Toronto Blue Jays: Who will sneak into the rotation?

A key question Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo has been trying to answer this preseason is which exciting young prospect or flashy new signing has earned their place in Toronto’s starting pitcher rotation?

During the offseason, the Blue Jays signed optimism-inducing, Korean ace Hyun-Jin Ryu, alongside pitching veterans Tanner Roark and Chase Anderson. From comments made by Montoyo, it seems the above will join right-hander Matt Shoemaker in Toronto’s rotation. 

After a 2019 season marred by a lack of decent core pitching, Montoyo now finds himself like Augustus Gloop staring into Willy Wonka’s chocolate river of hurlers.

In order to prevent Montoyo from meeting the same fate as poor, greedy Gloop, I have selflessly compiled an authoritative ranking of the candidates for the fifth starting spot.

Below is a statistically unsound analysis of these aspiring starters. I have assigned a largely arbitrary rating to each on the basis of (1) whether I like the cut of their jib and (2) the results of their first handful of innings in this year’s grapefruit league.

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Anthony Kay
Kay is a formidable figure. With a Frankenstein-esque hunch while on the mound, he imposingly stares down opposing batters through sleek, futuristic, white glasses.

On 23 February, he threw two innings against the Minnesota Twins. Kay started strong, drawing two outs, with being former Blue Jay and big hitter Josh Donaldson.

Kay faltered a touch in the second inning and eventually left the game with a 9.0 ERA and two strikeouts. 

While he may be destined for the farm system in 2020, I’ve fallen for Kay’s charms and shall be campaigning to see him in Toronto as soon as possible. 

Kay’s brother Bobby is also incredibly good value on Twitter, providing genuinely heartfelt reactions to Kay’s performances as well as solid takes on baseball matters.

Rating – 8/10, would’ve been higher if it weren’t for commentators making awful “K” puns after each of his strikeouts.

Trent Thornton
On 22 February, Thornton threw two innings against the Yankees and came away with an almost spotless record – allowing one walk but not giving up a single hit. Very solid performance.

I’m pretty sure that the Yankees’ commentator at one point referred to Thornton as looking like some sort of goofy animal during his wind-up. The animal could have been a camel; I haven’t the dedication to go back and check the footage.

Rating – 7/10, the goofier the wind-up, the better

Nate Pearson
On 25 February, against an admittedly second-string Yankees, Pearson underscored why he is widely regarded as one of the best prospects in baseball. The 23-year-old, right-handed pitcher struck out all three of the Yankee hitters that he faced in an almost-immaculate, 10-pitch inning.

In the post-match interview, Pearson matter-of-factly stated that he wanted to “be great” but wisely noted that “with greatness comes a lot of other stuff” and concluded by saying that he was trying to “be normal about it.”

I’m really not sure what any of that means but I’m a big fan of players at least slightly trying to avoid cliches when talking to the media.

Alas, Pearson’s presence in this list is a bit of a sham as conventional wisdom would say that he isn’t in the running for a place in Toronto’s starting rotation yet. However, he will hopefully see some sort of major-league action in 2020.

Rating – 9/10, conventional wisdom be damned

Shun Yamaguchi
The new Japanese signing didn’t have the happiest of debuts against the Atlanta Braves on 24 February.

Yamaguchi didn’t finish an inning – being pulled from the mound after giving up three earned runs, a walk and claiming no strikeouts. While it doesn’t take a bold man to predict that the 40.50 ERA he racked up in this short stint will be looked back upon as a humongous outlier, it certainly was far from an ideal start.

In his second outing, against the Phillies on 29 February, Yamaguchi began to find his stride and secured three strikeouts over his three innings.

Rating – 5/10, willing to increase this if someone creates a Yama-Gucci Gang tribute song

Jack Ramsden is covering the Toronto Blue Jays during 2020 as part of the growing team of writers at Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @bernard_balks

Make sure you subscribe to the Bat Flips and Nerds podcasts and follow us on Twitter @BatFlips_Nerds. News, views and interviews, all with a British twist.

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