Rounding out the Staff
The big wild card entering next season will be what the Blue Jays can expect from top prospect Nate Pearson. This season was supposed to be a big one in Pearson’s development. Under normal circumstances, the big righty would have begun the season starting games in Buffalo (with the Bisons), before graduating to the big club. Instead, Pearson logged just 20 innings of work when you include his strong outing against the Rays in the playoffs.
Pearson has electric stuff and dominated over 25 starts in the minor leagues in 2019. Still, he threw just over 100 innings last season and will be hard-pressed to step into the rotation and make it through a 162-game big-league schedule at 24 years of age. Pearson will unquestionably pitch in plenty of games with Toronto next season. However, starting the season in Buffalo might be the best option for a player who will likely influence the team’s future World Series aspirations more than anyone else in the organization.
Ross Stripling is the only deadline addition that remains under team control this off-season. Stripling is arbitration-eligible and seems like a good option to return in a swingman role next year. The five-year vet has made 61 starts in 148 big league appearances going 23-27 with a 3.77 career ERA. Like Roark and Anderson, his 2020 numbers were the worst of his career, however, the Blue Jays can bring Stripling back at a much lower price point than those other two. Stripling was a fan favorite in Los Angeles and is by all accounts a great person to have in the clubhouse. Expect him to return as a depth option that the Blue Jays will utilize in a number of different roles next season.
A disappointing season ended early for Trent Thornton when he went on the IL with an elbow injury after just three starts. Thornton performed admirably his rookie season in 2019, starting 29 games and posting a 6-9 record with a 4.84 ERA on a pretty bad team. He now faces a long rehab in the hopes of being ready for spring training. The Blue Jays will give Thornton every opportunity to earn a spot in the big leagues next year but as of now, he appears destined for the rotation in Buffalo once he’s healthy enough to return.
As things stand today, the Blue Jays have just two players set in the rotation for next year. They have plenty of depth options behind them, along with a number of question marks. Expect the team to be very active in acquiring starting pitching this off-season, with Walker, Shoemaker, and Ray all potential options to bring back for another run. Beyond that, the front office will likely try to wait out the market and add some value arms as they have in the past.