|This is an Ace.
It's been speculated more than a few times and I'm not sure if it needs to be asked or answered but just for fun I'll ask.
Who is the Ace starting pitcher of the Blue Jays staff?
After a masterful performance in the final game of the WBC, zero hits in the first 6 innings, one has to wonder if the man of six pitches can emerge as the staff Ace. The man is driven, on that there is no doubt, but his earlier problems experienced last year seemed to melt away as he relied less on his sinker and used more of his slider. His slider induced more groundballs and was much more effective. He's another year removed from his ACL injury and provided over 200 innings in 2016. He just might be the Ace and is driven to prove it to everyone.
Everybody wants to know about Estrada's change up. Other pitchers have tried to copy the grip that Clint Everts taught him while in the minor leagues but nobody can duplicate the results. Pitching is hard. Estrada set a MLB record of eleven consecutive games of 6 innings pitched with fewer than 5 hits. Although his back has caused issues in the past, if he can stay on the field he'd have no problem putting up a 200 inning year. He won't blow the fast ball by you , his fastball usually sits in the high eighties,but his 10 mph separation with his change ups will fuck many batters up. Ask any manager if a pitcher can give him 6 innings with 5 hits or less consistently and he'll put him near or at the top of the rotation every time.
J.A. Happ? ( call me Jay)
20 wins. 3.18 ERA. 195 innings pitched. ESPN had rated him on their CY Young tracker in 4th place. Ahead of the likes of Verlander, Hamels, Sale, Sanchez and Price. Not to shabby. While the lack of strikeouts might not make him the sexy pick, you could easily make a case for him to be your number one starter.
In 2016, Sanchez had an American League leading 3.00 ERA. The best in the AL, I say again. The knock, earlier in his career, was his durability but after training with Stroma,n in the 2015/2016 off season, he put on some weight and muscle allowing him to throw 192 innings and avoid getting shut down. This year, Sanchez has taken advantage of the new high performance department of the Jays, arriving early in Dunedin, to maintain his strength for the upcoming season. Sanchez has been working on his change up because he knows the book is out on him and wants to mix up the look to the batter. Mid to high 90's fastball with a curve and a change up? For the AL ERA champ?Nasty. Definitely Ace material.
After posting a 5.46 ERA in Pittsburgh, the Jays picked up Liriano. Reunited with his former catcher, Russell Martin ( who was rumoured to be consulted before the acquisition) and after Walker identified some mechanical changes needed, Liriano found his former self and posted a very nice 2.92 ERA in 8 starts and 10 appearances. Why include him in the discussion for staff Ace? Well aside from his stellar Toronto debut in 2016, he's been drawing accolades from several sources. He's recovered for the head injury he received in the ALDS and Walker calls him "an assassin on the mound". According to Walker, if you polled the players on the team, Liriano has the best stuff. The best stuff? Better than Sanchez,Stroman, Happ and Estrada? High praise indeed. There was a report from Law? Rosenthal? Somebody?, that I heard a week ago that suggested Liriano, this spring, had the best stuff in the AL. I raised my eyebrows but I don't know, I'm not in Florida watching him. Ace of the staff? Time will tell.
Maybe there's no Ace.Maybe nobody stands above the others.It still should be one of the best starting pitching staffs the Jays have ever fielded.