The Toronto Blue Jays have fallen victim to a rash of critical injuries in 2014, but luckily, the majority of those issues have stayed clear of the starting rotation. Outside of the annual injury to Brandon Morrow, the starting five have mostly maintained full health throughout the summer.
The Blue Jays have received reliable outings from their starting rotation, as well, which has kept a struggling offence involved late into games recently. Despite significant swings in performance from J.A. Happ and Drew Hutchison, both pitchers have recovered nicely and put up dominant starts in their last starts. Marcus Stroman has been the star of the staff, with Mark Buehrle being a workhorse and R.A. Dickey being consistent, at the very least.
The question remains, however, of who the next man up would be if an injury or an innings limit were to hit the Blue Jays staff. With the departure of Liam Hendriks as part of the Danny Valencia deal, the Blue Jays are left with a large pool of options and a critical decision on how close their young arms are to readiness.
Dustin McGowan (MLB Blue Jays)
Dustin McGowan began the season as part of the Blue Jays starting rotation, but struggled at times to maintain his stamina late into ball games. McGowan has shown electricity at times out of the bullpen, but his consistency is still shaky. He has the big league experience this season, and could get the Blue Jays past the mid point of a game if needed.
Aaron Sanchez (MLB Blue Jays)
The Blue Jays (former?) top prospect has been absolutely electric since his call-up to the big league bullpen. Looking at his AA and AAA numbers from this season, however, which represents the majority of his 2014 ball, his numbers were not as inspiring in a starting role. Given the chance, he still has the potential to provide a handful of strong spot starts, but an innings limit is likely to keep Sanchez in the bullpen until season’s end.
Todd Redmond (MLB Blue Jays)
Todd Redmond started 14 games for the Blue Jays in 2014, and while not elite, he provided the Blue Jays with opportunities to win ball games. 2014 has seen The Janitor mop up games and eat valuable innings, saving a struggling Blue Jays bullpen from becoming further taxed. Redmond on the mound in late September is not a dream scenario, but the underrated righty could keep the Blue Jays alive in a pinch.
Chad Jenkins (MLB Blue Jays)
Chad Jenkins, much like Todd Redmond, has been used primarily as a long man out of the pen in 2014. Jenkins has split time between AAA Buffalo and the big leagues several times this season, but started 3 games for the Blue Jays in both 2012 and 2013. After coming through the Blue Jays system as a starter, Jenkins may not receive consideration before McGowan or Redmond, but is a viable option nonetheless.
Daniel Norris (AAA Buffalo)
Daniel Norris, the new toast of the Blue Jays prospect pool, has just been promoted to the AAA Buffalo Bisons after spending 2014 in A and AA ball. The timing of the second promotion may have surprised some, as Norris was not dominating AA in the same fashion as he’d started 2014, but this big lefty has undeniable talent. Having Norris appear in September may be a rush, and may be a risk, but throwing a never-before-seen LHP at an opposing team could create an interesting matchup late in the season.
Note: Since these statistics were compiled, Norris made his debut with the Buffalo Bisons on Sunday where he recorded a line of 6.0IP, 2H, 0ER, 1BB, 10K. With that dominant first step, consider his case the the #6 spot strengthened!
Sean Nolin (AAA Buffalo)
Despite a forgettable start with the Blue Jays in 2013, Sean Nolin remains a very viable option for the big league club this season. Nolin has recently returned to AAA Buffalo after battling a groin injury this summer, and continued his strong play. Although he may not have the ceiling of Norris, Nolin may be the more MLB-ready pitcher at this time, and could string together a few starts if needed in Toronto.
Kendall Graveman (AAA Buffalo)
Kendall Graveman, the 8th Round pick from 2013, has skyrocketed through the Blue Jays system in 2014. From Low-A to AAA Buffalo, Graveman has put up incredible numbers. Just 2HR’s in 141.0IP is very encouraging in itself. Graveman could be a dark horse prospect entering 2015, but a 4th promotion to the MLB in 2014 may be a long shot. Regardless, Graveman is a name to keep a very close eye on as he continues his meteoric, albeit hurried, rise to Toronto.
Brad Mills (AAA Buffalo)
Acquired from Oakland, Brad Mills has struggled mightily at the MLB level this season, but put up very strong numbers at the AAA level between both organizations. Mills appears to be a 4A-type pitcher that won’t be the first priority for starting opportunities in Toronto, but he does provide valuable depth in Buffalo that will allow Alex Anthopoulos to borrow from the AAA rotation when needed.
Statistics courtesy of baseballreference.com – Updated to August 10, 2014