If there was an area a team needed improvement the most to potentially contend in the 2012 MLB season I would think the Toronto Blue Jays rotation would rank near the top of the short list. With Jays nation abuzz with energy and excitement seeing the young team play with confidence in spring training one can’t help but think how far this team could go if they had added a starting pitcher or two to solidify the rotation.
With the news today that Brett Cecil has been option to AA and in his place oft-forgotten prospect Joel Carreno called up to take his place a giant spotlight has been shined on a glaring weakness. Ricky Romero is a fine starting pitcher, and while he is not flashy, he is a real grinder. He has the true talent of a number two but the dogged determination of an ace.
After that, while there is some definite upside, all bets are off.
*Speaking of bets, Intertops.com ranks the Toronto Blue Jays as the 8th most likely team to win the World Series in 2012, just behind the Tampa Bay Rays.
Over/under set at 81.5
We have discussed Brandon Morrow in detail but to summarize he is an electric talent but riddled with question marks. Is he simply the AL version of Ricky Nolasco? A pitcher with fantastic peripherals and average results or can he put it all together in 2012? The fact even our number two pitcher in the rotation has such question marks shows how fragile the group is.
Brett Cecil was slated to be our number three pitcher, he of the ZIPS projected 5.00+ ERA, 6.50+ spring ERA and current ticket holder of a bus to AA Dunedin. I had very little confidence in Cecil heading into spring training, less now obviously. His velocity was down, confidence seemingly back but result not matching the renewed efforts.
His replacement is an interesting guy in Joel Carreno, a seldom discussed prospect who has looked good in stretches for both the Jays in 2011 and as a starting pitcher in the minors. He was lights out in the pen last season in the majors (15.2 IPs, 1.15 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 3.5 K/BB) and has an intriguing combination of pitches. But still, he is a crapshoot at best, especially slotted (for now) as a number three starting pitcher in the AL East.
Henderson Alvarez is another guy with underwhelming statistics (strikeout numbers) but a pitcher I do actually like and have confidence in going forward. He attacks the zone with a solid fastball and can keep it on the ground and hopefully out of the ballpark. Again, he seems solid but to count on him for 200+ quality innings seems like a reach.
Finally how could you mention Jays starters and questionable without discussing Kyle Drabek, the teams number one (or two) rated prospect from a season ago. After his sizzling debut versus the Seattle Mariners Jays fans were ready to forget about old’ Roy (ok, not even remotely true) but his season quickly came crashing into AL east reality.
In short, he stunk. He stunk badly. However as bad as he was (did I mention he was bad?) Drabek is still a young guy with a big fastball and a competitive spirit. I wouldn’t expect an ERA below 4.00 but if he can give the team 160-175 innings with a 4.50 ERA and 1.35 WHIP that would be a welcome addition as a number four/five starter.
Dustin McGowan will begin the season on the disabled list and given his long injury history is another long shot candidate to add any tangible value.
Much of what I have written should come as no surprise and Alex Anthopoulos is no fool. He knew coming into the offseason the serious question marks surrounding the team’s starting pitching and if you believe the rumours he was interested in acquiring at least one or two of Gio Gonzalez, Mat Latos, Yu Darvish, Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt.
While I still don’t think 2012 is our season (though stranger things have happened) I am excited for the day when our robust offensive attack is matched by an equally impressive young starting pitching crew. Five above average starters are needed to compete in the ruthless AL East against the three terror squads located in New York, Boston and Tampa Bay.