Mar 10, 2015; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Daniel Norris (32), relief pitcher Aaron Sanchez (41) and pitcher Drew Hutchison (36) in the dugout against the Minnesota Twins at a spring training game at Florida Auto Exchange Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
With Gibbons all but ending the debate whether Aaron Sanchez will be a starter in 2015, the attention has now shifted to who will win the fifth and final starting spot. While it’s up to Gibbons and Anthopoulos to creatively manage pitch counts and innings limits, Daniel Norris has done nothing but impress in his bid to join Sanchez in the rotation. Norris followed up his strong appearance against the New York Yankees with 5 and 2/3rds innings of 5 strikeout, 1 run ball against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday afternoon. With the Jays having a seemingly different approach on the time required for pitching prospects to make the jump to the major leagues, I would consider Norris the favourite to win the fifth spot in the rotation. Coupled with Marco Estrada missing his start on Sunday with an ankle injury, the Blue Jays could very well start the 2015 season with three starters under the age of 25.
Toronto Blue Jays
If Norris does win a start in the starting rotation, the domino effect could be that prospects Miguel Castro and Robert Osuna may have their careers accelerated to start in the Jays’ bullpen. They’ve been flat out brilliant this spring and Gibbons has hinted that this situation is becoming more and more an actual possibility rather than pure speculation.
With the unfortunate news coming that Maicer Izturis likely will be sidelined for opening day with a groin strain, Devon Travis may have put himself in the lead to be the starting second baseman with a string of impressive performances this past week. After starting off slowly at the beginning of March, Travis appears to have become quite comfortable with major league pitching, collecting 12 hits in last 8 games (including 5 doubles and 6 RBI’s).
Even against the likes of accomplished veterans like Cole Hamels, Travis has impressed with his plate coverage, compact swing and ability to get on base. Against the tough lefty, Travis battled to fend off pitches on either corner of the plate and although he didn’t record a hit against Hamels, showed an advanced hitting approach for someone with very little experience against big league pitching. Along with his impressive defensive skills, I’m now beginning to understand the consistent success as a hitter that the former #1 Detroit Tigers prospect has enjoyed throughout the minor leagues.