- FanGraphs Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs -

Prospect Stock Watch: Toronto Blue Jays

The author attended a Double-A Eastern League game on Tuesday between the Bowie Baysox (a Baltimore affiliate) and New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Toronto) in Manchester, NH. What follows is a brief examination of three Blue Jays prospects from same.

Marcus Stroman, RHP

After returning in May from a 50-game suspension for a banned stimulant, the right-handed Duke product Stroman has been excellent for New Hampshire, having recorded strikeout and walk rates of 29.9% and 6.8%, respectively, entering Tuesday’s contest. Those figures situate him third among Eastern League starters behind only Cleveland prospect Danny Salazar (since promoted) and the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard by SCOUT, itself essentially a regressed (and probably poorly calculated) form of kwERA.

To wit:

Rank Player Team Age G GS IP TBF K BB xK% xBB% SCOUT-
1 Danny Salazar Indians (AA) 23 7 7 33.2 133 51 10 36.3% 8.8% 52
2 Noah Syndergaard Mets (AA) 20 8 8 41.0 158 49 9 31.0% 8.2% 66
3 Marcus Stroman Blue Jays (AA) 22 15 15 83.0 336 99 21 29.5% 7.4% 68
4 Jose Ramirez Yankees (AA) 23 9 8 42.1 165 50 15 30.3% 9.2% 71
5 Rafael Montero Mets (AA) 22 11 11 66.2 261 72 10 27.6% 6.7% 72

While some reports suggest that he might throw even harder, the 22-year-old began the game sitting at 92-94 mph, rarely, if ever, falling outside that range. And though his fastball appeared slightly less crisp around the fourth or fifth inning, he was still throwing it at 91-93 mph even in the seventh. If one concern about Stroman’s diminutive stature (he’s only 5-foot-9) is that he might have difficulty maintaining his velocity into later innings, that concern wasn’t borne out in this particular appearance.

The right-hander worked the outside edge of the plate very heavily against left-handed batters (of which the Bowie lineup was largely composed) — with great success when he was getting called strikes or inducing swings, with less of it when opponents refused to offer and the umpire saw it as a ball. As his 70% strike rate for the game suggests (box), however, his start was characterized more by success than failure in this regard. In either case, given the velocity and occasionally quite impressive arm-side run of his fastball, Stroman needn’t be excessively fine with the pitch — especially if it leads to hitters’ count and the sort of advantages they provide for said hitters.

As he noted in an interview with David Laurila published here this May, Stroman throws his slider quite hard — between 84 and 88 mph on Tuseday — such that it is occasionally indiscernible from what might otherwise be called a cutter. The pitch didn’t exhibit much in the way of depth during his start, breaking almost entirely on a horizontal plane. After throwing the pitch only four or five times over the first three innings, Stroman threw it that many times alone in both the sixth and seventh innings.

Throughout the start, Stroman also threw two other pitches, though less frequently: a changeup at 83-86 mph and curveball at 78-82 mph. On the night, it was the former of those which was actually probably his second-best pitch, especially when thrown in tandem with his fastball to lefties. Despite employing it infrequently, Stroman used the changeup effectively in the game’s early stages, throwing his first one for a first-inning swinging strikeout to Trayvon Robinson; his second, a third-inning swinging strikeout against Bowie shortstop Niuman Romero. It seemed likely that Stroman could have had success with the pitch even while throwing it more frequently, given its quality.

Other Notes
• Other than a drive off the left-field wall by 27-year-old Bowie third baseman Brandon Waring in the fourth inning, no other ball was so well hit as 22-year-old third baseman Andrew Burns‘ double — hit on rather a low trajectory with considerable carry — off that same wall in the eighth inning. Beyond his slash line, which itself was impressive, Burns’ defense-independent performance was also excellent at High-A, at which level he recorded walk and strikeout rates of 8.9% and 13.5%, respectively, and eight home runs in 282 plate appearances — which numbers placed him eighth among Florida State League batters, per the offensive version of SCOUT.

• While not a prospect proper, it’s not inconceivable that 25-year-old shortstop Kevin Nolan could be of some use in a utility role in the majors, at some point. He’s controlled the plate decently (8.0% BB, 13.7% K), hit some home runs (eight in 388 PA), and appeared unbothered Tuesday by four mostly routine plays.