The Jays have been fairly lucky up to this point in the season. Only 6 guys have made a start for the Jays this season, and Hutchison only made a spot start early on. This means that the Jays' top 5 starters have started all but one game this season. All 5 starters have pitched 100+ innings so far this season. No other team even has 4 guys. So the Jays are something of an oddity right now.
But, we can expect that to change soon. With Sanchez eventually on his way out of the rotation, we knew the Jays would need another starter. But, now that Estrada is battling the back problem again, we can safely assume that we will need to be in search of another guy who can start games.
Drew Hutchison is the team's 6th starter. Hutchison made a spot start early in the season, but has spent most of the year in Buffalo, where he has been great. Hutch is currently 6-3 with a 2.78 ERA. He's number 2 in the international league for strikeouts. Hutchison was called up on Saturday, following the marathon the night before, to provide some extra bullpen help. But, with Estrada's back problem, Hutchison will probably find himself in the rotation as early as Thursday.
But, now the question becomes: Who's after Hutchison?
The Jays used twelve starters last season, so we can safely assume that even if Estrada is back soon, we are going to need to find a few more starts in the second half. The problem is, there isn't a clear 7th starter. Here's a look at the Jays' options:
Gibbons has alluded to Chavez being a potential candidate for the next starter. Chavez made 26 starts in 2015 for Oakland where his performance was solid, but uninspiring. Chavez was brought in to provide depth for the rotation, so he appears to be the obvious choice to being the Jays' 7th starter. The problem with Chavez is that he has spent the season in the bullpen. If the Jays are in need of a new member of the rotation then they might be able to handle some of the shorter starts early on, but if the Jays are looking for a spot start, then Chavez probably isn't the guy.
Biagini is the other member of the Jays' bullpen to have his name come up. Biagini was a Rule V draft pick for the Jays this off season, and as a result, needs to stay on the roster all season. Jays took him with the obvious plan of him factoring into their starting rotation in the future. So the argument could be made that we should give him a shot now. There's a lot to like about Biagini as he pitched well in 2015, and has handled himself well up to this point as a member of the bullpen. Unfortunately, Biagini is probably not gonna get a start as the same case against Chavez can be made against Biagini. This is in addition to the fact that Biagini has struggled lately.
While this is a fairly unexciting name, Diamond has to be in the conversation. Diamond hasn't had much success in the majors up to this point in his career, but this season Diamond has been a consistent member of the Jays' AAA rotation. The lefty has racked up 100 innings while posting a 3.33 ERA. Diamond has been able to avoid walks and HRs this season which are both positive traits if you're pitching in the AL East. Diamond isn't a very exciting name, but if you're looking for a spot start, he could be the guy.
Leroux is the other Bisons' pitcher who deserves mentioning. Leroux has been in and out of the majors since 2009. While he's never made a start in the majors, he's pitched well for the Bisons' in this role. Leroux has posted a 3.29 ERA while posting strong walk and HR rates. Leroux would seem to be behind Diamond in the pecking order. But depending on the days in the rotation they need a starter, Leroux could find himself in a position to make a spot start.
The Long Shots:
While these guys are most likely not being considered, the Jays have pulled guys up from New Hampshire before. So I felt they were worth including with the disclaimer that they're unlikely options.
JG represents the Jays' number 38 prospect. Gab started the season strong, but since hasn't been as sharp. Gab is another guy who avoids walks, and limits homeruns. His long term potential isn't the same as some of the other names on the Jays' prospect list, but his ability to throw strikes, and avoid hard contact. Makes him a guy worth mentioning.
Santos has been the Fisher Cats best pitcher since moving into the rotation. Santos is 5-1 with an ERA of 3.12. His peripherals are strong as he's striking out 8.11 batters per nine inning while walking only 2.41 per nine. Santos' ability to miss bats is very appealing, as is his ability to throw strikes.
This will continue to be a question for the Jays throughout the season. While the Jays would like to avoid the need for another starter, that seems unlikely. So, this is a question that will need to be answered at some point. Who's your choice?