An intimidating presence toeing the rubber from the left side is one of the most coveted roster pieces in all of baseball, especially when utilized in a team’s starting rotation. Now, let’s inspect the Toronto Blue Jays‘ depth chart of left-handed options for the club’s starting rotation, I will give you a minute to get all the anger, frustration and cursing at your computer out of your system.
Mark Buehrle: Some respect is due here, as 10 wins with at least 200 innings pitched for 13 straight years is a superb stat line to add to any starting pitcher’s resume. However, the praise should end here. Buehrle does not own the arsenal needed to be a difference-maker. His troublesome numbers against left-handed bats in 2013 (SLG% .414) and for his career (SLG% .423) raises eyebrows. At this point in his career, he represents nothing more than a pitch-to-contact poster boy and the definition of an innings eater. A lefty version of Greg Maddux he is not.
J.A. Happ: Some slack may be in order as I don’t know if anyone would be the same after the line drive comebacker to the head that Happ received last May which saw him leave the field on a stretcher. The rope can only be loosened so much though as Happ’s name is on the verge of being completely erased from any starting rotation discussions. His $5.2 million paycheck will help keep his sinking ship afloat, but with lefty swingers performing at a .371 OBP clip before the the incident, he doesn’t generate much optimism.
Ricky Romero: Descriptions of Romero in the last two years have included “catastrophic collapse” and “epic fall from grace”. Although when digging deeper, you realize that his problems started well beforehand. Inconsistency struck in 2009 when LHB thumped their way to an .879 OPS, then again in 2011, rocking him to the tune of an .834 OPS. A bullpen role awaits. If embraced, Romero could flourish. Besides, the danger of beaning the team mascot down the first base line when trying to bust a lefty inside is too risky. You don’t want the legal troubles, Ricky.
Hope for the Future: There is some indeed. A pair of prospects are sharpening their skills on the farm. Sean Nolin has tremendous size, towering the mound at 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, which only adds to the effectiveness of his well-regarded plus changeup. He’s been a strikeout hurler throughout his minor league tenure, making 363 hitters perform the walk of shame in 341.1 IP.
Daniel Norris has the higher ceiling of the two, a classic high-risk,-high reward type prospect. When he’s locked in, Norris is electric with a five-pitch repertoire that includes mid-90s heat complemented by a baffling slider. The youngster registered a 9.9 K/9 in 2013. However, Norris’ career 1.55 WHIP and 4.3 BB/9 demonstrate that there is plenty of room for refinement.
Get ready for the starting rotation amusement park, Jays fans. Time will tell if the current filler pieces can hold down the fort. Either way, the Blue Jays be visiting southpaw city very soon.