Dustin McGowan: Toronto Blue Jays 2014 Year in Review


Dustin McGowan joined the Toronto Blue Jays organization 14 years ago, can you believe that?  The 1st-Round selection from 2000 spent several years as a top prospect in the Blue Jays farm system, but an agonizing string of injuries have added incredible adversity to the right-hander’s career.

McGowan made his MLB debut in 2005 for the Blue Jays, and was viewed strictly as a starting pitcher for most of his career. Jays fans will all remember his night in the spotlight in 2007, where he took a no-hitter into the 9th inning at the Rogers Centre in one of the finest pitching performances in recent team history.  Since then, McGowan’s story has been driven by thoughts of what could have been.

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2014 saw McGowan earn the 5th spot in the Blue Jays rotation out of Spring Training.  Finally healthy, this seemed to be McGowan’s final shot at making a name for himself as a big league starter, but the trial did not go as planned.  This resulted in a move to the bullpen as Marcus Stroman joined the rotation.  Although the move back into a full-time relief role was initially seen as a disappointment for McGowan, it could help him salvage his career.

The Good

Dustin McGowan’s 2014 performance should be viewed as two completely separate seasons: one as a starter, another as a reliever.  After McGowan made the transition into the bullpen, he recorded a 3.35 ERA across 45 appearances.  He was also able to drop his opposing batting average a significant amount to .215 in relief.  Here is a look at how opposing batters hit McGowan in both roles:

Nearly every statistic shows improvement following McGowan’s role-change, which is an encouraging sign if he is to stay with the team in 2015.  The move from bullpen to rotation and back surely did not help McGowan, and entering a season with a solidified idea of his role could lead to even greater results.  McGowan represents a power arm that John Gibbons may want to keep at the back end of his bullpen, and with some fine-tuning, the life-long Blue Jay could have the skill-set and pitching makeup to be a strong option in the 7th or 8th option.

The Bad

His 8 starts were a clear blemish on McGowan’s 2014, as he recorded a 5.08 ERA in those appearances.  He consistently struggled to maintain his strength late into ball games, which many have attributed to McGowans struggles with Diabetes.

One facet of McGowan’s move to the pen that did not go as smoothly was his tendency to serve up the home run ball.  He still allowed 8 during his time as a reliever, which is a number that the Blue Jays will need to address this offseason.

A downfall with McGowan, of course, will always be his health, regardless of how his most recent season has went.  Because of this, it is risky to pencil in McGowan for a full season in an impact bullpen position, such as the set up man.  The Blue Jays would have to have a backup plan in place, or risk exposing themselves to another hole on their roster.

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  • The Future

    This will be a very interesting offseason for Dustin McGowan, as he has a $4M option for 2015 with a $500K buyout.  Although this figure may be on the higher side of his value, I still expect that Alex Anthopoulos will pick up the option.  Keeping Dustin McGowan around is a long-time Toronto Blue Jays tradition, it seems!

    It would be a mistake for the Blue Jays to hold too high of hopes for McGowan, and I would be most comfortable with him occupying a spot in the middle of the bullpen starting out, with some Free Agent or trade additions around him.  If he over-achieves from that position and earns appearances in more crucial situations, then the bullpen will be even stronger.  For a pitcher drafted 14 years ago, it is odd to think of McGowan as a pitcher with untapped potential, but his power arm could help him extend his career as a member of the Blue Jays.