BP before my first Jays game, September 1, 2015. Ryan Goins hit a walk-off homerun later that game.
So the 2016 MLB Season is now underway.The Toronto Blue Jays are now 5-7 and trailing the Orioles (8-2) and Red Sox (6-4). I couldn’t go to the Jays home opener unfortunately, because of my hectic final exam schedule. But now that exams are (almost) over, here’s my opinion on the Jays pitching staff and how they will perform this year.
Marcus Stroman: I can see him having a stellar season after last year’s outstanding performance in the postseason. He had an astonishing 239 ERA+ last season (although a fairly small sample size), and his fielding abilities, athleticism, and passion are valuable assets to the Jays. His sinker has a really good movement that makes me wow every time. He is the true ace of this team.
- Prediction: 15-5, 3.00 ERA
Marco Estrada: Personally, signing Marco Estrada to a $28M, 2 year deal is my favorite deal of the offseason made by Shapiro-Atkins. Marco had a breakout seasons last year despite starting the year in the bullpen, but he was also very consistent in the Brewers organization (his ERA never went over 4.4 in his 4 seasons with the Beermakers). However, Estrada is a pretty extreme flyball pitcher, with an average flyball rate (FB/BIP) of 47.6% in his career. Given that Rogers Centre is fairly hitter-friendly, he needs to keep his pitchers down in the zone.
- Prediction: 14-7, 3.15 ERA
R.A. Dickey: Dickey really is an unpredictable pitcher, because of his reliance on his knuckleball. I would say he has been mediocre since he came over from the Mets (he has a .494 winning percentage and an elevated FIP with the Jays). This is his age 41 season, but he’s a true workhorse, pitching more than 200 innings for the past 5 seasons. I can see him as a solid mid-rotation pitcher, though he really needs to suppress his walk rates.
- Prediction: 9-10, 4.00 ERA
J.A. Happ: I am a bit skeptical about Happ. He left as a free agent in 2014, and he seemed shaky at best during his previous tenure with the Jays (elevated ERA, K/9 below average at 7.5). Though he did perform exceptionally well in Pittsburgh and Seattle, I doubt he can replicate his success here, although as the only southpaw in the Jays rotation, he might see more actions than, say, Gavin Floyd and Drew Hutchison.
- Prediction: 9-12, 4.50 ERA
Aaron Sanchez: Sanchez is a very promising pitcher with great stuff. We saw in the last 2 seasons that he is an effective reliever. In my opinion, he needs to work on his control and command more. His BB/9 last season was 4.3 and K/9 5.9, which is clearly not desirable for a starting pitcher. If he can fix his commmand issues, then he would be a solid piece in the Jays pitching staff. Still, if I were John Gibbons, I would put Sanchez in the bullpen, because 1. Sanchez is only 23 and 2. Jays bullpen is in shambles after the departures of Lowe and Hawkins and the injury of Loup.
- Prediction: 8-8, 4.00 ERA
Our bullpen is mediocre at best. Roberto Osuna and Brett Cecil are the only reliable pitchers that Gibbons actually trusts. But even Osuna, despite his great success as the closer last season (K/BB at 4.69 and 2.58 ERA), has the tendency to give up homeruns in tight situations. He’s only 21 after all for goodness’ sake, but he needs to keep the balls low in the zone and control his flyball ratio (currently above 40%).
Brett Cecil, the only lefty in the ‘pen, is also under immense pressure. His scoreless streak is still intact, and his impressive 5.38 K/BB ratio makes him one of the most elite relievers in all of baseball. He should be used exclusively in high leverage situations.
I don’t know much about Drew Storen, although to be honest, trading Revere for Storen was a wise move (trading an area of strength for an area of weakness). Making Storen the setup man would be ideal, if he could put up his 29-save performance from last season.
Jesse Chavez and Gavin Floyd are both former starters, which means they don’t have too much experience in the bullpen. Chavez should be used in low-leverage situations or even as a mop-up man, while Floyd might perform well enough to warrant several spot starts in the rotation in case the starters get a bit overworked.