If you have been sleeping through most of this yawn-season, you might not actually recognize some names arriving in Dunedin to try to make the Opening Day 25-man cut. As you all know, the only 2015/16 leftovers are Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Kevin Pillar, Joe Biagini, Ryan Tepera, Justin Smoak, Devon Travis, and Mr. ‘left stranded on third and in Buffalo‘ Dalton Pompey. The grace period is over. They’re still here. And it’s time to begin. All this team needs is a Kevin Garvey and Nora Durst, and HBO might have a MLB reboot on their hands.
Now, the diehard Jays fans out there, who spend hours on Twitter debating Jays stuff every day, probably don’t need to read this little ‘zoned out Spring Training pitching guide’ thing, nor does the avid Jays reader, too. The truth is, I actually wouldn’t even call whatever I’m writing a guide, it’s more like a ‘shit…I totally forgot that the Jays signed or traded for that guy’ kind of thing. I will include some pictures of some of the new faces, so that you know who you are taking a picture of if you’re heading down to Dunedin to get away from the shitty Canadian weather and watch some baseball – what I am going to do is just clear some of the winter haze.
So this offseason hasn’t seen Toronto dive into their deep pockets because it’s important that the organization saves their payroll for 2020 and ’21 when they will actually compete… ?Now, the Jays did, however, sign right-handed starter Matt Shoemaker to a one-year deal worth $3.5 million plus $1 million in possible bonuses, which, I think, is this year’s biggest offseason acquisition. And that’s some serious cash-rules-everything-around-the-colluded MLB these days. Just in case you forgot, this is what Matt Shoemaker looks like:
He is the new Marco Estrada – sort of, but not really. A few days later, after the Shoemaker signing, the Jays traded outfield prospect Connor Panas to San Diego for 35-year-old lefty Clayton Richard. The same Clayton Richard that Ross Atkins said is guaranteed a spot in this year’s rotation, which I think means – he will have a spot in the rotation until the AL East starts murdering the cowhide, yarn, and cork that he tosses. Just in case you forgot, this is what Clayton Richard looks like:
He is the new Happ – sort of, but not really. Shoemaker and Richard are a couple of new faces at camp this year, but there are quite a few more unfamiliar ones that have arrived in Dunedin to show their stuff to the brass, too. Unfortunately, a lot of the young starting pitching depth that Toronto has added over the offseason (or at the trade deadline) isn’t exactly, ya know, really that good.
Now, there is a lot to like about Ryan Borucki – as we all saw last season. And Sean Reid-Foley has the potential to turn into a legitimate MLB starting pitcher. I’m not shitting on the farm system, but it would be nice to have a Casey Mize or Dylan Cease ready to take the ball this season or next because Nate Pearson and Eric Pardinho are still a few tomorrows away.
The Depth Dudes
So how good is the Jays’ starting pitching depth in Triple-A? Is 28-year-old Sam Gaviglio really going to turn into anything? Or 24-year-old Thomas Pannone? Will either of these pitchers end up being everyday guys in the MLB? Either way, they are certainly better than Mat fuckin’ Latos.
Now, since this is a Spring-something-guide, I’m not going to focus on either of these two pitchers because every fickle fan remembers them form last year, but there are some new fringe arms that some keeners might have forgotten about over the yawn-season. Now, one name that every Jays hoser knows is Julian Merryweather because of the whole, ya know, last minute Josh Donaldson nightmare. But, we will all have to wait to have a real look at Merryweather, as he is still recovering from Tommy John and won’t be ready by Opening Day (not that he would make the 25-man roster if he were healthy)…Anywho – here’s what a shitty Josh Donaldson trade looks like:
Speaking of trades, do you remember the Aledmys Diaz trade in November? The trade that sent the shortstop to Houston for righty Trent Thornton. Thornton was ranked as the #24 prospect in the ‘Stros system, and the dude delivers, like, seriously, delivers all the windup and stretch:
Another pitcher you may have forgotten about is Jacob Waguespack, the guy the Jays got from the Phillies for Aaron Loup. Waguespack has climbed the minor-leagues pretty quickly going from high-A in ’17 to finishing in triple-A in ’18 – not too shitty at all. He went 2 – 4 last year for the Bisons, posting a 5.03 ERA, and a 1.45 WHIP. He had a 13.2 K-BB% and a 3.49 FIP, as well.
If you’re in Dunedin and you see this face, it’s the face of Waguespack:
He’s a part of this fringe pack in Buffalo. And it’s a serious fringe because it includes: Sean Reid-Foley, Sam Gaviglio, Thomas Pannone, Trent Thornton, Jacob Waguespack, and Julian Merryweather (when he returns to form), so who knows what kind of decisions will be made, or who will be moved to the ‘pen and all that kind of stuff.
So some of these depth dudes are familiar, and some of them you may have forgotten about while you have been binge watching some Netflix series, or hockey, or whatever. Either way, there is a starting pitching logjam in Buffalo, and it’s not exactly a great one, but it’s not a bad one either. Maybe one of these guys could turn into a good mid-to-back of the rotation MLB starter in the future – I bet that would make Ross Atkins crank up the Hall and Oates. I bet that would make his dreams come true.
Rule 5 Luciano
It’s time to move away from this Buffalo fringe thing and get to know some prospect pitcher invites like Rule-5 Draft pick Elvis ‘Lucky’ Luciano, who the front office whacked from the Royals with their 9th pick. That being said, the Jays lost Jordan Romano and Travis Bergen in that same draft, although I’m sure one of the two will return to the Jays when all the Rule-5 shit is said and done.
