Since coming into the league in 2019, Trent Thornton has struggled to produce consistent success. As we enter 2022 though, I believe that Thornton could be primed for a breakout season and may actually be the most underrated pitcher on the Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays traded infielder Aledmys Diaz to the Houston Astros in exchange for Thornton at the end of the 2018 season. Thornton, who at the time had never pitched in the majors, was immediately thrown into a pretty tough situation in 2019 as he became a workhorse for the Jays’ rotation that season. His 154.1 innings pitched were the most on the Blue Jays team that only managed 67 wins, and his 4.84 ERA reflected their struggles. After only pitching 5.2 innings in 2020 due to injury, Thornton returned in 2021, primarily as a reliever, and once again struggled, posting a 4.78 ERA through 49 innings while splitting time between AAA and the MLB.
From here on out, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that Trent Thornton will be staying in the bullpen. The Blue Jays have a full rotation right now and I would imagine that both Ross Stripling and Nate Pearson would be ahead of him in line to take over if one of the starters gets hurt. With that in mind, here’s why I think Thornton could succeed in 2022.
Despite some struggles early in his career, Blue Jays pitcher Trent Thornton may be better than you think and could be set for a big breakout in 2022.
While spin-rate isn’t the be-all-end-all of pitching, it can certainly lead to success, and it’s an area where Thornton excels. Per baseball savant, his fastball ranks in the 86th percentile for spin rate, and his curveball ranks in 98th, which is in the same range as pitchers like Charlie Morton and Ryan Pressley. His active curveball spin rate of 66.2% is also right near that of NL Cy Young winner, Corbin Burnes. Now obviously there are other factors that contribute to a pitch’s success, but this is a strong foundation for Thornton to build on. If he’s going to do that though, he’ll need to hone in on the pitches more than he has in previous years.
In 2021, Thornton used his fastball and curveball 39% and 25% of the time but also mixed in a cutter 21% of the time as well as a slider and changeup, both of which he used around 7%. A big key to his success in 2022 could be to cut down on the usage of those last three pitches and focus on his fastball and curveball. As a reliever, there’s no need to have a big repertoire of pitches, and as we’ve seen with Jordan Romano, if the two pitches you do use are good enough, you’ll do just fine.
I’m obviously not a pitching coach, and I’m sure that people within the organization have been working with him to help him improve this season, I’m just presenting some reason why I think Trent Thornton could see some success in 2022. The Jays have some really solid arms right now, so there shouldn’t be too much pressure on Thornton to pitch in high leverage situations right away, but don’t be surprised if by the end of the year we see him working late innings towards the end of the season.