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Looking at the internal depth of starting pitching, and why the Blue Jays may need to make a trade

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Brennan Delaney
7 months ago
The Jays may need to look for a starter before the trade deadline.
The starting depth on the Blue Jays has been tested due to Hyun-Jin Ryu’ second stint on the Injury List. Not just that, but Yusei Kikuchi has put up less than desirable results, despite showing flashes of brilliance this season.
If there is another injury in the starting rotation, it’s possible that the Jays’ season could head in the wrong direction.
This will be a two part series, with the first article focusing on the internal options the Jays could look at. The second article will focus on a specific team the Jays could trade with.
There are a few starting pitchers with the Buffalo Bisons that could be called up in the case of an emergency.

Bowden Francis:

Acquired along with Trevor Richards for Rowdy Tellez, Francis is a 26-year-old righty on the 40-man roster. This season, he has posted an 8.25 ERA and 8.10 FIP in 36 innings pitched with the Bisons. He has struggled with control, as he has a 5.85 BB/9 and 8.75 K/9.
However, he had a successful 2021 with the Triple A team, posting a 4.19 ERA and 5.65 FIP in 73 innings pitched.  Francis’ BB/9 last season was significantly lower at 3.82.
Prior to the trade in 2021, he  pitched for Milwaukee’s Triple A team, where he posted a 3.49 ERA and 3.78 FIP in 38.2 innings pitched, so the track record is there. Has Francis just been unlucky this season?
Francis pitched 0.2 innings with the Jays earlier, and prior to the call up, he had a 4.11 ERA and 6.46 FIP in 15.1 innings pitched. Furthermore, his BB/9 sat at 2.93, while his K/9 registered at 9.98.
After being sent back down, he has posted an 11.32 ERA and a 9.31 FIP in 20.2 innings pitched. While correlation doesn’t equal causation, this is a noticeable difference in nearly the same amount of innings pitched.
When you look at his track record before 2022, you’ll notice he never had an ERA over 5. Between 2019 and the trade, he never registered an ERA over 4 in Milwaukee’s organization.
While he wouldn’t be my first choice to call up, Francis is an option when you look past his rough 2022.

Thomas Hatch:

My belief is Thomas Hatch belongs in the pen. Regardless, he has appeared in nine games with the Bisons and has started all of them.
He’s pitched 45.1 innings and has an ERA of 5.76, but his FIP is a more respectable 4.23. Hatch has also shown an improvement to his control, as his BB/9 sits at 2.98. 
Last season for Buffalo, Hatch pitched 64.2 innings and posted an ERA of 4.04 with a FIP of 4.41. His K/9 sat at 9.74 while his BB/9 was a lower 2.64.
Hatch showed flashes of brilliance with the Jays in the COVID shortened season, posting a 2.73 ERA in relief. While the 27-year-old isn’t considered a prospect anymore, TSN’s Scott Mitchell reports that Hatch could be someone the Jays could look to bring up to fill Ross Stripling’s role.

Casey Lawrence:

The 34-year-old isn’t the first person you think of when discussing call ups, but the righty has some things going for him.
Like all the other pitchers listed so far, Lawrence is on the 40-man roster, meaning no one would have to be DFA’ed or traded to be called up.
Unlike Hatch and Francis, Lawrence has also put up results with the Buffalo Bisons. In 54 innings pitched, he has a 2.00 ERA and 3.59 FIP. While his K/9 isn’t incredibly high at 7.33, Lawrence has done a great job of not issuing free passes, as his BB/9 sits at 1.67.
He’s also a ground ball pitcher, as his ground ball percentage for the season sits at 47.5%, meaning the much improved Blue Jays defense could be put to use behind Lawrence.
He isn’t glamorous, but I reckon he’d be called up before any of the other pitchers on this list.

Nate Pearson:

Personally, I still believe the 25-year-old will end up being a high leverage reliever for his career. He’s still worth mentioning here, as he’s on a rehab assignment with the Buffalo Bisons.
In 4 innings pitched, with both games out of the bullpen, he has posted a 2.25 ERA and 5.71 FIP, but his xFIP sits at a much more respectable 3.73. He’s been striking out batters, as his K/9 sits at 11.25. However, his FIP is so high due to the fact his BB/9 is at a rather high 4.50.
Without a doubt in my mind, Pearson will get the recall at some point this season, but as he’s on the 60-day IL, someone would either need to be DFA’ed or waived to make room for Nate.
Prior to hitting the IL due to Mono, Ross Atkins made it clear that Nate would pitch in a bulk role, meaning that he’d eat multiple innings. I just don’t know if it’ll be as a starter.

Max Castillo:

Lastly, we have a pitcher who has been around forever it seems like. The 23-year-old Max Castillo has made waves this season, starting with a brief tenure with the Double A New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
With the Double A team, he posted an ERA of 3.10 and FIP of 3.88 in 29 innings pitched. Moreover, his K/9 sat at an impressive 10.86, while his BB/9 sat at 4.34. He got the call up in May and has been lights out with the Buffalo Bisons.
In 23.1 innings pitched, he has posted a 0.77 ERA and 3.59 FIP. Furthermore, his BB/9 has decreased to 3.47 while his K/9 has dropped slightly to 9.64.
More impressively however, is when Castillo dueled with former World Series MVP, Stephen Strasburg in a fantastic pitchers duel in his second to last start.
In fact, on Wednesday evening, his last start, Castillo pitched to a line of 5.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 7 K. Below are a few of his strikeouts from yesterday evening.

What to make of the internal options:

Someone I spoke to said it best: “I don’t want any of these guys starting in a September game.”
It’s my belief that Francis, Hatch, Lawrence and Pearson are all projected to be relievers of some sort. While they could all be long relievers, I don’t know if they can be starters full time on a team with World Series aspirations.
That just leaves Max Castillo. The 23-year-old is certainly pushing the issue this season, but I believe his estimated time of arrival will be in the 2023 season. He, along with Pearson, have the highest ceiling out of any of the pitchers I listed.
I just don’t see them being “the guy” that the Jays rely on if another pitcher goes down. We’ll look at a team who has multiple starters who I believe the Jays should make a deal with.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D. I mentioned who I believe would be a great trading partner to obtain a starter on that platform, so you should certainly give me a follow.

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