Mar 1, 2014; Sarasota, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Drew Hutchison (36) pitches in the first inning against Baltimore Orioles during a spring training exhibition game at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports
Spring training is just getting started but the competition for the Toronto Blue Jays fifth spot in the starting rotation is already in full swing. It’s been easily the most watched and talked about competition of camp, and not to take anything away from the pressure Chris Getz is putting on Ryan Goins at the moment, is probably the most interesting for fans to follow as well.
You could count as many as ten starting pitchers that are competing for the job but for this exercise we won’t include Aaron Sanchez, who will start in the minors but might be closer to the big league club than some people think. For now we will only include players that have at least some (albeit, small) chance of cracking the 2014 big league roster.
We’ve narrowed the list down to six players I would consider the most likely to land the fifth starters job with three players on the outside looking in as long shots. In all likelihood, Stroman will also start the year in the minors and unless he dominates the rest of camp there’s not much point of pushing him ahead too quickly. So more realistically, there are five players competing for the final starting spot.
Hutchison is the top dog at this point and I believe will end up pushing J.A. Happ out of the fourth spot at some point this season (especially after the way Happ pitched today – yeesh!) At 23, Hutchison’s control and makeup are top shelf. He throws in the low-90s and backs up his fastball with a nice changeup that has good fade. The only question might be durability since he’s only thrown close to 150 innings in the minors once.
Redmond and Rogers are basically a toss up as both can be either brilliant, brutal or somewhere in between. They both throw lots of strikes and don’t walk many batters but can be hit a lot. Rogers has better pure stuff but Redmond strikes out more batters, which is kind of just weird. I have a feeling opponents will eventually figure out Redmond so Rogers probably has more upside but for now I would slot Todd ahead of Esmil to start the season.
McGowan and Drabek are both oft-injured pitchers that despite multiple surgeries still find themselves throwing hard and competing for a regular job. Drabek still looks to have no control and is far too wild to be effective at the game’s highest level. If he learns how to throw pitches in the strike zone he might bring something to the table but until he does he’s likely back in Triple-A. McGowan still has the stuff to start and with his contract situation if there was ever a time to try stretching him out, it’s now. I have a hard time believing his would hold up over a full season but at the same time I’ve been impressed with nearly every inning he’s thrown since returning in 2013. How the Blue Jays decide to handle Dustin remains a question but if he doesn’t have any setbacks could find himself moving up on our depth chart.
Stroman was okay but not great in his first outing on Saturday and allowed a handful of hits, which included a two-strike mistake to Baltimore Orioles’ slugger Chris Davis. However was a bit of a victim of bad luck on balls in play (one hit was an infield single while another was a broken bat single) and was able to work his way out of trouble with three strikeouts in his two full innings.
Nolin will likely start the season in Triple-A and has only thrown one inning thus far in spring. He struck out one batter and allowed a hit and a walk. Jenkins has been perfect in three appearances but, other than a one-out save against the Philadelphia Phillies, his work has mostly consisted of mop-up, ninth inning roles. As for Romero, for the most part he can’t hit the broad side of a barn so until he learns how to pitch in the strike zone you can find me counting the days until his contract is off the books.
How would you rank the Toronto Blue Jays’ potential fifth starters?