Early on in camp, the Blue Jays may have found this year's version of Jay Jackson

Although not on the 40-man roster, Brendon Little may see himself on a big-league club at the end of Spring Training.

Brendon Little making a diving play vs the Toronto Blue Jays in 2022
Brendon Little making a diving play vs the Toronto Blue Jays in 2022 / Vaughn Ridley/GettyImages

Fan-favourite Jay Jackson surprised the Blue Jays last offseason after he managed to allow zero runs throughout the entirety of spring training. Despite not being on the 40-man roster at the time, Jackson would go on to be called up early on in the season and performed exceptionally well. Although Jackson inked a new big-league deal with the Twins, the Blue Jays may have another non-roster pitcher who could fill Jackson's role.

While Jackson didn't have the impact of big names such as Jordan Romano or Erik Swanson last year, he was a pleasant surprise for a pitcher only signed to a minor-league deal. In 29.2 IP with the Jays in 2023, Jackson put up an impressive 2.12 ERA with a 0.91 WHIP. He was a solid depth piece the Blue Jays could fall back on when the bullpen was in need of help. Now that Jackson is with Minnesota, close attention should be paid to Pennsylvania-native, Brendon Little.

Little was acquired from the Cubs for cash considerations in November after pitching most of the season in the Cubs' triple-A affiliate in Iowa. Although Little didn't perform exceptionally well in AAA Iowa, his peripheral stats are promising. Despite a 4.05 ERA in 50 appearances, Little pitched to a 64.0% groundball rate, which would have been a league-high in 2023. Little doesn't have an overpowering pitch mix but offers an interesting variety. As relayed by Sportsnet's Arden Zwelling, Little has a mid-90s sinker that tops out at around 97 MPH with 27" of vertical drop and 16" of horizontal run. He complements his fastball with a "spike curveball", which averages between 87-89 MPH.

In addition to these two pitches, Little was reported to have started development on a new pitch: a 92-93 MPH cutter with inside run. While his sinker is mainly used to induce groundballs and his offspeed for whiffs, Little's new cutter runs inside the hands of RHB, causing them to tighten their swing and ultimately jam. After the trade was confirmed, Little, with the help of Assistant Pitching Coach David Howell, attended the famous Driveline facility in Arizona to further develop this pitch. They used Rapsodo data and Edgertronic footage to analyze the cutter's tendencies, and ultimately adjust Little's grip to maximize its spin and velocity.

This offseason work has clearly started to pay off as Little, like Jackson, is scoreless so far (in limited action) in spring training. Although he currently has only a few innings this spring, Little is looking promising. His sinker is working as hoped, averaging a strong 96 MPH in his two appearances. If Little can further develop his cutter, the Blue Jays may have another strong arm to fall back on if things in the bullpen go sideways.