As it stands now it appears the Blue Jays rotation is set up as follows:
1. Ricky Romero
3. Brett Cecil
4. Kyle Drabek
One could argue that Kyle Drabek's spot in the rotation isn't quite set in stone at this point, however let's move past that debate and focus on the potential 5th starter options for the Blue Jays. The leading options currently include; Marc Rzepczynski, Zach Stewart, Jesse Litsch, Robert Ray, Scott Richmond, Dustin McGowan or the potential acquisition of another pitcher through trade or free agency.
If we consider the 2011 Blue Jay season as another year of development, then we should use this 5th starter spot to see what we currently have in our system that could help us in the long run. If we think the Jays are serious competitors, then you'd probably want to look outside the organization to get another proven starter, and a few other players while your at it. Since the later isn't all that likely, which of the above pitchers would you want to see given a shot at the 5th starter.
I personally think we've seen enough of Scott Richmond to know that he's never going to be more than an emergency spot starter and until Dustin McGowan can prove he's healthy he can't be counted on so let's take them out of the mix, leaving us with the following:
Jessie Litsch - I remember telling anyone who would listen after his 13-9 2008 season that the Jays should sell high on this kid, there is no way he's ever going to match that kind of success again. Sure enough he hasn't pitched well since, but it was because of injury and now that he's healthy his name is getting bandied about once again. Still, he was pretty awful in both the minors and the majors last season before getting shut down once again and I think he needs to prove he can be effective in the minors before ever getting another shot in the majors. Even with success in the minors, the most I'd really want to see out of him is a middle relief role, something in the fashion of Dennis Lamp circa 1985, something Litsch could actually be quite good at. What ever happened to that type of role anyway?
Marc Rzepczynski - I gotta figure out a short form for this guy that doesn't sound gay. This guy doesn't have great stuff and has had some mixed results in his major league career including some control issues this year which seemed to improve as the season went on. He finished off the 2011 season with a stellar Arizona Fall League showing which the Bleacher Report sums up nicely. He has had a history of great numbers in the minors prior to this season in which he may have been hindered by an injury, and his K to inning ratio has always stood out. Maybe there is something here?
Zach Stewart - I keep reading how great his stuff is, but maybe he's a reliever, his 2010 season was disappointing, etc. Whatever he is, he doesn't appear to have figured it out just yet and throwing him into a major league rotation may be too much. Keep him in the minors for now.
Robert Ray - I'm underwhelmed with his results, and according to a scouting report he lacks stamina to be a starter and an out pitch. Let's call him the back up plan, ahead of Scott Richmond.
You hate to pencil in a rotation before spring training even starts, however unless the Jays go outside the organization to add a another pitcher, the only option for a fifth starter that I want to see is Mark Rzepczynski. Give him a long look this year and find out what you have in him, and if it's not much, this is the year to find out. My second in house choice might actually be Deck Mcguire as we keep hearing how major league ready this guy is, so why not, it worked for Mike Leake.