Ross Atkins said that Luciano, who turned 19 on February 15th, could make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training:
Ross Atkins seems to sincerely believe that Rule 5 pick Elvis Luciano can be on the #BlueJays MLB roster this season in a unique bullpen role (with long-term starting upside).
Luciano is not old enough to order a light beer, making that outcome… bold.
— Keegan Matheson (@KeeganMatheson) December 13, 2018
#BlueJays GM Ross Atkins on Elvis Luciano:
"Our hope is that he’s facing Aaron Judge and facing some of the better hitters in the game. What an incredible challenge that would be, and we’d love to see that happen."
— Keegan Matheson (@KeeganMatheson) December 13, 2018
I mean, sure, I’m all for it – it’s not like this 19-year-old needs to go down to Buffalo to become the best baserunner, fielder, and hitter in the game.
Here’s a little look at what you will see from this kid in Dunedin this February and March:
The Rule 5 Chosen Ones
While Romano and Bergen weren’t protected and were left exposed to be poached at this year’s Rule-5 Draft, Yennsy Diaz was put on the 40-man roster. The 22-year-old pitcher is someone that Jesse Goldberg-Strassler was gushing over last season while he was pitching in Lansing before being called up to Dunedin. Here’s what Jesse had to say about Diaz last spring in an interview I did with him:
Yennsy Diaz is 21 years old with mid-90s gas and his change-up has been excellent in working off the fastball. The numbers for him largely speak for themselves: aside from one poor outing against an excellent Quad Cities (Houston) offense, only one earned run allowed in 32 2/3 innings this year.
And the Lugnuts crew are still gushing today:
Yennsy Diaz was one of our best pitchers before he got called up. In 9 games he posted a 5-1 record with a 2.08 ERA. He also had 42 strikeouts and only 22 hits.#FridayThoughts pic.twitter.com/yGOEeBhgQU
— Lansing Lugnuts (@LansingLugnuts) February 15, 2019
Along with Diaz, the Jays added right-handers Trent Thornton, Hector Perez, Patrick Murphy and Jacob Waguespack to the 40-man roster before the November deadline – just in case you forgot.
Hector Perez, who was the best prospect the Jays added into the system last season at the trade deadline when the organization shipped Osuna to Houston, could end up being the major piece of that deal that also included, of course, Ken Giles and David Paulino. Perez will probably start next season in New Hampshire since there is a major jam in Buffalo right now. And since I’m talking about the ‘Cats, let’s not forget about Patrick Murphy, another front office chosen one.
Patrick Murphy picked up a big accolade last year for the Blue Jays Nation ‘Large Adult Son Awards’ taking home the Jesus Murphy Award – well deserved, too. Here’s why we concluded that this ‘comeback’ pitcher deserved this prestigious piece of hardware:
Patrick Murphy was Jesus Murphy good this year, eh! I mean any hoser out there knows this though, no? The big righty hurler dominated the Florida State League all season long.
And Jesus Murphy this kid has had his fair share of injuries to boot: Tommy John in 2012, thoracic outlet in 2014 and ulnar nerve transportation in 2015. So it was great to watch this kid have the outstanding damn year that he did in Dunedin. He had 135 Ks in the land where people go to die and live out their best damn days. Murphy did anything but die down in Florida this year, instead he was reborn pitching a full season and in good health.
The They Signed Who Dudes?
Ryan Feierabend? I have no idea how the hell you pronounce that last name, but I’m going with Fe-air-a-bend, no?
The Jays inked this lefty knuckleballer (YES – A LEFTY KNUCKLEBALLER) pitcher to a minor-league contract. Last year, he punched in 163.1 innings, was hit 186 times, had 141 Ks, gave up 38 walks, and 24 dingers in the KBO. But, who cares about all of that stuff, check this out:
— Sung Min Kim (@sung_minkim) April 13, 2018
Sung Min Kim wrote a great piece about Fe-air-a-bend over at FanGraphs, so here’s the link if you are interested in giving it a read.
And…there’s one more who-dude that the Jays signed in early January and that is Mr. bounce back David Phelps.
This could be the most expensive signing this offseason – maybe…
David Phelps deal with #BlueJays, per source: One year, $2.5M with club option. Option worth $1M if Phelps appears in fewer than 30G, $3M if between 30 and 39, $5M if between 40 and 49, $7M if more than 50 and fewer than 40 games finished, $8M if more than 50 and more than 40 GF.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 11, 2019
Clarification: In addition to bonuses for games finished in 2019, Phelps will receive $250K each for 25, 30, and 35 games, $350K each for 40, 45, 50, 55 and 60. Three tiers of bonuses if option in ‘20 is exercised – for fewer than 40 games in ‘19, between 40 and 49, 50 or more. https://t.co/f2nwy3xxRV
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 11, 2019
Did you get all that?
Phelps was out last season because he ripped his ulnar collateral ligament in Spring Training for the Mariners, it’d be cool if he earned himself all of those bonuses.
That concludes this little Spring Training pitching guide for all you Jays fans who have zoned out all winter. I know that the weather sucks here in Canada, but the warm sun is shining in Dunedin and it’s only a few tomorrows away from making its way north. There are a shit ton of new faces and names that you need to get to know for this 2019 ‘rebuild’ to Vlad – hopefully, this helps. Cam will be posting a Players Guide once he finishes tweeting about the dumb Oilers.