Toronto Blue Jays: Battle for starting rotation spots this spring

TORONTO, ONTARIO - SEPTEMBER 29: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 and Teoscar Hernandez #37 of the Toronto Blue Jays salute the crowd during the last game of the season, facing the Tampa Bay Rays during a break in the third inning during their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on September 29, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - SEPTEMBER 29: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 and Teoscar Hernandez #37 of the Toronto Blue Jays salute the crowd during the last game of the season, facing the Tampa Bay Rays during a break in the third inning during their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on September 29, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /
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With a rebuilding squad, next year’s spring training will result in an all-out battle between the prospects for spots on the Toronto Blue Jays starting rotation.

In 2019, the Toronto Blue Jays used 21 different starters throughout the season. This was mainly attributed to veterans being traded away, the opener strategy being utilized by new manager Charlie Montoya, and injuries to various starters on the roster.

This leaves quite a few questions going into the off-season on who will fill out the starting rotation this season. Pitchers Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, and Clayton Richard are no longer with the squad, and Clay Buchholz is a free agent with a slim chance of returning to a rebuilding roster next season.

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One pitcher who is most likely going to be on the starting rotation for 2020 is Trent Thornton, who performed well this season, starting 29 games and pitching to a 4.84 ERA with 149 strikeouts. In his rookie season, he was able to carve up innings and provide some quality outings against tough teams. He will need to find some more consistency with his starts, but more starts under his belt will help facilitate this learning curve.

Two other pitchers who will most likely find spots on the roster are Ryan Borucki and Matt Shoemaker. Shoemaker was pitching well before tearing his ACL while chasing down Matt Chapman on the bases. He will be going through arbitration and should be brought back this offseason, as well as being healthy going into spring training next year.

Ryan Borucki was coming into 2019 after a successful rookie campaign where he was able to pitch deep into games and add another left-handed arm to the rotation. Injuries to his pitching elbow limited his availability in 2019, and 2020 will be a proving ground to see if he can stay healthy.

With the notion that the opener strategy is not going to be utilized this season with a healthy starting rotation, there are currently two spots left on the rotation for the Toronto Blue Jays.

There’s a not so sneaking suspicion from the Toronto Blue Jays management that they will pick up a free agent or two to improve their starting rotation. While they may not sign a top agent like Gerrit Cole, other options such as Zack Wheeler, Cole Hamels or Jake Odorizzi may be realistic options for the rebuilding squad.

That would leave the last rotation spot(s) for the prospects to fight for during spring training. There are quite a few prospects that will fight for these remaining rotation spot(s), which include pitchers Sean Reid-Foley, Jacob Waguespack, T.J. Zeuch, Anthony Kay, and Nate Pearson. All of these pitchers except for Pearson have spent time in the MLB, but none of them have fully earned a rotation spot going into 2020.

While Pearson may seem like the best option given his rise through the minor leagues, he will most likely not be called up until halfway through the season and will start the season in AAA. That would leave the remaining prospects to compete for a spot in the spring, and there is no clear winner as of yet.

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Regardless, whether the Toronto Blue Jays add to their rotation through free agency or choose to go to internal options, the 2020 starting rotation will vary differently than what they started within 2019.