Toronto Blue Jays: Pitching prospects battling for roster spots in 2020

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 07: Nate Pearson #34 of the American League Futures Team pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Progressive Field on Sunday, July 7, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 07: Nate Pearson #34 of the American League Futures Team pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Progressive Field on Sunday, July 7, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

The Toronto Blue Jays will head into the 2020 season with a few roster spots open in both the rotation and in the bullpen.

With the Toronto Blue Jays smack dab in the midst of a rebuild, it will be a very competitive spring training for young pitching prospects come next February.

The Blue Jays organization will have 2-3 spots in the starting rotation that will most likely be internally filled, as well as some spots in the bullpen that could be filled with pitching prospects as well.

As it sits right now, Matt Shoemaker is most likely the only player with a real guaranteed rotation spot heading into the 2020 season. Ryan Borucki and Trent Thornton are next in line when it comes to players who fit into the rotation plan, but things can always change, especially with how Borucki spent most of the 2019 season on the injured list.

More from Call to the Pen

There also needs to be the understanding that top prospect Nate Pearson will most likely be arriving in the major leagues at some point in the 2020 season, and whether he will spend most of his time in the rotation versus in the bullpen has yet to be decided.

I can personally see a combination of starting 10-15 games and then finishing the season in the bullpen to limit his innings, but you never know.

Factor in the potential that the Blue Jays may also go out and acquire 1-2 free-agent starters this off-season and the competition for the limited spots in the rotation may be given a bigger spark.

There were a few prospects who started games on the big stage last year, such as Jacob Waguespack, T.J. Zeuch, Anthony Kay, and Sean Reid-Foley.

Waguespack started the most games out of the group with 13, but Sean Reid-Foley had the lowest ERA out of them all. Given that the rest of the group started 6 games or less, the 2019 season cannot really be judged too much statistics wise considering there wasn’t enough reps for all the players to be given a fair look.

Out of the prospects mentioned, I can see Reid-Foley making his way into the bullpen over being a starting pitcher moving forward. He just hasn’t seemed to find his footing when starting games, and 2 out of the 3 games he came in relief he did quite well in terms of not allowing a run and striking out a few batters. He was hit around in his last appearance of the season, but again, a small sample size to work with. I think he could really thrive in a middle relief role, pitching 1-2 innings instead of going through the lineup 2-3 times a game.

Anthony Kay and T.J. Zeuch will most likely be competing against each other for a roster spot, with one player most likely making the team and one being sent back to down to Buffalo. I personally think this will be a spring training decision, and the better player will keep his spot. If an injury occurs, then the other will be next in line to take his spot.

I don’t see the loser of this competition heading to the bullpen mostly because of the starting depth they would provide for the organization. It is still too early in both of their careers to throw either one of them in the bullpen, and I would like to see them continue to start games rather than move to the pen too early.

Jacob Waguespack will most likely be on the rotation to start the year, given how he did quite well in his rookie season against tough teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees (x3). I believe he will have a rotation spot until Nate Pearson arrives on the scene, in which he will then move to the bullpen or back to the minors, depending on how the Toronto Blue Jays front office sees his long term potential. He is a bit of a wild card.

There are other prospects in the system who could try and battle for spots in the bullpen out of this year’s spring training, such as Julian Merryweather, Justin Shafer, Jordan Romano, Yennsy Diaz, Travis Bergen, Zach Jackson, and Ty Tice.

Some have MLB experience like Shafer, Bergen, and Romano, while others like Tice, Jackson, and Merryweather are looking to book their ticket to the show, and with a rebuilding squad like the Toronto Blue Jays, a solid spring training can open doors of opportunity.

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Come March, the Toronto Blue Jays will still be rebuilding, and they may even have some fresh young faces for opening day in the Rogers Centre. Regardless of who wins the battles come to the end of spring training, there will always be pressure to perform, as there are another 2-4 prospects down in the minors vying for a spot should anyone stumble out of the gate in 2020.