Jays Fans Poll Results: “Who’ll win the 4-5th starter spots in the rotation?”

Our latest poll was added in order to get a feeling for who Jays fans believe will win what is sure to be a very exciting battle for the 4th and 5th spot in the rotation. Although the continued improvements of Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, and Brett Cecil in the #1-3 spots will be critical to Jays success in 2011, the #4-5 spots could wind up being just as important because of the talent of those who’ll likely land there. With injury concerns usually becoming an issue at some point in the season, it’s likely that we’ll see all of these pitchers in a Jays uniform at some point in 2011, but listed below are your favorite choices and responses to a very important question:

“Who will win the 4th and 5th starter spots in the Jays rotation this spring?”

  • Kyle Drabek and Marc Rzepczynski (53%, 161 Votes)
  • Kyle Drabek and Jesse Litsch (26%, 77 Votes)
  • Kyle Drabek and another (Stewart, Mills, Richmond, or other) (11%, 34 Votes)
  • Jesse Litsch and Marc Rzepczynski (7%, 21 Votes)
  • Marc Rzepczynski and another (Stewart, Mills, Richmond, or other) (2%, 5 Votes)
  • Jesse Litsch and another (Stewart, Mills, Richmond, or other) (1%, 3 Votes)
  • Total Voters: 301

    The results were not that predictable from the choices we gave fans. Most everyone could have predicted which of the answers would finish in the top 2, but not many would have bet their house on either of the 2. There are still some pretty decent surprise responses in there, but for my vote, I also would have gone with the top choice of Jays fans: Kyle Drabek and Marc Rzepczynski, which garnered 53% of the votes.

    It’s not because I’m not a Jesse Litsch fan, I just believe that the Jays are set on giving Drabek a shot to start – so long as he does well in spring training – and also because adding Rzepczynski gives the Jays 3 lefties in the rotation and a different look all around that doesn’t allow opposing teams to get used to a “style” of pitching. Rzepczynski also had such a great AFL performance that I believe he has found the confidence he needed to regain after a rough 2010 which came after a great 2009.

    Having said that, I would not be shocked in the least to see one of Drabek or Rzepczynski headed to AAA while Jesse Litsch gets a chance to redeem himself. He has gained enough respect from the Jays to earn such a shot, and has reportedly trained hard this off season to ensure he’s ready to outperform others this spring. If he wins the battle outright this spring, why wouldn’t they give him a shot? If he does well and no injuries surface, the Jays will have more depth and possible a trade piece pitcher of some sort at the trade deadline. There’s nothing wrong with taking that route if he earns it. But, if his performances are up and down and the Jays still decide to go with him over the other 2 top candidates, this poll points to the fact that many fans will be disappointed.

    What surprised me most about this poll was the results that came in 3rd, Kyle Drabek and another pitcher. Really? I would have thought that predicting a Marc Rzepczynski and Jesse Litsch combination would be much more likely than predicting that both would wind up in AAA – or that they would have been traded or a combination thereof. For 11% of the fans to believe that both Litsch and Rzepczynski would wind up elsewhere suprised me a little, particularly when the pen doesn’t seem to be an option for either with so much experience being there already.

    I was equally surprised that the Litsch and Rzepczynski combination only got 7% of the vote, as it could very well wind up that way if Drabek has a lackluster spring. Although many fans are hoping that Drabek comes on strong and lands a spot with the Jays, he still has to earn it. John Farrell isn’t going to put him in the rotation unless he’s absolutely sure he’ll stay there. And, Alex Anthopoulos has said in the past that the Jays no longer want to call players up and not play them or send them back down. They want to call them up and play them when they’re ready, and leave them there for the season. So, if the Jays see that Drabek needs some time to work out some issues, they’ll start the season with him in AAA. So, while this option got little support from fans, it still remains a real possibility.

    The least support was given to the right options, as both of those scenarios seem a little far-fetched right now based on what we know. Injuries can change things pretty quickly however, so you never do know for certain. If it does happen, those who chose the winning option can brag all they want, because it takes courage to step that far out of the norm! If you want to, let us know who it is that you see filling those spots if not one of the pitchers we listed as options in the comments section.

    Our next poll will be up shortly and most likely for a short period, but it’s a very important one!

    Thanks for voting and voicing your opinion!

