get every opportunity to prove himself as he feels the heat from the newly drafted bunch that may skip over him in the rankings.

10 – Chad Jenkins, 22 years old, HiA Dunedin, 6’4″ 235 lbs, RHP (#3, 2012)

  • 7-8/ 4.01 ERA/ 125.2 IP/ 142 hits allowed/ 23 walks/ 94 Ks/ .278 average against
  • Chad has taken a little longer than expected to get things going in the lower parts of the minors, but he’s got one of the most assured sets of skills to become an eventual #3 or #4 pitchers. His stuff does get knocked around a little too much and I do expect that he may have a hard time cracking the Jays rotation at any point in the near future, but a Brad Mills type progression through the minors seems plausible here.

11 – Casey Lawrence, 22 years old, SS Auburn DoubleDays, 6’2″ 170 lbs, RHP (#3-4, 2012)

  • 5-1/ 1.90 ERA/ 52 IP/ 38 hits allowed/ 9 walks/ 41 Ks/ .207 average against
  • I keep wondering why we don’t hear more about Casey and his performance in 2010. Everyone seems to know all about Drew Hutchiscon and Daniel Webb, but few are mentioning the truly dominant performance that Casey is serving up this year. RHB are hitting a very low .157 against him in 93 attempts. That, my friends, is very impressive to say the least. Of all of the SS pitchers, Casey could wind up being promoted to HiA or above the quickest and could feasible help the Jays pen or rotation by the end of 2011 or beginning to 2012.

12 - Drew Hutchison, 20 years old in August, SS Auburn DoubleDays, 6’2″ 165 lbs, RHP (#3-4, 2012)

  • 1-1/ 3.00 ERA/ 45 IP/ 34 hits allowed/ 12 walks/ 44 Ks/ .201 average against
  • Drew got a lot of praise from BA’s Nathan Rode as he made up the 2010 rankings and for good reason. Drew has wicked stuff, has had dominant starts with 2 hits through 6 innings on multiple occasions, and averages 1 K per inning. We still need to see how well his stuff will play at the higher levels, but the Jays evidently have a great group of pitchers headed for Lansing and Dunedin in 2011.

13 – Nicholas Purdy, 21 years old, GCL Blue Jays, 6’5″ 205 lbs, RHP (#3-#5, 2013)

  • 2-2/ 3.20 ERA/ 39.1 IP/ 31 hits allowed/ 8 walks/ 42 Ks/ .221 average against
  • If anyone on the GCL Jays is screaming promote me right now, it’s Nicholas. He’s been dominant in 2/3 of his starts and deserves a shot in Auburn or Lansing. Of note, however, is the fact that he holds a 0.63 ERA versus LHB compared with a 4.68 ERA against RHB, so obviously the Jays may want him to work a little more effectively against RHB. Still, he’s kept them to a lowly .227 average against, meaning that athough they’re hurting him with runners on, he’s still more than effective against RHB overall. With his size and stuff, Nicholas should have no problem enjoying success as he climbs the ladder and may be able to perform as a #3 if all falls into place for him.

14 – Justin Nicolino, 18 years old, GCL Blue Jays, 6’3″ 160 lbs, LHP (#3-#4, 2013)

  • Yet to play in 2010.
  • Justin is one guy that I can’t wait to see pitch. He’s a tall and slight lefty who is supposed to have electric stuff that could play as high as a #2 if he fills out well and gains a few MPH. The Jays definitely need some lefties in the depths, so Justin and Griffin give them that top-end young and high risk-high-reward combination every team covets. Don’t be surprised to see Justin make huge leaps in 2011 and 2012.

15 – Logan Ehlers, 18 years old, TBD, 6’1″ 190 lbs, LHP (#3-5, 2014)

  • Yet another 2010 yet to be signed pick.
  • Logan was selected in the 8th rd of this year’s draft and was the 5th LHP chosen. As with most of the others, he is still very young and raw and will need lots of time to harness his skills. Still, the Jays were very excited to get him during this draft and he was pointed out as one of the big “hard picks to sign” guys once the draft was completed. Alex Anthopolous mentioned him specifically in an interview as one pick they expected a lot from, therefore I trust he’ll be a prospect to watch in 2011.

16 – Deivy Estrada, 17 years old, GCL Blue Jays, 5’11” 178 lbs, RHP (#3-5, 2014)

  • 4-2/ 2.72 ERA/ 39.2 IP/ 41 hits against/ 14 walks/ 30 Ks/ .259 average against
  • I’ve followed Deivy since he dominated the DSL as a 16 year old and love the fact that he’s transfered to the U.S. without much of an issue. He’s not the biggest pitcher at only 5’11”, but at his age he may be able to reach 6’0″ or 6’1″ as he continues to grow. The real asset with Deivy is that he places his pitches really well. I spoke with someone who saw him pitch in the GCL and they came away very impressed with his aggressiveness and composure on the mound. Of all of the Jays SP prospects, he could make the biggest jump in the rankings during the 2011 season as the “helium watch” prospect of the year.

