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Who Will Take Matt Shoemaker’s Spot in the Jays Rotation?

Jays fans received devastating news on Sunday when it was revealed that SP Matt Shoemaker, who had been placed on the 10-day IL following an injury sustained during a rundown on Saturday versus the Oakland Athletics, had been diagnosed with a season-ending ACL tear. Shoemaker had gotten off to an outstanding start for the Jays, going 3-0 in 5 games, with a 1.57 ERA in 28.2 IP.

SP Aaron Sanchez also left Sunday’s game early due to a broken fingernail, but is expected to make his next start. The Jays went on to sweep the series against the A’s in a 5-4 victory, but are left with a hole in their starting rotation thanks to Shoemaker’s injury. This leaves the Jays and manager Charlie Montoyo with the question of who will take his spot, and they have several options.

Joe Biagini

Biagini is a right-hander who started 4 games for the Jays in 2018, out of 50 total appearances. He had a record of 4-7 with a 6.00 ERA in 72.0 IP, above his FIP of 5.47. While he had a decent SO9 rate of 6.6, his SO/W rate was just 2.21 and he had a WHIP of 1.667 thanks to an alarming H9 of 12.0. In 2019, Biagini has made 11 relief appearances, posting an ERA of 2.70, well below his FIP of 4.20, in 10.0 IP with one save recorded when closer Ken Giles was unavailable due to illness.

Sam Gaviglio

Gaviglio, a right-hander, started 24 times for the Jays last year. He went 3-10 with a 5.31 ERA in a total of 26 appearances. While he had good command with a BB9 of 2.8, his WHIP was 1.439 and his SO/W rate was 2.76. In 2019, he has appeared in 7 games out of the pen with an ERA of 1.20, on a FIP of 2.43, in 15.0 IP and has already accrued 0.4 bWAR. While it is a very small sample size, his SO/W rate has climbed to 8.00 and his BB9 has been cut by more than one-half, to 1.2.

Thomas Pannone

Pannone made his debut for the Jays in 2018, appearing in 12 games with 6 starts for a record of 4-1 with an ERA of 4.19 on a FIP of 5.11 in 43.0 IP. Pannone had a BB9 of 3.1 with a SO9 of 6.1 and WHIP of 1.209, but posted a SO/W rate of only 1.93 despite having a breaking ball repertoire that should induce whiffs. He has had much more success in 2019, with one spot start in a total of 8 appearances. Pannone’s 2019 record is 1-2 with an ERA of 3.55, well above his 1.36 FIP, with a BB9 rate of only 2.1. He has nearly doubled his SO9 to 12.1 and increased his SO/W rate to 5.67. The young southpaw also posted the third immaculate inning in Jays history last weekend.

My Choice

I believe in Pannone’s stuff, but I think he has found a niche as a lefty relief specialist and the Jays are better off leaving him in the pen since he has been able to rack up strikeouts. Gaviglio has arguably pitched better, accruing a 0.4 bWAR to Pannone’s 0.2 bWAR thus far in 2019, so I think he would be the right choice to take on the starting role.

In any event, any of these players would need to get stretched out before being able to handle a full 100+ pitches of work expected from a starter, so the rest of the relief corps will likely have to take on some additional innings.

As of April 21, Toronto was ranked 3rd in team ERA in the American League, and 7th in MLB. Hopefully whoever takes Shoemaker’s place in the rotation will be able to continue where he left off.

The Jays will next face the San Francisco Giants at Rogers Centre for a two-game set starting on Tuesday at 7:07 PM ET. Rookie Trent Thornton (0-2, 5.40 ERA) will face veteran Jeff Samardzija (1-1, 2.91 ERA). Support the site by buying your tickets from SeatGeek!