Three pitchers the Blue Jays should target as minor league depth

As the adage goes, “You can’t have too much pitching.”

Samurai Japan v MLB All Stars - Game 4
Samurai Japan v MLB All Stars - Game 4 / Atsushi Tomura/GettyImages
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Eric Lauer

Lefty Eric Lauer is still only 28, but was originally drafted as a high schooler by Toronto in the 17th round of the 2013 amateur draft; he didn’t sign with the Blue Jays, and the Padres later made him the 25th overall pick in the 2016 amateur draft. He was hyped along with Cal Quantrill, MacKenzie Gore and Joey Lucchesi as the future rotation in San Diego, and made his major league debut for the Padres back in 2018.

He was the first player from his first round draft class to make the big leagues, but was traded to Milwaukee after the 2019 season along with young infielder Luis Arias for starter Zach Davies and CF Trent Grisham.

Lauer elected minor league free agency after last season after being outrighted from the Brewers 40-man roster. He struggled in 2023, suffering an impingement in his non-throwing shoulder that sent him to the IL in late May.

Statcast shows that he lost velocity on his four-seam fastball, which averaged 90.8 mph in 2023 versus 93.3 mph in 2022. He also lost three mph on both his cutter and curveball, and told Curt Hogg of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that he’d battled inflammation in his throwing elbow and shoulder in addition to the right shoulder injury,

While his career 4.30 ERA over six seasons and 596.2 MLB innings doesn’t jump off the page, a number of stats are intriguing:

  • He’s got a better ERA for his career in 57 starts versus teams over .500 at 4.20 than against teams with a losing record (4.41 in 55 starts);
  • He’s 7-2 with a 2.63 ERA in 12 starts against the Los Angeles Dodgers, but 1-6 with a 7.58 ERA in 12 starts against the Colorado Rockies, including 0-6 with a 12.73 ERA in 7 starts at Coors Field;
  • He’s 2-0 with a 1.74 ERA in 2 starts and 10.1 innings against the Jays’ AL East rival New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, but 0-1 with an 8.33 ERA in 4 starts and 16.2 innings against Tampa Bay and Baltimore; and,
  • In 2021 and 2022, Lauer combined for a 3.47 ERA with a 23.8% strikeout rate in 277.1 innings over those two seasons with Milwaukee, and also started a playoff game against Atlanta in the 2021 NLDS.

Given his age, Lauer seems like a prototypical bounce back candidate if he can recover from his injuries and get to work in the Blue Jays state-of-the-art pitching lab.