To the Toronto Blue Jays and Marcus Stroman meet Kris Medlen.
I want to put this up front for everyone who is reading this post, so that no-one can miss it: I am not suggesting that Marcus Stroman will be a dominant ace with video game numbers like Kris Medlen. I am not putting these expectations on him, and neither should you. No-body should be comparing their careers or their pitching abilities.
What I do want is for the Toronto Blue Jays to take a look at Kris Medlen and see a case-study on how a club should extract the most amount of value out of its players by letting the player’s fail instead of adhering to stereotypes that give way for the club to fail.
Marcus Stroman is a 5’9 187 lb 2012 first round draft pick coming out of three years of college with 290 strikeouts at a rate of 11.96 strikeouts per 9 innings. In his last college season he started 27 games with a 3.27 ERA. In the minors this year he pitched all the way up to double-AA with a 3.26 ERA and 1.293 WHIP in only 19.1 innings giving up 16 hits, 1 HR, 9 walks, and 23 strikeouts. Yes, he has a lefty-right split but it is a very small sample size.
If you take a look at these numbers it is pretty clear that the kid can pitch with swing-and miss stuff. You’d think to yourself that the Jays got a really good starting pitching prospect in the first round. Then you will see in big bold lettering that he is 5’9. The ‘rule‘ in base-ball is that someone this short can’t be a starting pitcher. A rule is a rule. Too bad for him. Too bad for the Toronto Blue Jays.
At only an inch taller Kris Medlen is 5’10, 190 lb’s and just like, Stroman, was considered ‘too short to start despite having swing and miss stuff’. Then an Atlanta Braves miracle: due to a rash of injuries this year the Braves put Medlen in as a spot-starter and look at what happened. Medlen has a 1.57 ERA and 1.112 WHIP with 2 complete games in 138 IP giving up 5 HR, 23 BB, and 120 SO. Kris Medlen looks like the will be the Brave’s best bet to pitch the wild-card game. It will be his arm that they will place their season’s fortunes on.
The Atlanta Braves deserve little credit for falling ass-backwards into extracting 4.3 WAR from a player who never would have provided the same value as a reliever. The Braves followed the base-ball rule book on pitcher’s heights. Their manager can pretend all he wants that this was the season-long plan in order to save Medlen’s arm for the playoffs but this is a too convenient ‘after the fact’ excuse that is only made sweeter by it doubling as the manager spitting on their playoff rivals Washington Nationals handling of Stephen Strasburg. The Braves did all that they could to prevent themselves from getting their maximum return on Medlen, but in the end they got the best value out of their pitcher.
People far smarter than me can explain why a starter provides far more value to a team than a reliever, but it is clear is that the Atlanta Braves are a better team and a better organization with Kris Medlen as a starter. How did the Braves receive this miracle gift you may ask? They let Medlen pitch. They let him fail or succeed as a starter based on his skills, instead of the baseball god’s rules.
I am sure that A.A. and the Toronto Blue Jay’s staff have a far better grasp of whether Marcus Stroman can make it as a starter. One of A.A.’s greatest strengths after-all is that his attraction to value is reminiscent of a fat kid’s attraction to the smell of Cinnabon’s in Union station. But scouts and teams can and regularly get players wrong.
It seems to me that the best way to ensure that you extract the maximum value out of an arm electric enough to be taken enough in the first round is to let Stroman succeed or fail as a starter instead of deciding it for him because of how tall he is. I realize, that some clubs bring up arms as relievers to ease them into a starting role (David Price), but these are pitchers who were starting in the minors in the first place.
Is this truly, what the Toronto Blue Jays have in store for Marcus? If so, I will shut up right now, but I wonder if his best shot at starting wouldn’t be by giving him some starting reps in the minors. As we have seen with Henderson Alvarez, it isn’t the easiest thing to let a young pitcher learn on the fly in the majors.
Marcus Stroman is doing everything he can to try to get a shot as a major-league player. We just need to remind him that banned substances won’t make him any taller. Instead lets give him a real shot at failure. Put him into a minor league starting rotation for a season and let’s see what happens.