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

Toronto Blue Jays Have Little Big Man, Marcus Stroman, As Fifth Starter Possibility

Marcus Stroman deserves the same nickname as the main character in Dustin Hoffman’s great western, Little Big Man. That is what he is. At 5′ 9″, and at 22 years old, Marcus Stroman is the Toronto Blue Jays’ “Little Big Man” on the mound. Short in stature for a starter, so much so, that many scouts still envision this right-hander, rookie-to-be only as a reliever; yet, like many challenged by perceived physical “shortcomings”, here is a young man who keeps people guessing wrong.

Yes, this smaller starter convinced the Jays administrators that he will not pitch out of the bullpen. Jays GM Alex Anthopolous stated publicly that he believes that Stroman is ready for the Show… now! Statistic wizards at Fangraphs see him as the Jays’ fifth starting pitcher behind R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow, Mark Buehrle, and J.A. Happ. That is quite a thing. Stroman was the Jays first draft-pick just two years ago in 2012.

So why does Stroman merit a starting position? Firstly, his fastball reaches 95 miles per hour. He was once even clocked at 100 mph. What is more, his speed stays consistent into late innings. His fastball will likely get faster as he hits his prime. Secondly, his other big pitch, his slider, is tight and reaches up to 85 MPH. His command of his slider is outstanding; batters chase it and it nicks the plate’s corners for strikes. Thirdly, Stroman throws a cutter in the range of 87 to 90 mph, which moves in on left-handers and away from righties. His release point for all three of these pitches is so similar it is difficult to distinguish which is which. Finally, Stroman’s fourth pitch, his change-up comes in at 82-85 mph. He began throwing it regularly 2012 and stats show he has mastered it pretty well.

Having four pitches in his arsenal is a strong indicator that he can be a starter as opposed to a reliever. The starter sees more batters and therefore needs a larger array of pitches.

Stroman has pitched in many contexts: Duke University for two years, the Cape Cod League in 2010, and for Team USA, College National Team in 2011. The last two years he has been in the Jays’ minor organization. He pitched for the Class A Vancouver Canadians and the Class AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Below are some cursory stats.

Cape Cod League, summer 2010 (35 K – 3 BB – 0.00 ERA – 27 IP)

Duke (2010 – 2012) (136 K – 72 BB – 2.39 ERA – 98 IP)

Blue Jays Minor League Organization – Vancouver and New Hampshire (2013) (152 K – 36 BB – 3.30 ERA – 131 IP)

Arizona Fall League (2013) (13 K – 3 BB – 3.09 ERA – 11.2 IP)

It is fair to say that Stroman will be coming up to the majors sometime in 2014. He challenged himself to go to Spring Training and get a starting position. What are the chances? Who knows? One thing is for sure. Even if he does not start in April, the season is a marathon and starters do get injured, so that chances of Marcus Stroman starting in 2014 are very good indeed. If he does break camp with the Toronto Blue Jays, then he will most likely pitch in the 5th spot. Alex Anthopolous says he is ready. John Gibbons believes he will do a lot of damage. What do you think this Little Big Man can do?

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