Ken Lott of the National Post has an interesting article on Zach Stewart in today’s National Post.
A thank you to April Whitzman, a fellow Jays fan and blogger, for bringing Mr Lott’s article to my attention. April can be found at http://jaysprospects.com/ or on Twitter: @Alleycat17
Back to Mr. Stewart. Zach is turning some heads in camp and after two stand-out innings in the Jays’ intersquad game yesterday has put himself firmly in the picture for a starting rotation spot.
It’s not like Zach Stewart has come out of nowhere. He was the key player the Jays received as part of the Scott Rolen trade in 2009. He has a great arm but it wasn’t clear if he’d end up being a starter or a late-inning reliever/closer but after a great year in 2010 in New Hampshire as a starter a rotation spot appears to be in his future. Alex Anthopolous noted late last season that Zach Stewart matched-up favourably to Kyle Drabek so it’s clear the Blue Jays think Stewart is close to being ready for the big leagues.
Now it has been well documented that the Blue Jays have two open spots in their rotation after Romero, Cecil and Morrow. The fourth spot is apparently Kyle Drabek’s for the taking and many believe after three solid starts last September that Drabek is virtually a lock for this spot. Assuming this is true that leaves one rotation spot open for one of Zach Stewart, Jesse Litsch, Mark Rzepczynski or Jo-Jo Reyes.
My thinking is that a solid spring from Litsch would land him the job given his experience at the big league level. That being said, Reyes is out of options so he’s going to get an extra long look as a possible starter or for a spot in the bullpen. Rzepczynski looked great in 2009 and struggled a bit in 2010 but has also shown he can get big league hitters out so he’s also a possible fifth starter or fit in the bullpen in long relief. Odds are that Stewart starts the year in AAA Las Vegas unless he completely dominates this spring unless Drabek and Litsch really struggle and he significantly outperforms Rzepczynski and Reyes. Of course any trade or injury to any of these arms could open the door for Stewart as well.
What is clear however, is that in 2011 more that five pitchers will start for the Blue Jays over the course of the season. Injuries occur, pitchers struggle, the odd double-header happens where starts become available and then of course there are expanded rosters in September where a team out of the playoff race can give a pitcher 2-4 starts to see where they’re at. Barring injury, I think it’s virtually a lock that we’ll see Stewart on the mound for the Blue Jays in 2011.