Nov 2, 2013; Surprise, AZ, USA; Stroman against the West during the Fall Stars Game at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

New Buffalo Coach Gary Allenson Compliments Marcus Stroman, Unsure on Nolin


Today in the National Post, John Lott interviewed new Buffalo Bison coach Gary Allenson.  If you didn’t know, Allenson was previously the coach of the Blue Jays’ AA squad, the New Hampshire Fishercats.  And what better way to get an idea of some young arms than from the guy that had seen them play almost all season, right?

When Marcus Stroman came back from his 50-game suspension, it was as if he didn’t miss a beat.  Lott asked Allenson for a scouting report on Stroman as well as Sean Nolin and A.J. Jimenez.  Allenson happily obliged.  To not take away from Lott’s article, I’ll only be posting parts of it that stand out to me.

While discussing Stroman, Allenson referenced Stroman’s fourth start.  Allenson saw a previously unseen pitch by Stroman and decided to ask the young prospect what pitches were causing batters to be off balanced at the plate.  Stroman would respond “changeup.”  It’s an interesting tidbit because Stroman had been relatively effective in 2 of his 3 outings prior to the match-up with the Akron Rubberducks (Cleveland) without his changeup.  The one outing prior to Akron was against the Portland Sea Dogs and Stroman only lasted one inning, getting roughed up for 7 ER and 2 HRs.  I point this out for a few reasons.  1.) Being effective while showing less types of pitches in your arsenal (as he was in first two starts) shows confidence and even dominance of a level.  There could be many reasons to why Stroman stayed away from his changeup in his first three starts, but Allenson is unaware of why.  To me, if the coach doesn’t know, then that’s a conscious decision made between pitcher and catcher. I’m basing this off of my own experience.  2.) It shows maturity on Stroman’s part.  Now who’s to say the pitching coach didn’t speak up or that Jimenez and Stroman may have talked about it after the rough outing?  I’m not there, so I don’t know.  From an outsider’s point of view however, it appears like maturity and growth.  For a young pitcher to make adjustments between starts is a part of the learning process and it’s good to see Stroman feeling comfortable in that department of his game.

The other thing that stood out during Lotts interview with Allenson is what appears to be a lack of knowledge in regards to Sean Nolin.  Allenson had the peripheral information down.  You could get a scouting report from anywhere these days.  This quote from Allenson however stands out: “He’s a guy that’s probably a perfectionist. He needs to be a little bit easier on himself when things aren’t going well.”

First off, there are a 142 games scheduled in a AA season.  Not to mention Spring Training and some time after the season ends.  Nolin was around Allenson from April until about mid-August (and if you want to be picky, you can minus one week in May when Nolin came to Toronto for that brutal spot start.)  How do you not know if somebody is “probably a perfectionist?” Maybe “probably” was a slip of the tongue or nerves?  I analyze it however, because it comes off sounding like a coach that doesn’t know all of his players.  When you include his comments at the end of Lott’s article on how he feels it’s more important to develop prospects than win ball games, knowing your players is part of that process and this quote comes off even worse.

I’m not trying to bash the new coach and if it comes off that way, that was not my intention.  I was impressed with what he had to say about Stroman and equally unimpressed about the information given on Nolin.  Yes, the short quip of not being predictable and getting comfortable throwing changeups while behind in fastball counts was insightful, but it just seemed like he was less knowledgeable on the lefty that the Blue Jays expect to compete for a rotation spot this spring.  I can understand how a new coach may not be aware of a player’s changeup when he’s barely seen that player throw.  But how can you say “probably a perfectionist,” not be sure, and then follow it up with “He needs to be a little bit easier on himself…”  What does that mean?  Does Nolin succumb to pressure?  Does he flip out after a bad start?  Is he a player that’s confidence can easily be influenced by result?  When I watched his anticipated debut with the Blue Jays in May 2013, I would say it was more succumbing to pressure more than flipping out.  He also got a few bad calls by the umpire and a couple of unfortunate breaks in the field, so yes, results could be a part of it too.  Then again, jumping from AA to The Show is enough pressure for any young guy.  So is it any surprise to anybody that he may have succumb to the pressure?  Again, what is it that Allenson is trying to say there?  And how come he seems to have a better grip on Stroman than Nolin?  I hope this is just a situation of a coach playing poker and not revealing all of his cards.

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Tags: Marcus Stroman Toronto Blue Jays

  • SM

    Thats a really interesting observation. It goes along the lines of why the Jays can never develop a player for the majors properly. All our prospects are garbage when called up despite everyone raving about them.

    • Justin Jay

      Thanks for reading. It’s becoming something that’s really starting to gain notice among not just writers and extreme fans, but the casual fan as well. Chris Sherwin wrote an excellent article on Blue Jays Plus about Brandon Morrow’s injury and the way it was, I guess, “sugarcoated” if that’s the right word. It all pertains to the development of pitching from injuries to effectiveness to preventing regression.

      Honestly, the bats haven’t been all that bad. Some guys actually made major strides last season with work with Mottola. Then Toronto got rid of Mottola. I trust Seitzer though. He took his lumps because of Hosmer and Moustakas, but he did well with a lot of the other players. I think he’ll affect the players positively.

