Marcus Stroman Is Not Long For The Bullpen

Last weekend, the Blue Jays called up consensus top-100 prospect Marcus Stroman, adding him to their bullpen in a middle relief role. It would be silly to expect him to stay in the bullpen for long, as Toronto’s rotation is just too thin and shallow for Stroman to pitch in relief long-term.

Brandon Morrow is already hurt (again), and also hadn’t yet been able to improve on last year’s 5.63 earned run average. Dustin McGowan, having thrown 30 innings so far this season, has already tossed more frames in the majors than he did in any given year from 2009-2013, and hasn’t been particularly good himself (4.80 ERA, 4.67 FIP, 5.41 xFIP).

J.A. Happ, who was recently moved from the bullpen into the fifth starter’s role, has issued nine walks while striking out six so far this season, and even without that bit of small-sample ugliness, he’s still not the type of guy who’s putting up a significant roadblock in front of a talented prospect. In short, it’s hard to imagine a scenario that doesn’t end with Stroman in the rotation sooner rather than later.

Selected by the Jays 22nd overall in the 2012 draft, Stroman throws five pitches, the best of which is a completely ridiculous wipeout slider — a true out pitch with plus-plus potential. He also throws a four-seamer that sits 93-96 mph, a cutter with tremendous late bite at 93 mph, along with a change-up and curveball that are both more than show-me pitches.

The following video of his 10-strikeout performance against Louisville should give you a pretty good feel for how electric the 23-year-old’s stuff is:

Granted, Louisville’s lineup is downright embarrassing, as their team slash line sits at .233/.303/.350 for the season, but Stroman’s stuff makes these guys look even worse. Look at Thomas Neal after he goes down swinging on the slider. He looks defeated, distraught — this is a man forced into a full-on existential crisis because of this one pitch. (Side note: For those of you in the Buffalo area, PLENTY OF GOOD SEATS STILL AVAILABLE at Bisons games!)

This all boils down to the fact that top-50 prospects with five-pitch arsenals rarely linger in the shadows of the world’s J.A. Happs and Dustin McGowans for long. Hell, if Stroman’s still coming out of the ‘pen two weeks from now, I’ll be quite surprised.

Furthermore, I’ve kind of glossed over how locked in Stroman is right now. Last year, after serving a 50-game suspension for testing positive for methylhexaneamine (which Wikipedia tells me is some sort of sketchy semi-kinda-legal “energy-boosting dietary supplement”), Stroman made 20 starts in Double-A, resulting in a 3.30 ERA, 3.33 FIP, 10.40 K/9 and 2.18 BB/9.

This year has been even better, as Stroman completely annihilated Triple-A lineups through his five starts, with a 1.69 ERA, 1.59 FIP, 12.15 K/9 and 2.36 BB/9.  Sure, it’s a small sample, but he’s clearly at the top of his game at the moment. That’s part of why I see the Jays sticking him in the rotation in the very near-future.

The major knock on Stroman as a prospect is that he is just 5’9″, but his quick, compact delivery still allows him to bring the heat. There are concerns about his ability to log 200+ innings on a yearly basis, but there’s no reason to put the “future reliever” label on a prospect with a ceiling as high as Stroman’s until he proves he can’t handle the load.

The next time either Happ or McGowan has a rough outing, Stroman’s probably going to get his shot, and I’d be surprised if he didn’t take the job and run with it. Nothing against Happ or McGowan, but Rob Ford has more job security in Toronto than they do. Stroman’s ceiling is so high that he’s pretty clearly a better option, both right now and in the future.

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Scott Strandberg has written for RotoGraphs since 2013. He is also a film critic and entertainment writer for The Norman Transcript newspaper. Scott is the co-founder of RosterResource Wrestling, and the co-host of the Going Over Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @ScottStrandberg.


18 Responses to “Marcus Stroman Is Not Long For The Bullpen”

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  1. MLB Rainmaker says:

    What of the organizations monitoring of his innings count? Stroman only had 120IP last season, so his max this year is likely somewhere in the 150IP range, of which 30IP is already gone. So he’s got 120IP left for the rest of the season. Leaving him in the bullpen another month would certainly help keep under that target.

    Also, does he go back down to get stretched out again? Think there’s a good chunk of time between now and him being fantasy relevant.

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    • Not sure where the innings cap will be with him, seeing as the only reason he was limited to 120 IP last season was the suspension, not injury. I’d still think you’re right though, I’d guess it’s in the 150-160 IP range. Now that they’ve started his service-time clock, I think that’s another reason they’d want him in the rotation sooner rather than later. I don’t see any reason for him to go back to Buffalo unless they do keep him in the pen for a month or longer — it’s still only been ten days since his last start.

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    • everdiso says:

      You have to think he was still pitching while suspended. He was probably closer to 150 effective ip last year.

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  2. Nelson says:

    McGowan has had 2 great starts in a row, this is after he noticed his blood sugar (or something diabetics measure) was spiking late in games and has worn an insulin pump the last 2 games IIRC. There might be something to monitor with him.

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    • He’s been solid, wouldn’t call it great though. 13 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 6 BB, 7 K between those two starts. He hasn’t allowed many hits, but that BB:K ratio isn’t particularly inspiring.

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    • everdiso says:

      3 good starts (2, 5, 6) 3 bad starts (1, 3, 4) so far.

      The good: 6.4ip/gs, 4.2k/9, 3.3bb/9, 0.0hr/9, 0.93whip, 1.40era, ~2.55fip
      The Bad: 3.6ip/gs, 9.3k/9, 5.1bb/9, 2.5hr/9, 2.34whip, 10.96era, ~6.55fip

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  3. Adam says:

    Very well written and humorous, especially the existential crisis bit.

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    • TanPadreFan says:

      “Nothing against Happ or McGowan, but Rob Ford has more job security in Toronto than they do.”

      That was awesome. And sadly true.

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  4. Padraic says:

    How cold was it at that game? I really can’t believe there was no one in the seats the entire game. Was this like a soccer situation where there are hooligans about, and they have to close the game to the public?

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  5. Ty says:

    With regards to the banned substance – he drank a Monster energy drink, which contains methylhexaneamine. Turns out Red Bull is the only approved energy drink in MLB, because all the other ones contain weird stuff like that. But yeah, that’s a far cry from injecting himself with something or whatever people might have thought it was.

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  6. gatorgreenwell says:

    5/10/14

    J.A. Happ: 2.1IP, 7H, 4ER, 1BB

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  7. Jackson says:

    There’s also the possibility of Todd Redmond getting some starts to limit Stroman’s innings. I’m not saying he will but it is a possibility.

    Regardless, I was able to pick up Stroman in one of my leagues and will use him as a SP/reliever for ratios in the meantime. He should be owned in all standard 12 team leagues and probably 10 team leagues as well.

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