    - MG

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    Topics: Jesse Litsch, Kyle Drabek, Marc Rzepczynski, Zach Stewart

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    • Mylegacy

      Drabek and Stewart are CLEARLY (to me at least) the BEST two. However, I strongly believe they have to win it in the spring. I’d be happy to open with Scrabble and Litsch if Drabek and Stewart don’t grab their spots.

      I’d be content with Drabek and either Scrabble or Litsch – even IF Stewart was on of the two best in the spring – because if Stewart doesn’t get called up until after opening day we control him for 7 years instead of 6.

      I’d be really surprised if Drabek and Steward aren’t the 4 and 5 guys by June at the latest.

    • James H

      Litsch is not a long term solution in a AL East rotation. As a Marcum-nite, he should be given every single chance to make the rotation this year. Let say he finishes with numbers slightly worse than Marcum this year. AA will heavily shop him in the offseason for prospect(s) that has upside.

      Litsch has no future in an AL East rotation Not with all these ultra-patient heavy professional hitters in the AL East. AA will try to give him the 5th spot, and build up his trade value this yr. This is a win-win-win situation for the Jays, Litsch and the future team that acquire him.

      Litsch is definitely a mid-rotation starter in the NL, so by no means am I trolling him here

    • earlweaverfan

      So when Litsch came up to play for a few games this year, he seemed to have nothing good to show – small sample size, you might say, but over 9 games, he did not have a single good stat, peripheral or otherwise.

      I may not recall correctly, but the broadcasters seemed to be saying that none of his pitches were back to where they had been pre-injury. Is there any basis (beyond hope) for believing that Litsch has more control or movement on his pitches now than he did last year?

      Rzep did not have a great year, either, but in a few more starts and games, he at least out-performed JL by a significant margin.

      So, for those who see the plan as giving Litsch a chance to show why NL teams should trade for him, what makes you think he will look good enough for others to be interested?

    • Mat Germain

      Here’s how I see it, for what that’s worth:

      Jesse Litsch – 2008 stats at age 23 – 3.58 ERA, 28 GS, 176 IP, 178 hits, 39 BB, 99 Ks, 1.233 Whip, 9.1 H/9, 2 BB/9, 5.1 SO/9, 2.7 WAR…..and people are ready to give up on him? Well, I’m glad the Jays haven’t yet, because he can definitely turn things around quickly. To make it quick, he just came back too quickly from his surgery. The usual timeline for the procedure he had is anywhere from 16-18 months, he came back in 12. Add in a wonky hip he had fixed in August, and there are your reasons! He’s been tweeting about a new diet and great workouts, and seems primed for a turnaround. I, for one, am not counting him out of anything.

      Link to some of his info: http://www.thestar.com/article/845036

      As for Rzepczynski, anyone who saw the stats put up in Fangrahs that displayed the fact that the AL East is filled with more than half of the hitters being LH or switch-hitting (somewhere around 53%), knows how important having LHP in your rotation is in the AL East. That’s why I give him the edge to land the 5th spot in the rotation if he’s effective. He had an awesome AFL season, and if it wasn’t for missing 41 games after being hit by a line drive on his middle finger of his throwing hand, I believe he would have been in the 2010 rotation all year long. He’s got great stuff and provides the Jays with a different look as well as 2 lefties in the rotation.

      As for Zach Stewart, my bet is that he becomes the closer of the future for the Jays. Just a hunch. If he can make it as a starter, great, I’m all for it but still expect him to make it to the Jays in June-August. If not, the Jays have one of the cheapest closing alternatives in all of the AL East that has the potential to be lights out for years to come. Add in David Purcey from the left side in Scott Downs mode, and you’ve got a very nice back of the pen for years to come.

      That’s my take on things!

      • Andy

        Mat:

        Great site..I love it!

        Do you not see the Jays holding Drabek back at least until May for the extra year of service time??

        I love the prospect countdown by the way!!

    • Mylegacy

      Mat – on Stewart – I’m with KLaw – I think he’s got the stuff to be a quality starter. I only see him closing IF he just can’t beat out some of our other young studs – that could happen.

    • http://JaysJournal Adrian88

      Hey Mat, I keep reading if we keep scrabble we’ll have 2 lefties in the rotation. Romero, Cecil and Zep are all southpaws and 1+1+1 equals 3 the last time I checked. For the record, I would like Drabek and Zep to get the 4 and 5 but am excited to see what Stewart brings to the table. I’m not giving up on Litsch yet but his stuff just does not seem up to the quality needed to contain the big bats in the AL East…just my take.

