The Toronto Blue Jays have work to do to bolster their offense from their middling production last season. On the contrary, the remarkable pitching staff still shapes up to be a huge strength for the team in 2024, without any other additions. The Jays may still make a pivot to adding a pitcher, as they've reportedly shown interest in Cuban pitcher Yariel Rodriguez, but as it stands the Blue Jays rotation has 5 set names currently slated to be on the opening day roster. From their bona fide ace down to the man competing for the 5th spot, here's how the rotation grades out.
1. Kevin Gausman
Gausman is coming off of another terrific season, posting a 3.16 ERA in 185.0 innings, leading the American League in strikeouts at 237. His efforts resulted in a 3rd place Cy Young finish, the highest mark of his career. Over the past 3 seasons, Gausman has accumulated 15.8 fWAR, the 2nd highest of all pitchers in that span. His well located fastball is matched with his excellent splitter, keeping batters off guard, even if they suspect what is coming. Gausman has had an elite K-BB% of 24.0 over the past 2 seasons, which is why he can get away with allowing hard contact at times. Gausman has proven himself the undeniable ace of the Jays pitching staff, providing the necessary volume and execution to lead the team as a whole.
2. Jose Berrios
After a season to forget in 2022, Berrios answered back with authority in 2023. Berrios possessed a 3.65 ERA and 3.99 FIP, putting him right back to his career norms. He is the pinnacle of durable, having last been on the injured list in 2014, before he even made his major league debut. The right-hander begn to throw his sinker more, and his 4 seam fastball less, which was hit a ton in 2022. His slurve still remains his best pitch, with just a .264 wOBA against it. Last time Berrios pitched was his
Wild Card start that ended all too soon. He will head into the 2024 season looking to build off of that success, proving why he was paid to be a front-line starter for the Blue Jays.
3. Chris Bassitt
Bassitt finished his first year of a three-year contract in Toronto, and he shined bright. The 34-year-old pitched a team leading 200 innings right on the dot, posting an impressive 118 ERA+. Bassitt did a tremendous job of limiting hard contact, with an average exit velocity of just 87 mph, despite allowing a career high in home runs at 28. The crafty righty throws a plethora of pitches, but none are more prominent than his sinker which he threw almost 40% of the time; generating weak contact and inducing a ton of groundballs where the defense can back him up. Any team is lucky to have a seasoned veteran who simply knows the ins and outs of their pitching routine, and the Jays have that in Bassitt.
4. Yusei Kikuchi
In what was a complete turnaround season for Yusei Kikuchi, his past season was almost unrecognizable from the pitcher before. Kikuchi posted career bests in ERA, innings pitched, BB% and SIERA without missing a single start. The biggest development for him came when he began throwing his new curveball. As the season went on, Kikuchi began to use it more confidently, which lead to positive results. He went from the biggest question mark in the rotation, to a dependable 5th starter, and even more. Kikuchi does have just one year left on his deal, and depending on where the Jays find themselves next year, he could find himself somewhere else before the end of the season. As the sole left-handed pitcher slated to be in the Jays rotation, Kikuchi's place on the team will be very interesting to follow.
5. Alek Manoah
With all the praises to be sung about the Jays pitching staff, there's still the elephant in the room that needs to be discussed. After a stellar 2022 performance, Alek Manoah completely spiraled the following season, making him a difficult player to project going forward. Manoah pitched in just 87.1 innings last year, and the results weren't pretty. He finished the season with a 5.87 ERA and 6.01 FIP, and was tied for first in walks allowed, despite being 5th on the staff in innings pitched. Many theories have emerged about Manoah's sudden decline, in particular the worry that the pitch clock has affected his process, but he will have another chance next season to prove if his 2023 skid was a blip in the radar, or a sign of what's to come. Currently being slated as the No. 5, a lot of the pressure is currently off of Manoah, but if the Jays find themselves in the same position with him this summer, his future with the team will be drastically different.