Blue Jays: Rotation will feel pressure to carry pitching staff
If the Blue Jays are going to keep up and even compete for a playoff spot in 2020, the pressure is going to fall on their starting rotation.
For a young team like the Blue Jays on the outside looking in, the shortened season along with two additional postseason births in each league, Toronto could certainly sneak in as one of the two wild card teams if things bounce their way.
Considering the Jays are the youngest team in baseball and finished 2019 just five losses short of 100, it might sound like a stretch even under the unusual circumstances of the 2020 season. With the addition of Hyun Jin Ryu this offseason and the impending arrival of Nate Pearson, the rotation should finally be at a point where they will give the offence a chance to win more often than not.
Since Bo Bichette joined the big league club on July 29th last year, the team played a game shy of .500 baseball the remainder of the season with a rotation that consisted of Trent Thornton, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Thomas Pannone and an opener (Wilmer Font, typically).
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Consider these four pitchers combined for an ERA of 4.72 and the team was pretty much able to play winning baseball down the stretch even without Stroman, why does it seem so far-fetched that the team could make the postseason in a year where a winning record should be able to get you into the big dance?
The rotation at this time next week could look something like this:
Hyun Jin Ryu
The rotation is far improved than that of late 2019, and on the outside looking in they have Thomas Hatch and Anthony Kay, a pair of prospects who had solid outings on Sunday, as well as Chase Anderson who’s currently on the 10-day IL. If the Blue Jays were truly to contend come late September, you have to think the bulk of the load will have to be carried by the top three arms with Ryu, Shoemaker and Pearson.
Early on, things have looked promising from Blue Jays starters and despite Ryu’s debut where he allowed three earned runs over 4.2 innings, the 2019 NL Cy Young runner up should give the team a chance to win every time he takes the mound. Coupled with Shoemaker who went six innings against the Rays on Saturday allowing just one run while striking out six, this could potentially be a big one-two punch for the Blue Jays if Shoemaker can continue the pace he began with in 2019 prior to his injury.
There’s not much to say about Pearson, it seems like the entire baseball world knows what he is capable of at this point as the top-ranked right-handed prospect in baseball according to Baseball America. He was getting swings and misses against a big league lineup in Boston during exhibition play, and his addition to the roster could provide some spark to the locker room as well.
The Blue Jays bullpen was somewhat exposed during the opening series in Tampa and the rotation will need to do as much as they can to limit the room for error from the bullpen. The young stars in the lineup are looking more comfortable and settled in and should be able to do their part if the starters can carry this momentum through 60 games.
We’ll get a look at the remaining starters over the next two days in Washington with Thornton going tomorrow and Tanner Roark who was acquired in the offseason toeing the rubber on Tuesday. After the first three games of the year it’s evident the rotation will need to step up and will likely feel some pressure going forward if this team would like to compete down the stretch.
With several high-powered offences in both the AL East and NL East, this could be a difficult task to carry throughout the entire season and will be a storyline to follow, as there shouldn’t be much turnover on the frontline heading into 2021.