I think that’s a fairly accurate headline after watching Twitter for the past half an hour. The latest news out of the Blue Jays camp that is overshadowing the spring training game against the Twins is that Marcus Stroman, who injured his ACL during pitchers’ fielding practice (PFP), will be out for the 2015 season.
Marcus Stroman as suffered a torn left ACL and will be out for the 2015 season.
— Blue Jays (@BlueJays) March 10, 2015
Apparently, the Blue Jays were so distraught over this news that they forgot the “h” in “has.” I’ll completely admit that this is the biggest injury the Blue Jays have had in a long time. This is even bigger than “Pitchergate” in 2012 when the Jays lost three pitchers to major injuries in four days (Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek needed Tommy John surgery and Brandon Morrow had an oblique injury, I think).
At the time, in 2012, neither Hutchison nor Drabek had as much of the team’s fortunes placed on their shoulders. Stroman has been hyped all offseason as a potential ace and was poised to do some pretty incredible things in the major leagues this year. While Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey and Hutchsion are all expected to do a very solid job, Stroman had flirted with greatness and could very well be an ace in the making. Unfortunately, we’re all going to have to wait another year before we can see him make good on that potential.
Because the Jays are losing a potential 3-4 WAR player in Stroman, it’s going to be much harder to replace him. Of the pitchers that the Blue Jays have in major league camp, there are only three that I can think who have even the potential to achieve that level of contribution. The first is Aaron Sanchez. I think that the injury makes Sanchez a lock to get one of the two open starting rotation spots.
Bullpen be damned. It’s much easier to cobble together a bullpen in the major leagues than it is to find a 3-4 WAR starter. Sanchez could very well be that guy. He may not be yet (or ever) but this is the perfect opportunity to let him take the ball every six days and show us what he can do.
While Marco Estrada is also in the running for a spot in the rotation, I think that he’s going to be needed more in the bullpen now, especially if Sanchez goes to the rotation. So who gets the second spot in the rotation? If you’re looking for upside and the potential for even a 2 WAR season, I think that Daniel Norris is going to be pitching in the rotation. I was originally thinking that Norris would spend a couple of months in Buffalo just for that extra little bit of experience (and to keep his service time down enough to avoid that extra year of arbitration) but Stroman’s injury probably ends that line of thinking.
That third person I mentioned earlier is none other than Johan Santana. Remember, I said that there were three pitchers who had the potential to reach the same level as Stroman. Santana has been there, and done way more with two Cy Youngs under his belt. Will he? Of course not, but the potential exists that he could find some magic when (if) he returns to action.
Sorry Bisons, your Opening Day starter is probably Liam Hendriks (if he clears waivers) or Jeff Francis or Andrew Albers. Actually, this injury probably opens the door for Liam Hendriks to feature in the bullpen for the Blue Jays in 2015. Given that he’s out of options and could be featured as a multi-inning reliever to mop up games in which the young starters (i.e., Sanchez and Norris) rack up high pitch counts early, Hendriks could very well break camp with the big league team to do just that. Ricky Romero will probably get a little more consideration but I think he’s going to need to show that he won’t walk every other batter he faces first.
Miguel Castro has also been mentioned as a bullpen piece. I think he’s looked good but I don’t quite think he’s ready for a major league job just yet. Let him get through half a season at the High-A level before anointing him the answer in the bullpen.
The Stroman injury is probably the worst thing that could have happened to the Blue Jays this spring. Even worse than the Michael Saunders injury. The drop off between Michael Saunders and Kevin Pillar or Dalton Pompey is far less than what the difference is between Marcus Stroman and any of the fringe starting pitching candidates that the Jays have. In my mind, the only way to make up the difference between a guy who could be a stud in 2015 and whoever comes in to replace him is to go with the high-upside guys and hope that they figure it out on the big stage. My rotation for the 2015 Blue Jays is Dickey, Buehrle, Hutchison, Sanchez and Norris. Go get ’em, kids.
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