Observations From Week Two of Blue Jays Spring Training: Sanchez, Floyd & Pillar

Has it really been two weeks of Spring Training games already? The games themselves are pretty meaningless, but it’s a necessary evil ahead of every MLB season.

At times, Spring Training merely feels like an exercise to simply stretch out starting pitchers. Which is why very shortly after Grapefruit League action gets underway, I think most are already ready to get on with the regular season.

At least folks can take solace in the fact that there are “only” three more weeks of Spring Training action, and thus three more weeks of constructing hypothetical lineups, rotations and bullpens. At any rate, here are some stray thoughts from week two of Blue Jays Spring Training.
 


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The Aaron Sanchez Debate Continues

Through three appearances in Spring Training games, Aaron Sanchez is well on his way to capturing that coveted final spot in the starting rotation. There’s only one thing standing in his way: Gavin Floyd.

More on Gavin Floyd below, but at this point in Spring Training camp, I’m convinced Aaron Sanchez should be in the Blue Jays starting rotation over any other fifth starter candidates.

Mike Wilner is leading the charge for the “Sanchez to the Bullpen” campaign, but unless Sanchez gives the Blue Jays a reason not to put him in the rotation, I think that’s where Aaron Sanchez will be come Opening Day.

Not that too much stock should be put in Spring Training results, but Sanchez has looked sharp on the mound through three appearances so far. The most promising thing about Sanchez so far has been his ability to limit walks, as he’s only issued one free pass so far.

Last year, Aaron Sanchez gave up 10 walks through 6 starts in Spring Training. Walks are something that’s plagued Sanchez virtually his entire career. If he can pull back in the free passes, that will go a long way to Sanchez’ duration as a starter.

The Blue Jays are trying to do two things at once here; they want to be competitive in 2016 and in addition, they want Aaron Sanchez to become a mainstay in the starting rotation moving forward.  This is a delicate balance, and favouring one priority may not help the other.

But the Blue Jays at least need to try Sanchez in the starting rotation, otherwise they may as well write off another year of his development as a starting pitcher.
 

Gavin Floyd is on Track to Make the Team

Outside of Aaron Sanchez, the second most attention might be paid in the direction of Gavin Floyd. This could very well be one of the more under-the-radar signings by the Blue Jays, as he’s well on track to crack the Opening Day roster.

But will that be as a starter or reliever? Floyd has matched Sanchez virtually statistic for statistic so far through Spring Training, and some believe Floyd should supplant Sanchez as the favourite for the fifth starter spot.


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Me? I’m not quite convinced just yet. If  Gavin Floyd were head-and-shoulders better than Aaron Sanchez in Spring Training, then it’s an easy decision; but these two guys continue to match each other outing-for-outing, I’d give the slight nod to Sanchez.

Keep in mind that Gavin Floyd pitched all of 13.1 innings last year and 54.1 the year prior, so durability is absolutely a huge question for him. I really don’t know if he could hold up to the rigors of an entire Major League season; something Gavin Floyd hasn’t done since 2012.

The very same concern lies with Aaron Sanchez, but at least the Blue Jays could rely on him to throw innings in relief. Aaron Sanchez’ ceiling is 30 starts this season in the starting rotation, but the same cannot be said for Gavin Floyd.

Realistically, the Blue Jays should hope for Gavin Floyd to become their own reclamation project version of Ryan Madson and what he did for the Kansas City Royals last year. Floyd could be tasked with the sixth or seventh inning in mid-leverage situations, and his increase in velocity plays better out of the bullpen anyway.

Not that these roles are set in stone the entire season, but I wonder if the Blue Jays will at least initially start the season with Sanchez in the rotation and Floyd in the bullpen. Then if needs change, those roles can be swapped out later in the year.

The thing is, if Aaron Sanchez starts the year in the bullpen, there’s no going back to the starting rotation. That may very well be the most impactful role for Sanchez, but the Blue Jays won’t find out for sure unless they attempt to foster his development as a starter.
 


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Kevin Pillar Will Probably Bat Leadoff

Whether you like it or not, it looks like Kevin Pillar will probably begin the season batting leadoff for the Blue Jays. He’s already hit leadoff in eight Spring Training games thus far and has actually held his own in that position.

Pillar isn’t the orthodox choice to bat leadoff for the Blue Jays, but then again, the Blue Jays aren’t exactly the prototypical MLB lineup. John Gibbons could plug virtually anybody into that role and the team would still score a cavalcade of runs on any given night.

My estimation is that Kevin Pillar is merely keeping the leadoff spot warm until Devon Travis’ return, which may not be until early June.

In the meantime, I suppose Pillar is an alright choice to bat first for the Blue Jays. The same applies to Kevin Pillar as Aaron Sanchez; until they give the Jays a reason to make a move, keep them in their respective roles for the time being.

Over at Canadian Baseball Network, I toyed with the idea of moving everybody up in the lineup and having Josh Donaldson bat leadoff, but I don’t know if Gibby is willing to upset the apple cart that much.

Image via Getty Images Sport/Justin K. Aller

Ian Hunter

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.

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