To say the Toronto Blue Jays had a lackluster off-season is an understatement. At the end of the 2013 regular season it was clear to see that the biggest weaknesses for the club was at second base and starting pitching, and while the Blue Jays have been rumored to be the targeted destination to sign either right-handers Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez, they have not been very active with any free agents to date.
Why not? One year ago the Blue Jays were favorites to win the World Series (according to Vegas) after making deals to acquire proven veteran players. It would only make sense for Toronto to add to their recent spending, right?
Keep in mind that Toronto is returning to spring training with almost the exact team they had last year (minus Josh Johnson who produced all of two wins last season). It seems that Toronto’s General Manager Alex Anthopoulos realizes this and has other things in mind. With Brandon Morrow returning to health and slotting between R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle, and assuming JA Happ will have the fourth spot in the rotation, AA only has one spot to fill this spring. It seems that AA and John Gibbons don’t mind, or even prefer to give the last rotation spot to a player they are already paying. The pitcher who will most likely get the job seems to be the organization’s #2 prospect: Marcus Stroman.
After serving a 50-game suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, Stroman returned to Double-A New Hampshire and dominated. Some scouts think that his small 5’9″ frame won’t be able to hold up as a starter, but in 20 starts in 2013, Stroman posted a 9-5 record with a 3.30 ERA. Complement that with a 1.128 WHIP and a 10.4 K/9 and it seems he is ready to get a shot at a big league rotation.
So what does this young 22-year old have to offer a big league rotation? First of all, Stroman’s fastball sits around 95 MPH, said to have reached as high as 100 MPH out of the bullpen. The pitch he uses to get most of his strikeouts is his slider which sits at 85 MPH. Add in a 87-90 MPH cutter and a 82-85 MPH change-up, Stroman seems to be ready for a legitimate shot at the last rotation spot in Toronto. That made Stroman untouchable this off-season because he has so much upside, and I’m sure Toronto will use him at some point in their rotation.
It’s possible that AA signs Santana or Jimenez before pitchers and catchers report to Dunedin, but if they don’t sign anyone I won’t be surprised. Marcus Stroman has the last rotation spot for now, it seems like it’s his to lose. There are other possibilities also. Todd Redmond deserves a look from what he did last season and being a surprise starter. Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison are both coming back from Tommy John surgery and were former top prospects for the organization. Hey who knows, maybe a entire winter off can make Ricky Romero return to form.