MLB: Spring Training-Baltimore Orioles at Toronto Blue Jays

Aaron Sanchez Named to the Rotation; Hutch to AAA

The biggest question this Blue Jays offseason has finally been answered: Aaron Sanchez will begin the 2016 season in the starting rotation, with Gavin Floyd in the bullpen.

Both Sanchez and Floyd have been superb this spring. In twenty innings pitched, Sanchez has a 1.35 ERA and a WHIP of 0.90 with 19 strike outs and just three walks, holding opponents to a .211 batting average. Floyd, meanwhile has posted a 2.19 ERA and 0.97 WHIP with eleven strike outs and three walks over 12.1 innings. Both have earned a spot in the rotation based on spring training alone, thus complicating the decision that already hinged on several issues. Sanchez began the spring with the clear intent on making the rotation, having worked through a rigorous training program during the offseason in order to gain twenty pounds of muscle in an effort to smooth out his delivery.

This has translated into better mechanics, which help his secondary pitches. and a significantly lower walk rate than he had as a starter last season – both of which were concerns left over from last season that may have kept him out of the rotation. However, Sanchez has never pitched more than 133 innings in a season and thus would need to have an innings limit as a starter. This was obviously a huge drawback for a team that looks poised to play well into October.

The other side to the argument was that Sanchez is one of the Jays’ top pitching prospects who is under team control for several more years and that testing him as a starter is not only best for his development, but also in the Jays’ best interests long term. Floyd, who has been riddled with injuries over the last three years, won’t be with the team past the 2016 campaign. It is imperative that the Jays develop Sanchez and give him every opportunity to live up to his potential as a starter, especially since the team has already acknowledged that another year in the bullpen could mean that Sanchez would remain a reliever for his entire career.

Manager John Gibbons did note, however, that Sanchez will be moved into the bullpen at some point this season to manage his workload, which only makes sense.

Hopefully the Jays avoid a Stephen Strasburg situation from a few years ago and stay on top of this all year. It will be a story regardless, but it doesn’t need to be that big a story.

Floyd will be starting the year in middle relief, working to help bridge the gap to Brett Cecil, Roberto Osuna, and Drew Storen. While it must be disappointing to the “loser” of the battle, Floyd showed last September that he can thrive in the bullpen. His fastball and slider played up in velocity, with the latter touching 90 mph, and he still had his excellent curveball. Floyd should be a nice weapon for Gibbons if he can stay healthy.

It was also reported this morning that Drew Hutchison, who had also been in the mix for the fifth spot in the rotation, has been optioned to Triple-A Buffalo.

Given his inconsistencies the past two seasons as a starter, Hutchison was a longshot to break camp as a member of the rotation. Still, it must be tough for a man who was last year’s opening day starter to be sent to the minors. He will likely be the first man called up in event of a short term injury, as he will be the only depth starter who is fully stretched out.

In the end, the Blue Jays made two good calls today, and that’s what counts.

Lead Photo: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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