The Blue Jays have had some solid pitching over the past few years and that has been an unsung hero in their new found success. Is the current foundation just the start of it?
Last season the Toronto Blue Jays had one of the best staffs in all of baseball. The combination of Marco Estrada, Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, R.A Dickey, and Francisco Liriano led all baseball in innings pitched by starters. They also were in the top 10 in walks and strikeouts. They finished in the top 5 for ERA and Wins as well. The most shocking stat was that the Jays staff held opposing hitters to a .236 batting average.
This past season’s rotation is coming all back. R.A. Dickey is the only subtraction and he is being replaced by Liriano. The rotation has a great balance between veterans and youth. The veterans may not be locked up long term but there is a great example for the young talent to be learning from. This solid base is filled out by high upside talent in Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez. Over the past few seasons, we have seen flashes of what these two can do.
Stroman had a strong showing during his rookie campaign once being moved to the rotation. He then had the accident during Spring Training. Stroman made a miraculous recovery and made it back in time for the Blue Jays 2015 playoff push. He was incredible down the stretch and was key to the Blue Jays success. In 2016 he got off to a rough start but ended strong as the Jays made the playoffs for a second straight season. Many people are expecting Stroman to reach the next level this season and some have even predicted he will be on the Cy Young radar this season.
Aaron Sanchez is fresh off of a breakout season. 2016 was his first year in the Jays rotation after having tons of success in the bullpen the year prior. Sanchez was ranked 9th on ESPNs Cy Young award predictor and was ranked higher prior to reaching his innings limit for the year. He would finish the season with a 15-2 record, 161 strikeouts, and a 3.00 ERA through 192 innings. This is the first Spring that Sanchez innings are not in question or the fact that he will or will not be in the rotation. This will give him a great spot to start the season.
Toronto Blue Jays
Looking ahead there could be some open spots in the rotation in coming years. The future may not have the Estrada’s, Happ’s, or Liriano’s. So what is next many would ask? Well the Blue Jays have got that covered with their recent draft picks. They have done a great job of gathering talented young hurlers in their system. This has been going largely unnoticed is seems by most of the baseball world. The system is very under rated and is starting to show.
Recent high-end draft picks like Conner Greene, Sean Reid-Foley, and John Harris are starting to progress into the higher end of the Jays Minor League system. The three of them could be starting the season in Double-A or higher once Spring Training comes to an end. A rotation with those 3 and established aces in Stroman and Sanchez looks pretty good. This could be very similar to what the New York Mets have currently.
Many people thought the Blue Jays traded away all of their pitching talent when the got Troy Tulowitzki and David Price during the 2015 trade deadline. Yes, it will sting to watch Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd in the rotation for the Tigers this season and possible Jeff Hoffman in the Rockies, but we are arguably better with the veterans in the Jays rotation. It is fun to imagine that the Jays rotation this season could have possibly been Sanchez, Stroman, Norris, Boyd, and Hoffman. If you want to reach back even further if the R.A. Dickey trade never happened Noah Syndergaard could even be in that rotation.
If you look at the talent that has come through the Blue Jays organization the past 5-10 years you will see a plethora of talent. There is some more on the horizon even past Reid-Foley, Greene, and Harris as well. Justin Maese just had a great season with the Lansing Lugnuts and will most likely start the season with the Dunedin Blue Jays a level higher. Last years first round pick T.J. Zeuch also had a good short season debut and will look to build on that success.
The Blue Jays have a great starting rotation heading into this season. This will be a strength for the team that is used to beating up their opponents offensively. This culture change that has shifted to good pitching looks like it will last in Toronto and has been bought into by the front office. The Jays will have a solid rotation built off of quality talent for the foreseeable future. This will all management to spend money in other places or reinforce the rotation rather than having to build it up from scratch like the Jays did in the late 90’s with players like Roger Clemens.
Watch the youngsters this spring and you will buy into this new movement as well. They are a fun group to watch. What do you think and who are you excited to see on the mound in Rogers Centre the next few years? Join in the conversation on the comment board and on Twitter.