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Photo Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Should Ryan Borucki Have Gotten Wednesday’s Start?

Full Disclosure: For a brief time on Tuesday night it seemed there was a chance Ryan Borucki was going to get called up to the majors to start Wednesday’s game for the Blue Jays. And of all the many things that may have meant, what it meant for me was that there was a chance that in the next 24 hours I was going to have to write about Ryan Borucki and his suitability for the rotation.

So I got to thinking… y’know… why wait until we know for sure and rush out a thing like that on a moment’s notice? I could just write on Borucki right away, and the piece would be useful enough regardless of which direction the club chose to go.

We now know — and I especially know, having had to change the tense of a whole bunch of this damn piece! — that they’ve decided to go with Nick Tepesch.

Of course, we were only just assuming that Borucki was part of that conversation anyway. But it seemed plausible after we learned that T.J. House — perhaps the most logical candidate — wasn’t being pulled from his start tonight for Buffalo, leaving Borucki and Tepesch as the club’s starters set for tomorrow in Double- and Triple-A.

The fact that Borucki is so fresh to the level — he’s only made three starts and pitched 21 innings for the Fisher Cats — in most instances would have ruled him out automatically. At least, as far as the club’s current regime likely thinks. The previous one might have pulled the trigger, though!

Consider:

  • Roberto Osuna has never pitched at Double- or Triple-A. Neither had Miguel Castro when he broke camp with the team in 2015.
  • Drew Hutchison had thrown 31.2 innings for New Hampshire at the time he first was called up to the majors in 2012.
  • Dan Norris pitched at four levels in 2014, including just eight starts at New Hampshire and four at Buffalo.
  • Kendall Graveman made one start at Double-A, then six at Triple-A, before getting called up in September of 2014.

There are others who spent longer in the upper minors, but still by most other club’s standards came rather quickly.

Still, Borucki isn’t exactly an Osuna, an Aaron Sanchez (14 starts at New Hampshire, six at Buffalo), or a Marcus Stroman (20 starts at New Hampshire, five at Buffalo). This isn’t a guy who just might come in and set the damn big leagues on fire like those guys might have been. But the considerations may not have stopped there. For example, one way he’s similar to Sanchez is in that he’s been a pro for a really long time. Sanchez was drafted in 2010, spending 2010, 2011, 2012, and most of 2014 in the minors before making his big league debut. Borucki was drafted way back in 2012, missed all of 2013 due to Tommy John surgery, and much of 2015 with injury as well. He finally reached High-A last season and just now has reached Double-A. He’s not green to pro ball, just to that particular level — a level where he’s been spectacular so far; in those 21 innings he’s allowed just 11 hits, given up three walks, one run, and struck out 18.

Borucki is also on the 40-man, added last winter in order to protect him from selection in the Rule Five draft. What that means is that the Jays had to burn an option to send him to the minors this season, and will have to do so again next year. The clock is already ticking, in other words. Borucki is, in fact, in a situation not dissimilar to the one in which Anthony Alford found himself earlier this season, when he was first called up. Alford’s a long time pro now — like Borucki, he was drafted in 2012 — and also on the 40-man. Because of some injuries and his commitment to football, his movement up the ladder has been delayed, though not always necessarily his development. Alford had played just 33 games at Double-A when he got the call, which was unusually quick for the way we tend to believe this front office thinks, but it made sense at the time because he was already on the 40-man and because of all the injuries ahead of him on the depth chart.

The Jays could have credibly called Borucki up using similar reasoning.

It would have been especially credible — if still maybe a bit questionable — because Borucki’s calling card isn’t so raw stuff he’s still struggling harness, but polish and pitchability. And while, yes, he’s only just barely reached Double-A, his early success there bodes about as well as possible.

Wilson Karaman of Baseball Prospectus wrote about him after his most recent start, on August 3rd:

Borucki has thrown up three straight seven-inning efforts in which he’s allowed one run combined. The checkered past of his left arm is the thing standing between the former 15th-rounder and more notoriety. But he has a nice three-pitch mix from the left side, and he’s producing excellent results this year after finally getting healthy. Consider the issue in the process of being forced.

This jibes with what we were hearing about Borucki last summer, when he started making noise in Lansing. W. Black of Jays From the Couch caught a Borucki start for the Lugnuts last summer, and came away impressed — especially after talking to the great Jesse Goldberg-Strassler about the young lefty.

Goldberg-Strassler, stated Borucki is an incredibly smart pitcher. Often seen spending his bullpen time not only working on mechanical maintenance, but also pitch sequencing with pitching coach Jeff Ware. He believes the lefty could be the best left-handed pitching prospect in the Blue Jays system, at the moment. And, though he may not have the upside or overall stuff of an Angel Perdomo, Borucki is definitely more polished. Goldberg-Strassler personally believes Borucki is ahead of most left-handed pitching prospects he has seen at that level.

Borucki — like Alford — also gets high marks for his makeup, as we see in this quote from Dunedin manager John Schneider, as told to John Lott of the Athletic in a feature on Borucki last month.

“I’ve said this from the day I first saw him in the Gulf Coast League, he’s probably the best competitor that we have in the system,” Schneider said. “I’ve had him for six years off and on, somewhere along the way, and I’ll take my chances with him on the mound any day of the week.”

A quote from a manager about his own player is almost always going to be positive, but still, that’s pretty impressive!

Could Borucki, with a few more starts in New Hampshire, be a guy we see as a September call-up this year? I might not have though so earlier in the year, but the more I think of it, the more it seems somewhat possible. He’s certainly in the picture as a depth starter for next season — something the Jays ought to be very pleased about given their struggles to find suitable rotation depth over the last couple of years. Get used to the name, at the very least!

And shit, if Tepesch Mode doesn’t turn out to be our personal Jesus, maybe the calls for Borucki to get a chance will grow louder and louder. I guess for now the front office should just hope for the best from the former Twin, Royal, Ranger, Dodger, and Athletic, and try to enjoy the silence.

    • Writing about a pitcher who might have got a call up, is having a great year in the minors, shooting up prospect lists, and might be in the picture for the 2018 rotation is grasping for straws? Try getting a clue before your next attempt at being shitty.

  • jerjapan

    Borucki may have been the better choice than Tepesch just on ability, but add the value of giving a young kid that may play a role for us next a chance to get his feet wet, with no need for roster manipulation or the use of an option, and it seemed like a good idea to me. “Tepesch Mode” is probably the best thing about Tepesch, a AAAA guy if I’ve ever seen one.