As the minor league seasons hit their homes stretch, and the major league season enters it's final third, a team with a lot of young pitching such as the Blue Jays begins to get a clearer picture of whether and to what extent to limit the innings of the younger pitchers.
The generally accepted rule of thumb is for pitchers under 25, you don't want to go more than 30 innings past their previous career high (as documented by SI's Tom Verducci) although there are exceptions sometimes made for big-bodied pitchers and some teams have a modified policy (I seem to recall that when ask about Purcey one Jays minor league exec spoke of "20%" in a Batter's Box interview, but I can't find it now).
In any case, applying Verducci's +30 Rule throughout the Jays' system produces some interesting results - and speculation from me about who the results imply. Rather than just say "they're ok" it's simpler to list off each rotation in term (ignoring filler like Broadway of course) and apply the formula.
Please note that in projecting the IP total for the rotations, I assume 1 start for every five remaining games, even if I expect there to be a modification to the rotation.
This first section pertains to how the major league rotation plays out.
Shaun Marcum - 131 IP, projects to 193 / He's not under 25, rule doesn't apply.
Ricky Romero - 147 / 220 / Previous high is 178, should be fine, especially given the Jays apparent plan to go to a six man rotation in September.
Brandon Morrow - 118.1 / 180 / 124.2 / Morrow is 25 so it's uncertain how strictly the Jays will apply the rule but the strictest interpretation would cap him at about 155-160 IP which would mean he has about 7 starts before he's shut down. In a five man rotation that would take him through September 10, and leave 4 turns through the rotation.
Brett Cecil - 123.1 / 191 / 142.1 / Cecil's cap should be around 175, that leaves him about 8 starts. That takes him through somewhere around September 13, and leaves about 3 turns (again, these can vary depending on when the six man rotation is implemented, if in fact it is).
Jesse Litsch - 83.2 / 140 / 196 / Litsch is 25, won't get close, and if fact is "fully built up" - unless the injury has something to do with it he's good.
Marc Rzepczynski - 78.1 / 33 more in Vegas / 149.1 / that will have him at 111-112 or so when the AAA season is done. he will surely be among the September recalls which, given that he could go as high as 180, makes him an obvious candidate to either become the sixth starter, or step into Morrow's turn, or some combination of the two. in fact, with that many innings left in play, the Jays could do worse than to send him to the AFL if he's not disqualified and let him go ahead and push that endurance level up as much as possible so that this isn't even an issue in 2011.
Brad Mills - 103.1 / 40 more in Vegas / 147.1 / So Mills can go as high as 175-180 and should. that's about 5-6 starts he'd be good for in September.
Shawn Hill, Scott Richmond - Neither is under 25, both are recovering from injury (Hill's more major than Richmond's) Both men's potential to pitch in Toronto this September are complicated by the fact that both New Hampshire and Dunedin are playoff bound, and both stand to lose the services of important starters because of IP limits.
Hill has six frankly dominant minor league starts as he rehabs, and is now on the NH roster where, if he stayed through the course of the regular season, he'd have about six more turns. The AA playoffs go all the way through September 18 though, if the F-Cats stay alive, Hill would be one alternative to their lack of options, as would Richmond.
Richmond is on the Dunedin roster at present, though it's an easy speculation that he'll be bumped up after the D-Jays get through their two double headers in the next four days. Like Hill, his name would come up five or six more times in the balance of the regular season. One assumes that with Vegas not in contention, there's no reason why either would pitch in AAA in August.
JoJo Reyes - Currently on the DL in AA, I have no idea why but he's been out since July 21 and while he's a long shot to be back and back up to speed by the middle of September when the shuffling starts in earnest, one should assume he's no factor.
