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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  • Jason Kerr

    Seems to be a lot of discussion about whether he is ready for the big leagues or not. Doesn’t seem like a good idea to go into the season without a back up plan. What if this guy can’t cut it and half way through training camp and we can’t sign either Santana or Jimenez? I’d rather have a proven player than take that chance. Plus, without being sure of the health of our starters having a little depth never hurt anyone especially if it’s a young guy we can bring up from the minors when needed and secures a place in the rotation that way.

    I guess we can discuss until we’re blue in the face and still not know what AA or Gibbons are thinking … Waiting until the cost of Jimenez and Santana come down into the single digit millions?

    • Kyle Franzoni

      Santana or Jimenez would certainly be a lift, but at this point we can’t count on either until a signing is made. The clock is ticking…

  • brad

    If it were my choice, I’d start him in AAA just to give him that final little bit of added hunger. Keep him in spring training so long that he can taste the big leagues and then send him down with the knowledge that he’s the next man up and with a good showing could be called up without anyone getting injured.

    Ideally this wouldn’t hurt at the MLB level but that would mean the Jays need to sign a starter before the season starts….. I think right now he’s their best #5 option.

    • http://jaysjournal.com/ Michael Wray

      There’s also the case to keep him in the minors until about June so that he doesn’t become Super Two eligible.

      • brad

        yeah. I dunno though. I have always thought that the whole super 2 thing is overblown. So the guy gets an extra year of arbitration…. probably costing the team a couple million dollars. If the guy is the best option for the club out of spring training, he can pretty easily make that money back in the time he would spend in the minors. If a player is good enough that the extra year of arbitration is going to hurt the team, then he’s the type of guy that should be locked up long term before he is out of arbitration anyways…. not to mention the fact that with the new CBA, the cutoff for super two is more likely to be mid July than June

  • http://jaysfromthecouch.blogspot.ca/ Shaun Doyle

    While I am REALLY pumped to let him loose at Rogers Centre, I’m not overly comfortable with his number of innings pitched. AAA might be best for now. I’d hate to see him with the big league club and implode. He’s gutsy and all that, but I worry about the “hasn’t failed yet” factor.