Underrated rotation options
Much of the narrative about the Blue Jays’ starting rotation has been the need for a number two or better starter, and that’s a fair criticism of the group. Outside of Hyun Jin Ryu there aren’t many established big leaguers, or at least ones with bring much in the way of stability. There’s upside with arms like Robbie Ray, Tanner Roark, and Steven Matz, but it’s really hard to predict how they’ll perform.
If the veterans can’t stay healthy or hold down their rotation jobs, the Blue Jays have plenty of depth options waiting for an opportunity. With Nate Pearson and possibly Ray starting the season on the sidelines, my guess is Anthony Kay could receive a start or two to begin the year so he’s not part of the group I’ll talk about today. For number five here, I’m admittedly cheating as well, because I’ve got two players to highlight in Trent Thornton and Thomas Hatch.
Had Hatch not suffered an injury this spring there’s a good chance he’d be in heavy consideration for a rotation job. He pitched very well out of the bullpen last year, and has made Ross Atkins look very smart for the trade he made in July of 2019, sending David Phelps to the Cubs in exchange for Hatch. His was a name that most of us had never heard of, at the time but he’s shown that there was good reason for the Blue Jays’ interest. It remains to be seen how long he’ll be out or how serious his injury will ultimately be, but as long as he can avoid surgery then he should find his way to the big leagues at some point this year.
As for Thornton, he’s become a bit of a forgotten man in the conversation despite still having solid upside. Unfortunately injuries limited him to just three appearances and 5.2 innings in 2020, but he was arguably their most important starter during his rookie season in 2019. He looked great in his first spring appearance, and as long as he’s fully healthy then he could be in the mix for an early start or two as well.
It was a real shame that Thornton was injured last year, especially after he seemed to hone his craft at the end the 2019 campaign. Given an opportunity, don’t be shocked if Thornton grabs a rotation spot and hangs on to it.