(Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium - Vancouver, B.C.) - Imagine the luxury of choosing which "Championship" team's pitching rotation was the best of the bunch? I almost feel guilty thinking back over the past seven seasons where the Vancouver Canadians have been to five (5) Northwest League Championships, winning four. For those who don't know, Vancouver won three consecutive titles in 2011, 2012 and 2013 before losing in the Championship to Hillsboro in 2014 - then recapturing the Bob Frietas Trophy this past season to give fans a chance to debate whether or not the Canadians were approaching 'dynasty' territory.
It's easy to look back on certain teams staff and say that 2013 was better than 2011 but not as good as 2017, a debate that could keep baseball sabremetricians up all night with pocket protectors firmly entrenched inside their left breast shirt pocket. Instead of debating which team was best, I chose to go a different route and make my MEGA pitching staff using the four title teams (with all due respect to 2014 that might have actually been better than any of the Championship teams, but I digress).
Note: The players mentioned simply have to be from the year the title was won, not on the actual Championship roster:
Rob Fai's Pitching Rotation:
If you were to tell me that this was our Major League rotation I would be one happy camper as each of these arms has proven Big League success or the potential to. You could debate the order of these five, but I don't think you can debate that each of these pitchers would be a pretty tough assignment.
RHP - Noah Syndergaard (2011) - Syndergaard went 1-2 with a 2.00 ERA in four starts with the Canadians the year they went on to win the first of three Championships. With 22 strikeouts in 18 innings, his numbers weren't overly impressive but his velocity was as Synderggard hit 100mph regularly before getting called up to Class-A Lansing alongside LHP Justin Nicolino. The knock on "mini-Thor" was his inability to hold runners on-base as his long and slow delivery allowed baserunners to get a great jump on him. The pro? You had to get on base first which was no easy task.
RHP - Aaron Sanchez (2011) - The Vancouver Canadians went to a one-game, winners take all in the North Division final before heading to the Championship where they would face Tri-City. For that dreaded Game 3 of the best-of-3, Eugene trotted out RHP Colin Rea (a future major leaguer) while the C's countered with Sanchez. Rea went just one inning as Vancouver pounded him for three in the top of the 1st inning and tagged another one on in the 2nd before the bullpen was summoned. Sanchez went 4 2/3 innings allowing just one hit, walking four but striking out eight. It set the tone for the game and even with a late surge in the 9th, the C's advanced largely on the shoulders of the future Blue Jays "Sanchize."
RHP - Marcus Stroman (2012) - Marcus appeared in seven (7) games with the Canadians in 2012, none of them starts but was electric in his brief stint with Vancouver going 1-0 alongside a 3.18 ERA. 18 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings and simply dominanting. His energy and presence on the mound was indeniable as he chewed several pieces of gum, blowing bubbles in between pitches. The Blue Jays were very cautious with their 1st rounder out of Duke University and rightly so, he was on a collison course with the Major Leagues and reached those bright lights just two seasons later in 2014.
RHP - Roberto Osuna (2012) - Osuna goes down in Canadians history as having the single most dominating pitching performance I have ever seen going five innings vs. Everett on July 28th, 2012, striking out 13 in a head-to-head match-up against Mariners pitching phenom, 17-year-old RHP Victor Sanchez. Osuna allowed one hit, and struck out eight of his 13 on three pitches, which is still the most amazing performance I have seen in the NWL. Sanchez struck out a modest eight over his six innings as Vancouver took a 6-1 lead to the bottom of the 9th before watching the Aquasox send it to extras. In the bottom of the 10th inning, C Mike Zunino hit a home run to lead off and Everett would win 7-6, but Osuna's 13-strikeout performance at just 17-years of age was his Northwest League coming out party and quickly became the talk of the Blue Jays minor league system.
RHP - Nate Pearson (2017) - Although Pearson doesn't have the MLB credentials like the others above him on this list, I think those who saw him in a C's uniform last summer knew that the Blue Jays had a good one on their hands. Now, you could make a case for a handful of other pitchers at this point like RHP Taylor Cole who went 6-0 for the C's with a sub-one ERA and appeared in the Majors with Toronto, LHP Justin Nicolino who broke through with the Miami Marlins, but Big Nate is just too good to pass up on. His 100+mph fastball, his dominance and his upside make him a hard to pass up name here. 0-0 with a 0.95 ERA in seven starts, Pearson would rack up 24 strikeouts against just five (5) walks and leave no doubt that the Blue Jays used their 2017 1st Round Pick wisely.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.