Toronto Blue Jays 2023 Depth Chart: Starting Pitching

Mar 9, 2023; Dunedin, Florida, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Kevin Gausman (34) throws a
Mar 9, 2023; Dunedin, Florida, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Kevin Gausman (34) throws a / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Blue Jays rotation has the potential to be one of the better groups in MLB this year. Every member has either been an All-Star, a Cy Young finalist, or both. As is the case with every rotation, having more than the bare minimum of five is key, as only using five starting pitchers is nearly impossible over the course of a 162 game season. Here are those projected to begin the season in the rotation, and those who could step in if need be.

No. 1: Alek Manoah

Considered by many around the team to be the leading candidate to start on Opening Day, Manoah is primed for another big season. The projections don’t love him, jumping over a run and a half in ERA from last year to this year, 2.24 to 3.75. However, another year of inducing weak contact, durability, and keeping the ball on the ground should lead to another quality season out of the Big Puma.

No. 2: Kevin Gausman

Someone who could very well be considered the ace of this team, Gausman is entering his second year with the Jays. In contrast to Manoah, Fangraphs' projections like Gausman. Leading the AL in FIP last season, Gausman is projected for a 3.36 FIP by Steamer for the upcoming season. Look forward to watching another season of the best splitter in baseball in 2023.

No. 3: Chris Bassitt

Brought in to replace Ross Stripling, Bassitt’s expectations are fairly straightforward. Shown to be a reliable and crafty veteran pitcher during his career, the Blue Jays will love his ability to take the ball and fill the zone every fifth day. Bassitt is another guy in this rotation who excels at inducing weak contact, ranking in the 95th percentile in average exit velocity and in the 87th percentile in hard hit rate.

No. 4: José Berríos

An interesting watch for the 2023 season, Berríos is a key to this rotation as a whole. If the Blue Jays are fortunate enough to receive performances from him more in line with what they saw in 2021, you have one of the deepest rotations in baseball. If Berríos’ outings are as erratic as they were last year, many difficult questions begin to surface. Placing a pitcher of Berríos’ supposed caliber in the bullpen seems drastic, but hopefully not necessary at any point in 2023. An increase in his sinker usage and better pitch selection will be major keys for him as the season goes on.

No. 5: Yusei Kikuchi

Is there a massive Kikuchi comeback season incoming? There are several factors included in this. Kikuchi appears to be adjusting well to the pitch clock, there’s a feeling of increased confidence, and his new breaking ball is getting hitters out. Kikuchi’s stuff no doubt plays, it’s just a matter of putting it together every fifth day. Having a solid spring to date, Kikuchi’s narrative is similar to that of Berrios. A more consistent and effective Kikuchi makes Toronto’s rotation one of the deepest in baseball.

No. 6: Mitch White

White started behind the eight-ball this prior to Spring Training, as his progression was pushed back after a shoulder impingement during the offseason. Yet to pitch in a spring game yet, White has been throwing live BP and should make his way into game action this upcoming week. He is on the outside looking in on the rotation battle, but is set up well to be an effective long-man out of the bullpen and is likely to be the backup/sixth starter.

Minor league depth

Drew Hutchison

Signed to a minor league deal this past offseason, the former Jay looks to be ticketed for Buffalo once camp wraps up. Throwing 105.1 innings between the Tigers rotation and bullpen last season, major league experienced pitching depth is never a bad thing. While a major role is a long shot for Hutch, a spot start in a possible doubleheader or to cover a short IL stint isn’t out of the question for the veteran righty.

Zach Thompson

Acquired from the Pirates in exchange for Chavez Young, Thompson is a versatile arm that could play a role for the Jays at some point this season. Given the depth of the rotation and bullpen, it’s unlikely he breaks camp with this roster. But with minor league relief numbers, to go with a solid 2021 out of the Marlins rotation, it’s feasible that Thompson could be first in line to replace a starting pitcher.

Thomas Hatch

Hatch, a former prospect, has lacked a consistent role since a solid season out of the pen for the Jays in 2020. Unimpressive in both his single spot start and his season in Buffalo last year, Hatch is once again set to begin the 2023 season with Buffalo. Considered a depth starter for this organization, it can be assumed he’s at the bottom of this depth given the other options. The experience of Hutchison and potential of Thompson give them the edge over the inconsistency of Hatch.

Yosver Zulueta

Effectionately known as "Zulu", the flame-throwing Cuban has made his presence known at Blue Jays camp. Now on the 40-man, Zulueta could be an option for a spot start if he has a hot start in Buffalo. A bullpen spot is also conceivable for the top prospect, as his fastball and breaking ball combination would play well in shortened appearances against major league hitters.

Bowden Francis

Now 26, this prospect was acquired in the Rowdy Tellez trade with the Brewers. Francis possess a mid-90s fastball and a sharp slider, but injuries and inconsistencies have pushed back in MLB debut. After a great showing over nine starts in winter league play, which included a 0.785 WHIP, 11.9 K/9 and 4.8 H/9, he could be on the short list of pitchers next up to Toronto should he start off strong in the Bison's rotation.

Next. Blue Jays announce three more roster cuts from big league camp. dark