Every Tuesday, Baseball America will take a look at a prospect who is either just arriving to the majors or on the cusp of the majors to give a look at what can be expected from them both as a player and for fantasy purposes.
Toronto’s 12-13 record is largely attributable to its pitching. Entering Tuesday’s games, the Jays rank 25th in ERA (4.45) as a team. But even more troubling is Toronto’s rotation, which ranks 27th in innings pitched with 134, an average of 5.1 innings per start.
Outside of the dependable Mark Buehrle, who’s averaging nearly 7 innings per start, the remainder of Toronto’s rotation has struggled to reach five. R.A. Dickey is at about 5.2, Drew Hutchinson’s averaging about 5 and Brandon Morrow and Dustin McGowan are averaging about 4 innings per start.
Not only are the starters not going long, they’re obviously not effective in those brief bursts, either, leaving a heavy burden for the Jays’ bullpen.
McGowan, following his most recent start on April 23, admitted to feeling fatigued around 60 pitches.
Fortunately for Toronto, it has young starting pitching ready to help in No. 2 prospect Marcus Stroman.
Stroman was Duke’s first-ever first-round pick in 2012, so he’s not a stranger to longshots, which is good because he faces more scrutiny for his size.
Stroman is just 5-foot-9, and since 1960, only two righthanders that size or shorter (Tom Phoebus and Tom Gordon) have made more than 30 starts.
What he does possess is plus stuff. Stroman has a heavy fastball at 92-95 with above-average movement, and he has an out pitch in his upper-80s slider. His weapons also include a plus cutter that can touch the low 90s and an average changeup that flashes plus potential.
He also possesses quick-twitch athleticism and is an excellent defender, helping cut down on other teams’ running games. One thing to note is Stroman was suspended for 50 games in August 2012 after he tested positive for amphetamines.
Coincidentally, the Jays have kept Stroman and McGowan on the same schedule, meaning Stroman could step right in, with McGowan moving to the bullpen, where he was successful last season. McGowan is expected to start Tuesday, but clearly, the Jays are expecting more.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Stroman’s size might scare off some teams—or fantasy owners—but not the Blue Jays. John Lott of the National Post in Toronto cited a source within the Jays’ management who said Stroman is a “fully-formed pitcher” ready to help now and just needing a spot to open in Toronto.
Stroman is 1-2, 2.18 at Triple-A Buffalo with 26 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings and while his changeup still needs work, his fastball and slider appear ready for the big time. His control remains a positive, as he’s walked just six after walking just 27 in 112 IP in 2013.
But Stroman, who turns 23 Thursday, had only pitched 131 innings as a pro entering the season with a high of 112 in 2013 and it’s unclear how much of a burden Toronto would put on him this soon. Expect the team to monitor his innings and pitches likely for the entire season, should he be called up this early.