Marcus Stroman: The Toronto Blue Jays other ace?

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It took Marcus Stroman six months to go from being ruled out for all of 2015 with a torn ACL to starting a game at Yankee Stadium. Now, in the matter of just one week, he’s given the Blue Jays a legitimate hope of a secondary ace behind David Price heading into the playoffs.

With John Gibbons allowing Marcus Stroman the green light on Friday night to pitch without limitation, the spark plug righty cruised through 7.0 strong innings, allowing just one earned run on six hits while striking out three. The velocity was there, and Stroman hasn’t lost the razor-sharp edge of his mound presence.

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The most encouraging takeaway from Stroman’s second start of 2015 was the heavy usage of his dominant sinker. With the pitch nosediving as it crossed home plate in the neighbourhood of 93 MPH, Red Sox hitters consistently struggled to get under the ball or drive it with any level of power. It also helped Stroman to 11 ground ball outs on the night.

This strategy will prove to be especially valuable in the confines of the Rogers Centre, where home run ball can quickly derail the finest of outings. Assuming that Stroman can overcome any physical obstacles that may still face him, the conversation of him being on the bubble of the playoff rotation is last week’s news. Instead, he could very well push R.A. Dickey to start game two behind Price.

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Toronto’s rotation currently slots Estrada in between Price and Stroman, who is then followed by Dickey who will pitch tomorrow afternoon. Sliding Estrada back would leave a Price-Stroman-Dickey top three that any Blue Jays fan should be very comfortable with, but are we getting ahead of ourselves here? (Aren’t we always?..)

Even if Stroman emerges as the number two pitcher in terms of win likelihood, John Gibbons may still choose to sandwich Dickey in between Price and Stroman to force opposing lineups to swing back and forth between vastly different velocities. If this scenario would still allow for Stroman to leapfrog Dickey to start a must-win game on regular rest in the situation that he’s the hotter pitcher, all is good and well. I’ve never fully bought in to the idea of Dickey throwing hitters off balance for the next man up, at least not to the extent that many others do, but there’s undoubtedly something to it.

The patient, drawn-out sport of baseball continues to amaze with how quickly narratives can change. There is no expectation that Stroman has not smashed through up until this point. He shouldn’t be doubted in his coming challenges, either, not even when it comes to being the Blue Jays “other ace” come playoff time.

At this point, if Marcus Stroman were to tell someone that he planned on jumping over the CN Tower, the only appropriate response would be “By how much?”.

Next: 2015 top prospect roundup: OF Anthony Alford

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