In the past, the Toronto Blue Jays and a slugging offense went hand in hand. But now, the team is without Edwin Encarnacion, who has signed with the Cleveland Indians and their identity is shifting a bit. Without Edwin and Michael Saunders, the club will be missing out on some serious power. On the flip side, their rotation is moving in the right direction.
There is no more RA Dickey. But that is actually more of a positive, as the aging knuckleballer’s departure will help open the door for more dynamic and younger arms to fill out the rotation. The team even has a 20 game winner on their staff! So needless to say, things are looking up on the pitching side of the coin above the border.
So let’s take a closer look at who will be making up the Toronto starting five.
- Aaron Sanchez, RHP – This kid is nasty good. In his first full season as a Big League starter, Sanchez started 30 games and posted a very impressive 3.00 ERA and 1.17 WHIP to go along with 161 strikeouts. He is a former top prospect who showed the team what is capable of doing in 2016. As he enters 2017, he will be 24 years old and we certainly have not seen his best yet. The only question is if he can adjust to his opponents adjusting to him as we move forward.
- J.A. Happ, LHP – Happ surprised the world by winning 20 games a year ago. It looks like that stint in Pittsburgh with pitching magician Ray Searage did wonders for the lefty. Now 34, 2016 is likely the best of Happ we will ever see. The question is how much of a decline will he see moving forward. He had a 3.18 ERA to go along with a 1.17 WHIP last season. I am not high on Happ moving forward, but anytime you have a 20 game winner on the team, you need to feel pretty good.
- Marco Estrada, RHP – Estrada is the guy in the rotation who is good, but not great, but also not awful. He is that boring guy who simply does what he does without being too flashy. While he only won nine games last year, his decimals were still solid. He had a 3.48 ERA to go along with a 1.12 WHIP and 165 strikeouts. He is now 33, so a slight decline would not come as a huge shocker. But overall, he should still provide the same type of results. All while being the guy no one knows unless they are a fan of the Jays.
- Marcus Stroman, RHP – Not many teams will have a number four with the upside of Stroman. A former big time prospect, Stroman burst onto the scene back in 2014 as a 23-year-old rookie. Then he would miss the majority of the 2015 season because of injury before putting up ok numbers in 2016. But the skills are still there for sure and I see Stroman working his way up to the number two spot in this rotation by season’s end. He will get back to his old ways as he leapfrogs both Happ and Estrada.
- Francisco Liriano, LHP – Just like Stroman, Liriano has plenty of talent to be this far down in the rotation. After being acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates later in the year in 2016, Liriano had things going his way in Toronto. He has some filthy pitches and has the chance to be a great strikeout pitcher. The former Minnesota Twins’ ace is now 33, but that does not mean he cannot be effective. If he lives up to his potential, he should have no issues outpitching the number five position.
How do you see the Toronto Blue Jays starting rotation shaking out for the upcoming 2017 MLB season? Tell us in the comments!