Blue Jays rotation ranks surprisingly low in FanGraphs’ positional rankings
With Opening Day in the rearview mirror for the Toronto Blue Jays, one of its many bright spots this season should be its strong starting rotation, despite the fact that Alek Manoah struggled in the season opener against the Cardinals.
With a 1-2 punch amongst the very best in the league in Manoah and Kevin Gausman, a very solid third starter in newly acquired Chris Bassitt, a former All-Star in José Berríos as their No. 4, and Yusei Kikuchi rounding out the rotation, this rotation seems to be amongst the best in baseball. FanGraphs does not agree.
In their pre-season positional power rankings, FanGraphs projects the Blue Jays to have the 11th best starting rotation in the MLB this season by WAR. The divisional foe Yankees and Rays were amongst the 10 teams ranked ahead of Toronto.
It's worth noting that FG projects Alek Manoah to have a very steep regression from his Cy Young-worthy 2022 season. After posting a 2.24 ERA in 196.2 innings pitched last season, STEAMER projections were not kind to Manoah for this upcoming season. They project the right hander's ERA to skyrocket to 4.06, throw only 181 innings, and give up 1.26 homeruns per nine innings.
While FG did acknowledge that the Blue Jays' first four starters are "mostly solid", they did have concerns about Berríos' potential inability to bounce back from his poor 2022 campaign, as well as Chris Bassitt's effectiveness with the newly implemented pitch clock as the former New York Met is one of the slowest workers in the game.
They also had concerns with the Blue Jays No. 5 starter - or, lack thereof. While we know Yusei Kikuchi earned that spot after a very impressive spring, whether he will be able to hold onto that spot is a different question.
Should Kikuchi perform poorly and play his way out of the rotation, the ball club has minimal options to fill the rotations final spot.
Prospect Ricky Tiedemann is an option, although it's unlikely we see him in the majors this season. Mitch White is another option, though he'll begin the season on the injured list. Zach Thompson is also on the 40-man roster and is likely the first to be called up if an injury pops up.
Aside from this trio, there's not a whole lot of options. Best case scenario for the Blue Jays would be to have Hyun Jin Ryu return at some point this summer from his Tommy John Surgery and have the left hander perform anything similar to his 2020 self where he finished third in AL Cy Young voting.