Ever since Roy Halladay left Toronto, Blue Jays fans have been waiting for someone to become a dominant starter who can lead them into the postseason.
For a while, it looked like Ricky Romero was that starting pitcher. But lately, it's become clear that Brandon Morrow is the new ace of the Blue Jays' pitching staff.
It's not that Romero has struggled lately, because he has, allowing 11 earned runs and 20 hits over his last three starts. It's that Morrow is finally playing to his potential.
Morrow was drafted fifth overall in 2006, and he was always described as a pitcher with "great stuff." For prospects trying to stick in the major leagues, great stuff can only get you so far. The list of pitchers with great stuff is much longer than the list of legitimate MLB aces.
Throughout Morrow's beginnings at the major league level, it frequently seemed like he might fall into the category of players with huge talent but little execution. A player who could be dominant but couldn't figure out how to be.
And for that reason, Alex Anthopoulos deserves a ton of credit for taking a chance on Morrow after Seattle gave up on him.
Morrow's issues in Seattle stemmed mostly from a lack of control. During his time with the Mariners, Morrow struck out 23.5 percent of batters but walked 14.8 percent.
With Toronto, Morrow's strikeout percentage has risen and his walk percentage has decreased. However, during his first two seasons with the Jays, Morrow struggled with consistency. He'd often follow up complete-game shutouts with starts lasting only three innings.
Is Brandon Morrow a Legitimate Ace?
But in 2012, Morrow has found a consistent, reliable focus that has allowed him to go from a good third starter to a legitimate ace.
The biggest difference in Morrow's game has been his efforts to keep the ball on the ground. His total ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio has risen .27 points from 2011, and his current ratio of ground-ball-outs-to-fly-ball-outs ratio is 1.10.
It was something Halladay was excellent at. Keeping the ball down in hitter-friendly Rogers Centre is incredibly important.
Another encouraging aspect of Morrow's 2012 season so far is his 47.1 innings pitched. He is averaging 6.7 innings pitched per game, which projects to him pitching more than 200 innings. With the struggles of the Jays' bullpen, Toronto's starting rotation must continue to pitch deep into games for the playoffs to be a possibility.
And if playoff baseball does return to Canada in 2012, the Jays have a top-end starter who could, with his talent and newfound consistency, lead them further than some people may think.