Checking in on Toronto Blue Jays minor league stars

Toronto Blue Jays minor league
Marcus Stroman may be making the jump to the bigs sooner than expected.

Toronto Blue Jays pitching has inspired sighs and groans in years past and, with almost a month in the books for their 2014 comeback season, talk has turned to a six-man rotation for May, June and quite possibly July. The reason: fatigue in the starting arms – most notably in surprise last-minute selection Dustin McGowan. Toronto’s starters are struggling to stay on the mound longer than six innings (or, on too many occasions, five) and the bullpen, which has been a gamble so far this season, already is overworked and yielding runs that even the team’s hot bats can’t keep up with.

With this in mind, I thought fans could use some positive news regarding the Toronto Blue Jays minor league arms. So, let’s head down to the farm and review the top prospects’ progress in April to lift our spirits.

Marcus Stroman

On Friday, when names were being thrown around to hopefully gain insight via reaction from skipper John Gibbons, he acknowledged that the much talked-about righty is a possibility for the sixth spot. Stroman has four impressive appearances under his belt in triple-A since coming out of spring training, posting a 2.18 ERA in 20.2 innings pitched.

The 22-year-old’s name came up when the club was looking to fill vacant spots in the starting rotation back in February, but he was ultimately sent to Buffalo to work out a few more kinks. Now, though, Blue Jays assistant GM Tony LaCava, who oversees the farm system, believes Stroman has all the pitches he needs to find success in the big leagues and projects that his time is coming soon.

Aaron Sanchez

Where do you even start when it comes to the 21-year-old?

In five appearances with double-A New Hampshire, he is on track to prove every prediction about him to be true after turning heads in the Arizona Fall League last year. The right-hander has a 2.66 ERA in 23.2 innings and has heated-up discussions that he should make his big league debut as early as midseason, as opposed to September.

Sanchez has been refining all of his pitches and command since his extended spring training stint, where he made a statement to the media, fans and the opposing team with a solid outing in Montreal during an exhibition game against the Mets.

Sean Nolin

Nolin’s hip and groin injuries, which hindered his preseason prep in 2013, and forgettable major-league debut now seem far behind him. During his three starts in triple-A, his velocity has noticeably been up, and in April, he holds a strong 2.70 ERA in 16.2 innings.

Nolin only has two options left, so odds are that, regardless of his success in Buffalo, it would make the most sense to leave the lefty in the minors until rosters are expanded at the end of the season.

Daniel Norris

Norris has been named one of the top performers in the minor league system already this year. The 21-year-old left-hander is clearly having his breakout season, and as long as he remains consistent with his control, which he has struggled with in the past, there is no doubt he will make the move to New Hampshire sooner rather than later.

So far, as a class-A Dunedin Blue Jay, he has a 0.95 ERA in 19 innings in four games.

Norris has the potential to end up in Toronto in late 2015 if he continues to have a noteworthy 2014 season. He is expected to be the guy people start talking about by the end of this year.

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