The Toronto Blue Jays have had a busy offseason when it comes to pitching. From the early December trade of Shaun Marcum to the acquisition of Frank Francisco, the Jays have certainly concentrated on pitching in the last few months.
The first thing I want to concentrate on is the rotation: How will it look next season? How will it perform? Here it goes:
Ricky Romero: The Jays' top pick in the 2006 MLB amateur draft (sixth overall) will likely be asked to fill the vacancy left by 2010 Opening Day starter Shaun Marcum. The new #1 went 14-9 last season with a 3.73 ERA in 32 Starts. While Romero only improved his victories by one in his sophomore season, his ERA dropped substantially. He is far from a number one pitcher, but still has the potential to improve. The wins will come with better run support. Romero's most significant fault is his inability to recover his confidence if he pitches a poor inning. He will often slow to a snail's pace if there are runners on base. In other words, he chooses to throw off his own timing. If Romero ever wants to be a star in this league--which I believe that he could one day be--he has to learn to forget about the last pitch and concentrate on the next one.
Brandon Morrow: The Blue Jays were the clear winner of the Brandon-for-Brandon deal which took place last offseason. Morrow learned to trade power for control last year. This adjustment to his game--thank you Bruce Walton and Jose Molina--left him the most dominant pitcher on the Jays last season. After early season struggles, he and Molina became permanent partners. Morrow finished the 2010 season--which had begun with speculation about his impending demotion to Triple-A Las Vegas--with a 10-7 record and a 4.49 ERA. The ERA almost certainly would have been lower had he been able to pitch at the beginning of the season as he did at the end. This is a good sign for Blue Jays fans. Also, one mustn't forget Morrow's 17K one-hitter. This was arguably the best-pitched game of the year (and remember that six no-hitters, including two no-hitters must be taken into account). Morrow has the stuff to be the Jays' ace in days to come--so long as he does not revert to his old ways and become AJ Burnett #2.
Brett Cecil: The third, and final, lock for the Jays' rotation next year had more wins than any other pitcher on the Blue Jays last season with 15. The Jays' top pitching-prospect in 2008 and 2009 showed why he was so highly regarded last season after an early call-up to replace the injured Brian Tallet. Cecil's 4.22 ERA is a terrible representation of the season he had last year. If he could learn to pitch better against Texas and Boston (a similar problem to that of Ricky Romero) then he could be an All-Star in the near future. There are only two worries I have about Cecil. 1: Will he be able to pitch a full season in the majors (something he has yet to be given the opportunity to do)? And 2: Will he be able to come to his senses and shave off that atrocious mohawk?
Questions folllow for Toronto as to who will fill out the rotation. The leading candidates seem to be:
Kyle Drabek: The son of former MLB pitcher Doug Drabek, Kyle is by far the Jays' top prospect. Drabek received three "try-out" games with the team at the end of last season. I think I speak for many Jays' fans as I express my disappointment in his performances--not that I don't retain high expectations for the future. Drabek, who was made out for the entire year as a future super-star was grossly average (0-3, 4.76 ERA). I liked what I saw from Drabek in the early innings of his games, but it seemed that, once hitters figured him out, he was much less effective. Personally, I do not believe that Kyle is ready for the majors. However, it seems highly likely that he be in the number 4 slot next year,
Jesse Litsch: Litsch once showed some potential, however, injuries have limited his appearances in recent years. When Litsch did pitch last year, he was ineffective (save for one start), and soon found himself back on the disabled list. I don't trust him to be successful in the rotation next year. Litsch's 1-5, 5.79 ERA in 9 starts last season has left him a huge question mark for 2011. Jesse Litsch, if he could return to 2008 form, would be a welcome addition to what would be a solid pitching rotation. However, he is simply too unpredictable for any fan to have even the slightest trace of confidence in him.
Marc Rzepczynski: If you have never heard of Rzepczynski (pronounced Zep-chin-ski) you probably think that he is just a modern version of Sidd Fitch. That no one could possibly have a name this crazy and, thus, he must be fake (so I'm about to tell you about his impossible super-abilities). No, Zepper is most certainly real and, in my opinion, is the best choice for number five in the rotation. Rzepczynski would make an effective long-reliever (which I will touch upon in my upcoming Blue Jays bullpen analysis), but he would be better in the starting rotation. Unlike Jesse Litsch, he has actually pitched consistently over the past two seasons. The major worry concerning him, like Brett Cecil, is his ability to pitch a full major league season. This is a risk that I think the Blue Jays should most certainly take. When Rzepczynski is on his game, he is practically unhittable. He may have the more confidence on the mound than any of the Jays' other Starter options. Starting Rzepczynski in the rotation would make the most sense for the Blue Jays as, if he falters, he can easily be shifted into a long relief role.
Brad Mills's inconsistencies will likely prevent him from obtaining a Major League roster spot. Scott Richmond will have to climb a long way back from his injury to come within spitting distance of the competition in front of him (though he could also take on a reliever's spot). And Dustin McGowan may as well be forgotten about at this point. If, and only if, he ever pitches again, it likely will not be as a Blue Jay as proving himself as better than anyone else mentioned in this article (including Mr. Fitch) would be near-impossible.
Keep checking back. I will soon post my Blue Jays Bullpen Analysis.
Until next time, I must bid you,