Which fringe starters have the best chance at making the Blue Jays' Opening Day roster?

Feb 18, 2024; Dunedin, FL, USA;  Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Bowden Francis (44) warms up during
Feb 18, 2024; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Bowden Francis (44) warms up during / Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

With the recent disruptions in the build up of both Kevin Gausman and Alek Manoah, the Blue Jays starting pitch depth is already being put to the test. Both pitchers are dealing with soreness in their shoulder, as it has not been bouncing back the way they’d like after work on the backfields. 

It’s unclear as to whether or not Gausman will miss regular season time, as there was no update provided on his status other that he has been playing catch. Manoah, however, is still experiencing soreness in his shoulder after continuing throwing. The former All-Star had quite the uphill battle to begin with, but this injury seemingly takes him out of the battle for that fifth spot in the rotation. 

A possible best case scenario for Gausman at this point in time is that he breaks camp without an IL stint, but may be bumped back in the rotation in an effort to ensure he’s built up to pitch at least five innings. These developments are still yet to unfold, so Gausman’s spot in the rotation is still in flux. 

However, different than last year, the Blue Jays rotation depth is a strength of this club. Instead of having Zach Thompson and Drew Hutchison waiting in the wings for a chance to start, the Jays have a plethora of capable arms of all ages who could give the Blue Jays serviceable innings should they need it to open the season.

Had health been on their side, Ricky Tiedemann or Yariel Rodriguez could be mentioned as possible options to break camp. Unfortunately, their minor ailments have pushed their time tables back and they’re all but certainly starting their seasons in Buffalo at this point in time.

Here’s three fringe starters who are healthy, impressing, and have a legit shot at breaking camp with the club should they need to call upon their depth.

Bowden Francis

Francis is the obvious one. He’s had a solid spring thus far, and his makeup and motivation are two aspects the Blue Jays love. Armed with two plus pitches - a four-seam fastball and curveball - whilst working on other pitches to handle both righties and lefties, Francis is the likely candidate to be awarded the fifth spot in the rotation. That's assuming Manoah can’t be built up in time for that role. Francis continues to be built up to start and is line to do so come Opening Day.

Mitch White

White is out of options, sitting 97-98 with regularity, and is likely to be picked up off waivers should he be exposed. The former Dodger continues to be built up to start, and he could find himself in that role should Gausman’s build-up continue to be delayed. At the very least, White should find himself breaking camp as a reliever, with the ability to start should he be called upon.

Paolo Espino

This is a reach, but if we’re talking about fringe starting pitchers, Espino has the best chance to make the team after the previously mentioned duo. Espino was brought in to provide starting depth and will likely spend most of his season in Buffalo. However, after striking out nine over five innings while pounding the zone and looking confident, it’s feasible that Espino breaks camp as a reliever should both Gausman and Manoah not be ready to start the season on time. It’s also working noting that selecting Espino would require adding him to the 40-man.