4- Trent Thornton
If there’s a player on my list that surprises you, it might be Trent Thornton. His presence really shouldn’t surprise you that much if you’ve been watching throughout the year, even if he’s had a very up and down campaign. Last night’s performance of five no-hit, shutout innings was an opportunity see his talent on display.
That said, I won’t sugarcoat it, because the numbers really aren’t that great. Thornton entered last night’s outing with a 4-9 record with a 5.23 ERA and a 1.501 WHIP over 28 starts. However, that last number has been huge for the Blue Jays, as have the 139.1 innings he’s given Charlie Montoyo throughout the 2019 campaign. You can file this statement under “things I never thought I’d say”, but Thornton has been the Blue Jays’ most reliable starting pitcher from start to finish this season.
Baseball reference has rated his performance thus far at 0.9 bWAR, and Fangraphs is a little more kind, awarding him a rating of 1.4 fWAR. His 127 strikeouts have been helpful, and there have been times when he looked like he could step into a mid-rotation role right away. However, like most rookies, he’s also had some starts that made fans question whether or not he’ll stick at the highest level for the long term.
For the Blue Jays this season, I’m not sure where Montoyo would have been without the spin-rate specialist. Because of the injuries to guys like Clayton Richard, Ryan Borucki, Clay Buchholz, and Matt Shoemaker, and eventually the trades of Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, Thornton was given a consistent opportunity, and at the very least he went to battle every fifth day.
After a long debut season, I’m excited to see what Thornton can do in 2020 with a year of experience under his belt. His rookie season might not go down in the record books, but he definitely provided a lot of value for his team, and that won’t be forgotten any time soon.