With high expectations and a long playoff drought, the Blue Jays have gotten off to the worst start imaginable – and we’re still three weeks from Opening Day.
The Toronto Blue Jays have not had the easiest Spring Training, as they have suffered two injuries to pieces the team were counting on. First they lost outfielder Michael Saunders, who hurt his knee in one of the first days of drills when he stepped on a sprinkler head. Originally it was thought that Saunders would be out until the All-Star break, but after surgery it looks like it will be a quicker return. He should return to the team by late April or early May. Unfortunately, that reprieve was short lived; the Blue Jays now have to overcome another injury as they will be without starting pitcher Marcus Stroman. Given the weighty expectations on the Blue Jays heading into 2015, this is hardly the start they’d hoped for.
Stroman tore his ACL and is expected to miss the entire season after undergoing surgery in the coming days. General Managers Alex Anthopoulos said the injury occurred during a bunting drill. Stroman was called off by third baseman Josh Donaldson and Stroman felt something in his knee pop when he stopped. The team will seek a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews, but the team is expecting surgery in the coming days.
Stroman was a rookie last year and was a little inconsistent at times. He had three great months, but two poor months that ultimately skewed his numbers. His first six appearances were as a reliever, where had an unimpressive-to-say-the-least 12.79 ERA. Once he was moved to the rotation, he pitched much better. If you take out the one bad month of August, Stroman had a 9-3 record with a 2.42 ERA as a starter. Now he would be playing with a better catcher in Russell Martin, and it would have been interesting to see what he could do with such an experienced catcher calling the game.
At the moment, the Blue Jays rotation is set to have RA Dickey as their Opening Day starter, with Mark Buehrle and youngsters Drew Hutchison and Daniel Norris. Stroman, Hutchison, and Norris are three young starters that Toronto is hoping will be staples in the rotation for years to come. Norris in particular is the highest rated prospect in the Blue Jays system. The 21-year-old southpaw is the third best lefty according to the MLB prospects. Norris was seen as the number five starter, where he can get probably the fewest amount of starts, but now he will have to step up a little more.
The Blue Jays will have a couple of options to fill in the rotation. The first real option would be Marco Estrada, who the Blue Jays acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers at the beginning of the offseason. Estrada pitched decently for the Brewers as a starter as he had an ERA of under 4.00 in 18 starts. Another option would be youngster Aaron Sanchez, who is another prospect who could fill in as a starter. Although many people think that Sanchez will be a reliever, this could be his chance to show what he can do. As a reliever last season, Sanchez had a 1.09 ERA in 33 innings over 24 appearances. Look for Sanchez to get some starts this spring in order to see how he does across multiple innings.
There are a couple of free agent options that they have brought in as well. The biggest name would be Johan Santana, who the Blue Jays signed to a Minor-League deal. The oft-injured pitcher is attempting one more comeback, and it would be nice if he can contribute in any way. There don’t appear to be any more pitchers on the market right now, but that could change at the end of Spring Training. Once the preseason ends, there is usually a series of cuts made. Keep an eye on a team like the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have close to five pitchers vying for one spot.
The season hasn’t started yet and the Blue Jays are already dealing with two big injuries. It will be important for the Blue Jays to get off to a good start, so they can’t use the injuries as an excuse. Hopefully for the Blue Jays, they can stay healthy, because it would be a shame for a team to be buried early on. While these injuries are troublesome, the big names are still healthy and as long as Bautista, Encarnacion, Martin, and Dickey are healthy Toronto should be in contention.