17 – Jo Jo Reyes, 25 years old, AA New Hampshire, 6’2″ 230 lbs, LHP (#4-5, 2011)

  • 2-6/ 4.99 ERA/ 61.1 IP/ 64 hits allowed/ 19 walks/ 60 Ks/ .264 average against
  • If Atlanta gave up on Reyes as they did, you have to know there are some deep problems with his make up. However, with a little patience and a new surrounding – new coaching combination, the Jays could really have landed a gem in Reyes. He may never be anything more than a #4 pitcher, but when you’re 17th on the depth chart, that’s plenty for the Jays. His presence also protects some of the younger guys from being rushed up the ranks because they can try Reyes and give him a chance to prove himself.

18 – Daniel Webb, 21 years old, SS Auburn DoubleDays, 6’3″ 210 lbs, RHP (#4-5, 2012)

  • 0-5/ 5.86 ERA/ 43 IP/ 56 hits against/ 21 walks/ 30 Ks/ .302 average against
  • Daniel has a lot of promise but also has a lot of owrk to do. There’s a real possibility that he’ll wind up in the pen, but if can ever harness his stuff, Daniel does have enough in his arsenal to make an impact by 2012. He doesn’t have one of the highest ceilings around, but his is more assured. I expect him to do as well as a #4 when he’s on and that he could be better if he gains enough confidence.

19 – Bobby Bell, 24 years old, HiA Dunedin, 6’4″ 200 lbs, RHP (#4-5, 2012)

  • 3-2/ 5.86 ERA/ 55.1 IP/ 71 IP/ 13 walks/ 40 Ks/ .314 average against
  • I know, I know, his stats look ugly right now, but Bobby is recovery from injury and needs time to get his stuff back up to par. He had 112 Ks in only 96 IP last year in HiA while starting and relieving, maintaining a very nice 2.43 ERA. I’m still betting it wasn’t a fluke and that once he settles in, Bobby will do very well. Besides, as #19 on this list, he more than fills the depth role!

20 – Ryan Tepera, 22 years old, LoA Lansing, 6’1″ 180 lbs, RHP (#4-5, 2014)

  • 9-6/ 3.97/ 118 IP/ 110 hits allowed/ 42 walks/ 79 Ks/ .249 average against
  • Ryan is someone who could really do well once he learns to place his pitches a little better and could still do well enough to be considered a #4 pitcher.  Unfortunately for him, his progression may be slowed or altered by all of the higher ceiling arms that may skip over him as they all cammer up the ranks. Deck and Asher in particular could steal some of the promotions that would otherwise have gone to Ryan as soon as in 2011. Still, as the 19th best SP prospect on this list, Ryan more than does the job of providing the Jays with excellent SP prospect depth.

With all of the talent listed above, the rotation the Jays have in place, and the budgetary space they have to work with, the Jays future seems to be as bright as could be.

For those who question why I left guys like Luis Perez and Reidier Gonzalez off this list, the answer is simple: in my opinion, neither will make it to The Show as a starter. Perez has has held lefties to a 1.50 ERA and .209 average against while holding righties to a 8.56 ERA with a .339 average against. That has reliever-specialist written all over it, and at his size – 6’0″ 160 lbs – durability was always going to be an issue, so moving to the pen is the right move.As for Gonzalez, well, he’s looked so ineffective in AAA that I have to believe he may also be tried in the pen sometime soon.

When you boast about a team possibly having as many as 7 guys who could become #2 pitchers, 14 that should reach #3 status as a minimum or ceiling, and 20 high status guys as the Jays have above overall, you know you’ve got lots of depth to draw on over the next 3-5 year. It will be lots of fun watching these guys grow into MLB ready pitchers, and I hope I’m right in assuming that most Jays fans appreciate the huge influx of talent Alex Anthopolous has injected into this list. In fact, in less than one year, Alex is responsible (either by way of trade, international signing, or the draft) for 9 of the 20 pitchers listed above, including 6 of the top 7.  He gets it. You pitch well, you win lots of games.

The Jays have more depth in pitching than I can ever remember them having, and that bodes well for their chances to compete in 2011 and beyond. Enjoy!


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Tags: Aaron Sanchez Adonis Cardona Asher Wojciechowski Bobby Bell Casey Lawrence Chad Jenkins Daniel Webb Deck McGuire Deivy Estrada Drew Hutschison Griffin Murphy Henderson Alvarez Jo Jo Reyes Justin Nicolino Kyle Drabek Logan Ehlers Nicholas Purdy Noah Syndergaard Ryan Tepera Zach Stewart

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