When Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen made an April 15 rehab appearance at Toronto High-A affiliate Dunedin, part of him must have wanted to stay.
The minor-league Jays — not the Milwaukee Brewers — are off to the hottest start in professional baseball. Dunedin has posted a 13-2 record through its first 15 games and just three weeks into the season has opened up a four-game lead in the Florida State League North Division.
It’s fitting that Janssen returned to Dunedin this season. In 2005 when Janssen was a minor-league starter, he was part of an outstanding starting rotation that featured four first-round draft picks in Zach Jackson, Dustin McGowan, David Purcey and Ricky Romero, each of whom have since reached the big leagues.
But the 2005 Dunedin rotation had additional depth in Janssen, a fourth-round pick out of UCLA in 2004. The right-hander went 6-1 with a 2.26 ERA through 10 starts before being promoted to Double-A New Hampshire midway through the year.
This season, the minor-league Jays boast another crop out outstanding starting pitchers, though not nearly as high-profile as the staff of 2005 with only one first-rounder on the roster — right-handed reliever Justin Jackson.
The rotation is fronted by a trio of early-season standouts in left-hander Daniel Norris, a second-round pick out of Tennessee high school in 2011; left-hander Matt Boyd, a sixth-round pick out of Oregon State in 2013; and right-hander Taylor Cole, a 29th round pick out of Brigham Young in 2011.
The trio is off to a 7-0 start. Norris is considered to be the top prospect of the bunch, and has allowed just one run through 15 innings to post a 0.60 ERA in three starts. Boyd has been even better, proving untouchable through his first three starts yielding no runs through 17 innings while posting a perfect 3-0 record. And Cole has posted a 2.55 ERA through three starts and currently leads the Florida State League with 23 strikeouts.
In fact, the only loss incurred by a Dunedin starter this season has been by right-hander Jesse Hernandez. Hernandez yielded four runs (three earned) through six innings in a 5-2 loss to Brevard County April 11. Hernandez bounced back Friday by firing four shutout innings in a combined team shutout as the Jays downed the same Brevard County team 1-0.
Dunedin has won eight straight games heading into play Saturday night. The Jays send Boyd to the mound with the lefty bidding for his fourth win, as Dunedin goes for a series sweep against Brevard County in the final game of a four-game series.