It is rather early to be talking about the 2016 season, for sure. Right now, the Blue Jays are in the thick of a playoff race and trying to increase their lead for the top spot in the AL East. The rotation has been the target of much debate lately, especially with the playoffs on the horizon. But, if we’re not really sure how it will play out right now, it becomes even less clear when looking at next season.
As of right now, the Blue Jays are looking at David Price becoming a free agent, Marco Estrada following suit (although looking at far less money) and Mark Buehrle potentially retiring. R.A. Dickey has a $12M option that appears likely to be picked up. Of course, that depends on money (as it usually does).
So, what does the club do? Well, it seems that they’ll have to bring in a starter via free agency (or try and pull off another big trade). There just aren’t enough horses in the stable to ride. Any arms that were close to filling that hole have been traded away. So, they’ll have to dip into the free agency pool to address their needs. Who that is remains to be seen. But, there are a couple of in house options that the club could use. Roberto Osuna and Aaron Sanchez are waiting in the wings.
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Both of these guys were supposed to be starters. While Sanchez has been the center of the starter/closer debate, we all just assumed Osuna would be a reliever to get his feet wet. But, both ended up being dominant forces in the ‘pen. Removing either or both of them from the back end of the bullpen does create a problem that they’d already spent an offseason trying (unsuccessfully) to address. So, maybe the Blue Jays would rather keep one of them where they are. If they do, here’s a quick look at their numbers this season that suggests that one might be more ready than the other.
Sanchez, who was supposed to be further along in his development this spring, is a candidate to fill the rotation. But, let’s look at what he’s bringing to the table. According to Fangraphs.com, Sanchez featured a fastball, curveball, changeup and a newly incorporated slider. The addition of the slider has been welcome, even though it is still a work in progress. The offering has been worth -2.18 wSL/C (runs above average per 100 pitches).
His fastball has seen a dip in velocity from last season where it averaged 96.9mph. It is currently sitting at 93.1. There are a number of factors that could play into that like the 33 inning sample size from 2014 or even the injury this season. Throwing more this year could also mean an intentional decrease in velocity as a precaution of sorts. 2015 also has seen an increased reliance on the change up. He’s used it 5.6% of the time compared to just 0.9% last year. Using it more hasn’t resulted in an increased value for the pitch, though. It has been worth -3.30 wCH/C.
Considering all of this, has Sanchez shown that he has the stuff to start? Based on the numbers above, one could argue that maybe he hasn’t. He brings a good repertoire of “stuff”, but might still be a work in progress. Is that to say he should not be a starter, or a consideration for 2016? Absolutely not! Sanchez is young and talented. He has lots of time to fill out and live up to his ceiling as a great starter. But, he may not be the better choice of these two young guns for the 2016 rotation.
Osuna, on the other hand, brings his fastball (4 & 2 seam), slider and change as well as an occasional cutter. Pitch f/x shows an interesting mix of his 95.4mph fastball (68% of the time) and his 82.3mph change up (15.1%). Throw in his nearly 88mph slider (11.5%) and you have a good mix of pitches. In fact, all of his pitches have been valuable for him: FB: 1.44 wFB/C, SL: 1.4 xSL/C, CH: 0.95 wCH/C. Out of the bullpen, he’s shown that his stuff is very effective.
Osuna has shown that he is not intimidated by any situation or any hitter. Would the same hold true if he were to face them multiple times in the same game? His demeanor likely wouldn’t change. But, would his effectiveness? Who knows. Does the club even want to move him out of the role in which he has dominated? As stated previously, it creates another hole. This is not to say that he should stay there, though. But, if the club is looking for an internal (cheaper) option for the rotation, the 20 year old might be the most ‘ready’ of the two.
In a vacuum, if we’re looking at these two pitchers in a head to head, tale of the tape comparison of stuff, Osuna just might look to be the front runner to join the rotation. His repertoire has been more effective than Sanchez. The question remains if their success is due to being in the role they are in, or vice versa. With Sanchez, we’ve seen a bit of both starting and relieving with the latter proving to be more successful.
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This comparison does not take into account any possible development and improvement that is yet to come. It is comparing two very young ‘could-be’ starters based on what they’ve thrown this year. Both of these guys should get a look for next year. Depending on what the club is able to do in the offseason, they just might. Osuna appears to have the edge based on his successful offerings. But, what do you think? Chime in below.