So, before I press on to speculation about the minors, here's a quick and dirty look at the potential projected rotation for the rest of the season in Toronto:
8/6-8 vs. TB = Cecil / Litsch / Morrow
8/10-12 vs. Boston = Romero / Marcum / Cecil
8/13-15 @ LA = Litsch / Morrow / Romero
8/16-18 @ Oakland = Marcum / Cecil / Litsch
8/20-22 @ Boston = Morrow / Romero / Marcum
8/23-25 vs. NYY = Cecil / Litsch / Morrow
8/26-29 vs. Detroit = Romero/ Marcum / Cecil / Litsch
8/30-9/1 @ TB = Morrow / Romero / Marcum
9/3-5 @ NYY = Cecil / Litsch / Zep
9/6-9 vs. Texas = Morrow / Romero / Marcum / Cecil
9 /10-12 vs. TB = Litsch / Zep / Morrow
9/13-15 @ Baltimore = Romero / Marcum / Cecil
9/17-19 @ Boston = Litsch / Zep / Romero
9/21-23 vs. Seattle = Marcum / Mills / Litsch
9/24-26 vs. Baltimore = Zep / Romero / Marcum
9/27-29 vs. NYY = Mills / Litsch / Zep
9/30 - 10/3 @ Minn. = Zep/ Romero / Marcum / Mills
This is, of course, just one possibility but it's a logical one and it doesn't involve having to presume on the rehabbers. That said, the last three turns are back to the five man rotation (albeit not the same five) and if the Jays really wanted to continue the extra-rest pattern, they could give Hill or Richmond major league starts in the last couple of weeks.
Now, some high points regarding the minor leagues.
There's little else to say about Vegas. They've been trotting out woefully inadaquate options like Lance Broadway all season, finishing in that unimpressive style seems obvious, as there's no point in putting anyone with real promise into that situation now. there are a couple of fringy guys there (Ray and Perez) but I can't be bothered to nail down their IP cap situations.
At New Hampshire, things get much more interesting because the two best prospects on the starting staff are both running up against cap issues.
Kyle Drabek - The most interesting case on this list for a number of reasons, but the main one is that Jeff Blair, Jordan Bastian and others have reported (I don't know if from multiple sources) that the Jays intend to cap Drabek at about 160 IP (he's currently at 136) which would hold him to about 4 more starts, and see him shut down after his start on August 24 (assuming the current rotation and no rain-outs). BUT, Drabek threw 158 IP last year and should be good, according to the Verducci rule, up to 190 this year.
The more I look at this, the more I wonder about it. it seems to me that the Jays would like to move the endurance level up at least a little in anticipation of 2011. I am not in a position to dispute the respected journalists but something is amiss here. IF Drabek can exceed 160 IP, he would have the opportunity to accumulate 2 more regular season starts and two playoff starts to give him 180-190 IP. Time will tell.
Zach Stewart - Much more cut and dried, Stewart is now 10 IP past his previous career high (he has 115.1) and has about 20 IP to go. If used for 5 IP per start he would have four more starts. This would leave him two short of finishing the season. There's every possibility that Richmond comes from Dunedin soon, though, so that's not as bad as it might otherwise be.
Randy Boone and Shawn Hill are the other two starters (who are any good) in the current rotation. As noted, Hill has no IP issues and Boone, frankly, is not a guy the Jays are worried about overworking. There's also the possibility that Jojo will return at some point and in a tight spot, Ray Gonzalez is here too.
Chad Jenkins - Jenkins pretty much never comes up in these discussions. That's an oversight. Jenkin's highest workload at Kennesaw State? 92 IP. Jenkins current total combined for Lansing and Dunedin? 120.2 which, if you are doing the math as you read along, is clearly a problem. If the Jays apply the Verducci Rule to Jenkins (who is, by the way, one of those "big bodied" guys) then he's pretty much done now. But I've heard nothing about his being shut down. The D-Jays need him tomorrow for the double header, but I can't imagine the Jays pushing him much beyond that.
Henderson Alvarez - 28 IP short of previous career high, plus as much as 30 more, equals no danger.
Joel Cerrano - 20 IP past his previous career high already, but my instinct is that the Jays will not consider him an important enough prospect to shelve him after a couple more starts. If they do, there's going to be short-handed in the playoffs.
Chuck Huggins - It's unlikely they are worried much about him but he has 23+30 still in the tank.
Ryan Page - not a guy who matters.
If we assume Richmond is promoted soon, and Jenkins is shut down soon, then the D-Jays will be short handed for the last three weeks or so of the season. I have no information about this but personally, I'm rooting for Egan Smith to be promoted to fill in that slot. there are no publicly available records for his previous high in college, but he only has 59 IP on the season so he should have plenty left in the tank and he's the best option in Lansing for a promotion.
On all the lower levels, the Jays will shut down the guys who are important enough to protect, regardless of other considerations.