June 17, 2012 posted by Chuck Anderson

Position Battles: Toronto Rotation

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Brandon Morrow, SP, Toronto Blue Jays

Injuries to Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek, and Drew Hutchison are forcing a reshuffling of Toronto’s pitching staff.  Two rotation spots need to be filled immediately.  They have an off day Thursday June 21 so four starters can pitch on normal rest through this week.  The next break comes around the All Star Game so another body is needed.  Morrow is out for a month or more and Drabek is facing his second major elbow operation.  Hutchison looks like he will avoid surgery, but the Blue Jays will exercise caution with the young pitcher.  He threw 150 minor league innings last year.  When faced with multiple injuries the organization will consider a long list of players.


Brett Cecil had a breakout prospect year in 2008 and pitched much of the next season in Toronto.  He experienced typical rookie struggles, but never took the next step forward.  His fastball lost some zip last year as his numbers remained below league average.  In 2012 he started nine games in Double-A.  He totaled a 3.34 FIP and 2.43 K/BB.  The organization is optimistic but the stats do not point to a breakthrough.  His Pitch/FX readings from Sunday should prove interesting.  If his old velocity is back he is worth watching.


Jesse Chavez takes to the mound Tuesday night.  He started only one game from 2006 through 2011 but was stretched out in Triple-A Las Vegas this year.  He has a 3.47 FIP and 4.33 K/BB, strong numbers in a good hitter’s environment.  Chavez started throwing a curveball in 2010, and that pitch gives him a varied enough arsenal to deal with betters multiple times through an order.  Reports state his fastball holds at 92-93 mph while starting.


The third open spot could go to current reliever Carlos Villanueva.  He took over for Hutchison and pitched four scoreless innings on Friday.  He mixed starting with relieving every year in the majors so it is not much to ask him to stretch out again.  He needs to tighten up his control though.  His BB/9 is north of 5.00 and his rate of pitches in the strike zone (zone%) is down substantially.  His FIP and tERA are over 5.00, showing that his 3.48 ERA is unlikely to hold up.


Aaron Laffey and Robert Coello are on the big league roster to get some healthy arms in the mix.  Laffey has a 4.45 career K/9.  His rate in Triple-A is not much better at 5.37.  He would get worked over in the AL East.  Coello started three of his last four games before being recalled.  In those starts he threw fifteen innings allowing two runs, seven walks, and striking out sixteen.  In six minor league seasons his K/9 is 9.9.  He has a better chance to provide some useful innings.


Toronto also has two seasoned pitchers still in the Las Vegas rotation.  Consider them extremely long shots.  Scott Richmond and Drew Carpenter are each in their fifth Triple-A campaign.  Carpenter has the better statistics, compiling a 3.47 ERA with a 2.74 K/BB.  In his brief major league action he allowed five home runs in just 24 innings.  Richmond has a 5.88 ERA overall in Triple-A, so it will take another run of injuries to get him to the show.


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