      Back to the pitching though. That’s been Toronto’s #1 problem since Halladay. People can talk about Romero looking good for a couple of years, but he didn’t deserve a promotion and it paid off for a bit. Marcum was another one, but he’s lost at least 2 full seasons now to injury. Litsch was promising, with nothing overpowering, but an injury, then a freak infection has cost him serious time. Chacin, Drabek, Hutchison, and Morrow have all missed significant time and Johnson was missing time prior to coming in from the Marlins. Sherwin’s article doesn’t touch on all the injuries, but alludes to what the bigger problem is. I’m currently working on the development side and have already contacted some former Jays players and a few other players from more successful systems. Some of our other writers at Jays Journal have also had player interviews and asked questions in regards to their development. It’s honestly something many of us have been wondering for some time, which is why I harp on “probably a perfectionist,” because I already feel the Jays do not have a good understanding for development of pitching.

      There’s a good chance Stroman becomes a better-than-average starting pitcher for Toronto… and for a while, the Jays didn’t know how they were going to use him, leaning towards bullpen arm due to a small frame (a la Jason Frasor).

      • SM

        Agree with you on your points although I don’t think the bats come through. I look at someone like a Snider, Thames and now Gose, Pillar, Sierra and am not sold on their hitting abilities. Sierra is better than the rest but thats also limited appearances as well as possibly just naturally being a better hitter. Gose is probably the strongest argument I could make and how this guy cannot even bunt to save his life.

        As for pitchers, you probably know more about this than myself but compare our young guys to Tampa’s and here you see Alvarez, Hutchison, Drabek, McGowan and a few others from our minors system all going in for Tommy John’s but the Rays don’t have these problems. I don’t know exactly what pitch it was but the Rays development has severe restrictions on what pitches a young hurler can throw which means lesser stress on the arm.

        The other thing I don’t like is how little confidence our management (and fans too) have in the farm. We always hear about players being brilliant but when its time to move to the big leagues its always “gonna wait another year…don’t rush them” etc. etc. They’re never ready in our eyes to transition into the MLB. The only reason we want them up here is becuase said player would be out of options. I think this looks badly overall on the minor team too because their end goal is to promote players up to the majors but we seem very hesitant and only call em for injuries and not give someone a wild card. When our prospects get traded – they typically make an appearance right away. Think of someone like a Travis D’Arnaud – he would’ve started with the Mets in 2013 had he not been injured but were he still with the Jays that woul’ve been out of the question cuz we were blinded on JPA.

        All the players we have were brought over by trades – correct me if I’m wrong – really, none of our first choice players were developed in the Blue Jays system. Maybe you can say Brett Cecil but he had a freakishly ‘lucky’ year and look where Romero is now anyway.

        • Justin Jay

          I see your point on Gose, and I can only counter with Toronto knew that when they got him. Teams like Philly and Houston loved his speed and glove, just like Toronto. Because he was 17-18 when he signed, they thought that as he rounded out as a hitter, he’d develop more power and fill out his frame. He did, but what each team overestimated was Gose figuring out the strike zone. When he came over, every scouting report on him I read said he’s very raw, especially in regards to the strike zone. He will K possibly 3:1 and for a lead off man, that’s way too often. That makes him a #8 or 9 hitter. Granted, the Jays gave up Brett Wallace to get Gose and Wallace is not exactly lighting the world on fire, but he’s starting to show signs of being an everyday major leaguer. Gose seems lost and confused on what his role is. That’s where I see your point on Gose.

          Sierra seems to be able to hit, but like Pillar, it’s too early to judge whether he can or he can’t. Thames actually seemed to be pretty decent, but his power in Toronto is just over the wall. In Seattle, it’s warning track power. That’s a big part of the reason he hasn’t established himself there, not to mention the guys they brought in to roam Safeco.

          The Rays are not unscathed. The Rays system has prospects with drug issues. Their #1 guy, Taylor Guerrieri, got suspended for 50 for apparent marijuana use, but that point is moot since he’s going to miss 2014 after TJ surgery. The other prospects are dealing with amphetamines. But Guerrieri is the first Rays prospect I’ve heard in some time with serious arm issues. I think the other was Jake McGee, but check me on that one.

          I’m against moving a prospect up the ladder too quickly. You saw the successes (Jose Fernandez) and the problems (Kevin Gausman, Sean Nolin) when teams do this. As good as David Price was, the Rays methodically brought him through the system. That’s how I felt the Jays should handle Stroman. I would still like to see Stroman get some time in AAA, just for the sake of maybe preventing a possible Super 2 situation, but at the same time, I think he’s ready to contribute at the MLB level in some compacity. Hopefully that’s in the rotation. If not him, then hopefully Hutchison, but I’m worried about his mechanics still. Sherwin has red flagged him and I haven’t seen him miss yet when he flags somebody. I’ve also only known him for 2-3 months, but he’s been accurate so far.

          If d’Arnaud was still with the Jays, he would have started probably after June if JPA was still with the team, for the same reason Stroman may not come up until after early June. It starts their service time later and gives the Jays an extra year before arbitration. Nobody was blinded by JPA… ok… well I was prior to signing onto Jays Journal, but then Kyle, Dan George, and Travis Bateman all turned me on to the sabremetrics. They did not miss on JPA at all. So a lot of guys that follow those types of stats (and there are increasingly more and more people) knew JPA would flop. I liked JPA as our catcher at the time, but still preferred d’Arnaud.

          Guys in our system that made it. Lind, Hill, Janssen, Marcum (Sherwin red flagged him), and Cecil seems to have found his niche. You’re right though. There haven’t been many. On top of that, nevermind developing 1st pick players, we can’t even sign them. Trust me, I’m probably one of the most critical people of Anthopoulos on this staff. I constantly compare this organization to the Rays and Red Sox. If you haven’t read it yet, try The Extra 2% by Jonah Keri. That explains my disdain for Anthopoulos.