My dark horse candidate to win the job would have to be Anthony Kay, even if he’s likely 7th or 8th on the depth chart at the moment.
Kay arrived in Toronto last July in the trade for Marcus Stroman, with the Blue Jays also getting Simeon Woods Richardson in the exchange. The left-hander was dominant over 12 starts in Double-A and had mixed results at the next level both in Syracuse before the trade, and in Buffalo after it. However, he performed better than his numbers showed, which eventually led to a MLB promotion and his big league debut.
The southpaw threw 14 innings over three appearances and looked pretty good despite posting a 5.79 ERA. He pitched 5.2 innings of four-hit baseball against the Rays in his debut, allowing just two earned runs and striking out eight. He was knocked around by the Yankees in his second appearance when he gave up five runs over 4.1, and then finished strong with four innings against the Orioles on September 19th, earning his first MLB win.
According to comments from a National League scout on www.mlb.com, Kay’s ceiling could be as high as a top of the rotation starter. In fact, the comment that was quoted (granted, prior to the Blue Jays signing Roark and Ryu) was, “He’s (Toronto’s) best starter”, which is certainly an encouraging thing to read about the 24-year-old.
Last season was Kay’s first one back from Tommy John surgery, and as he continues to work on getting back all of his power and control, there’s a good chance that the Marcus Stroman trade is going to look even better than it already does for the Blue Jays. As for Kay, I suspect he’ll likely start the year in Triple-A, but don’t be surprised if he forces his way to the big leagues at the first sign of trouble.