Intriguing Blue Jays pitching prospect making a strong case for big league promotion

Nine K’s in his latest start, including two punchies each against the Yankees top two prospects.
Feb 23, 2024; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Adam Macko poses during Photo Day at TD Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Cobb/Toronto Blue Jays via USA TODAY Sports
Feb 23, 2024; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Adam Macko poses during Photo Day at TD Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Cobb/Toronto Blue Jays via USA TODAY Sports / Aaron Cobb/Toronto Blue Jays-USA TODAY

The musical chairs that has been the Toronto Blue Jays fifth turn in their starting rotation continues with the latest injury scare news. Alek Manoah left his start Wednesday with discomfort in his pitching elbow after only 1.2 innings and 24 pitches.

Three pitchers have filled the 5th starters’ role so far in 2024. The top four of Kevin Gausman, José Berrios, Chris Bassitt and Yusei Kikuchi have continued their impressive consistency, making 44 or 80% of the Blue Jays’ 55 starts. The fifth turn has been handled by Manoah (5 starts), Yariel Rodríguez (4) and Bowden Francis (2), but the three have only combined for 54.1 innings in those 11 starts for an average of just under 5.0 innings. That taxes an already overworked bullpen.

Both Francis and Rodríguez continue to work their way back from the 15-day injured list with rehab outings in Buffalo. Francis has gone 2-1 with a 1.74 ERA in four appearances and 10.1 innings at Triple-A after being shut down on April 25th with right forearm extensor tendinitis. He tossed 60 pitches in his latest outing Tuesday against the Syracuse Mets, allowing only only one hit and an unearned run in 3.2 innings of work, with 5 strikeouts against only one walk.

Rodríguez only started his rehab assignment on May 21st, so will likely need more time to work his way back to the 26-man roster. Chad Dallas, Toronto’s No. 19 ranked prospect per Jays Journal’s rankings, had seemingly started to turn as well, with a 3.48 ERA over his last two starts covering 10.1 innings with Triple-A Buffalo, but was just placed on the 7-day injured list.

Enter Adam Macko?

Another intriguing pitcher to consider is Jays Journal's No. 9 prospect Adam Macko, who was added to the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster last fall to protect him from the Rule-5 draft. He’s been absolutely dealing of late for the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats, with nine strikeouts in his latest start against the Yankees top prospects, including two punchies each against Jasson Domínguez and Spencer Jones.

In nine starts at New Hampshire this year, the 23-year-old lefty has a 3-2 record with a 3.68 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over 44 innings, with an impressive 11.45 Ks/9 innings and only a .208 batting average against. He’s shown improved control, with only 16 walks (3.27/9 versus his minor league career average of 4.36/9 over five seasons).

But more impressively, the young Slovakian-Canadian has gone 3-1 in his last four starts for the Fisher Cats, only allowing 13 hits and six runs over 21 innings pitched, for a 2.57 ERA. He’s struck out 31 batters and only walked four over that stretch. The May 26th start against the Yankees' Double-A affiliate may have been hits best start of the year, with 9 strikeouts against no walks in a 13-1 Fisher Cats win. Jasson Domínguez and Spencer Jones, who Macko struck out both twice in that outing, are the Yankees’ No.1 and No. 2 prospects, respectively, per MLB Pipeline.

While Francis likely has the inside edge for the 5th starter’s role if Manoah’s MRI reveals the worst, a bold move as part of a retooling Blue Jays roster might be to promote Macko from Double-A to join the rotation, or act as a bulk starter following an opener like Francis or Trevor Richards. And with the lack of MLB-ready pitching depth — and a rash of injuries to top pitching prospects Ricky Tiedemann, Brandon Barriera, Landon Maroudis, Dallas and Rodríguez, Macko’s ascendance couldn’t come at a better time.