      • Mat Germain

        I have to blame that one on thick fingers….I did mean to type 3. Unfortunately, nobody has invented a spell check that looks at this kind of thing. Who knows, maybe some day they’ll be an App for that!

        HA!

        Thanks for the pickup Adrian, it’s always appreciated and I amended it.

    • http://www.jayjournal.com Jared Macdonald

      I’m with KLaw (and Mylegacy) on this one, I think Stewart should be the #5 to open the season, and Drabek is pretty much a lock for the #4 spot. I think, overall, that the Jays would be rushing Drabek and Stewart to the Majors, but I’d much rather see them develop and grow in 2011 over Rzep or Litsch.

      As it stands right now, Scrabble and Litsch are Stewart’s only competition for the #5 spot (well let’s not forget about Jo-Jo Reyes…haha), both of whom haven’t had any kind of recent success at the Major League level.

      Frankly I think we saw enough of both of those guys this past year to virtually hand Stewart a shot at The Show to show what he has. I think Stewart would simply be wasted as a reliever as well, period.

      Litsch gave up 20 earned runs in just 4 Triple-A starts in 2010, and he was far from impressive in his 9 starts with the Jays this past season. He got hit way too much for my liking, and getting just 16 strikeouts in 46.2 innings even with a 44% GB rate just doesn’t cut it for me. Sure he’s been working out and dieting this offseason, but Litsch can open up the 2011 season with the 51s to prove he’s healthy again after his injuries, not with the Jays.

      As for Scrabble, I do really like the guy. He got a fair look with the Jays this past season, starting 12 games, but his walks were high and, like Litsch, he got hit too hard when he was with the Jays. He also got 12 starts in with Vegas in 2010, posting a 6.07 ERA (4.71 FIP) but still got hit hard.

      Rzep had a dominant Arizona Fall League stint yes, but I think he should open the year with Vegas to show that the AFL wasn’t a fluke and to work on his control. Then again, he definitely has the ability to have a Dana Eveland-type spring and force the Jays’ hand and give him the #5 spot.

      In that case, Stewart would continue to work on his command down in the Minors and wait for his chance at the bigs while Scrabble gets an honest look with the Jays. As Mylegacy pointed out too, in that case the Jays would get to control Stewart longer if he gets called up in June rather than April.

      Just my take.

    • John Havok

      One thing that nobody has really touched on here is that in order for either Drabek to start the season from day 1 in the #4 or 5 spot, his Super 2 clock would be running as well as his service time since he got some starts last year.

      If the Jays want to be competitive in the AL East long term without a 200 million dollar payroll, they will have to be financially prudent. That means getting as much as you can from your youth, and having Drabek not reach Super 2 and getting that extra year of control by keeping him in the minors for a month or two is something they would be foolish not to do.

      Also, the #5 spot in the rotation usually isnt even needed for the first several weeks of the season due to having quite a few off days.

      I see Rzep or Litsch starting the season in the #4 spot, then Either of them taking over #5 until the Jays are ready to bring up Drabek to fully take over the #4 or 5 Spot, whichever they feel is necessary. By that time, you could see either Litsch or Rzep go to the pen as a long reliever or back to Vegas as a starter to0 be called up in case of injury.

      To those who might think I’m out to lunch on this, take alook at when Cecil was called up in 2010. He didn’t open the season on the 25 man roster either in order to save service time, he was called up when they felt his time was saved enough that he won’t hit Super 2 status after this year.

      • Mat Germain

        I don’t think you’re out to lunch at all John, as that scenario could very well happen. The one caveat I’ll mention here is that during spring training, anything can happen. Injuries, outstanding performances…..TRADES!!!
        I do agree that keeping Drabek in the minors that extra time would make sense if the Jays were tight for cash, but AA has said over and over again that he’ll call up guys and keep them in The Show if they prove themselves to be ready.

        If Drabek truly outdoes the other options, I think he’ll get the spot. There’s no sense in having that great an arm sitting in the minors learning very little when he could be putting fans in the seats in Toronto. However, if he struggles half of the time in ST, then you’re call would be close to automatic in my opinion, because the Jays can’t risk hurting his confidence from the get-go.

        Great comment John, and there would be nothing wrong with having any of the 3 pitch in April.