Blue Jays: Where does Marcus Stroman rank among MLB starters?

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 13: Marcus Stroman
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 13: Marcus Stroman /

With the MLB network doing their #Top10RightNow lists, they had a graphic listing the top starters that was absent any Blue Jays, including Marcus Stroman. Where does the emerging ace currently rank among today’s starters?

It’s easy to develop a bias for your favourite team, and I’ll admit that I fight that all the time while writing here, and even in casual conversation with friends. That said, I can’t help but feel like there are media outlets who have a bias against the Toronto Blue Jays, whether they mean to or not.

Case in point would be the MLB Network and their #Top10RightNow lists, as they try to determine some of the player rankings across the game. They tweeted a graphic on Monday that asked who the top starting pitchers in the game were, and included 24 possible names to choose from. Not so surprisingly, there were no Blue Jays listed among the top two dozen of the best starters across all of baseball. It’s easy to miss what happens North of the border sometimes, and even easier in a division that includes the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. I get it, I really do.

The whole thing got me wondering where someone like Marcus Stroman realistically ranks among the best in the game, as I feel he should have been a no brainer for the list. Aaron Sanchez likely would have challenged it as well if he had repeated his 2016 numbers, but as we’re all aware he was limited to just 36 innings last year which would justifiably leave him off the list.

Back to Stroman though, at first thought he seems like a no brainer when we’re talking about the top 24, especially after what he accomplished in 2017. He finished the year with a 13-9 record and a 3.09 ERA, good for fourth in the American League. He also surpassed the 200 inning threshold for the second straight year with 201, finished 8th in Cy Young voting, and won a Gold Glove. Not a bad year, and for Stroman it was a tremendous leap into the next tier of pitching talent.

More from Jays Journal

But how far of a leap did he take? That could be answered in dozens of different ways depending on who you ask, but let’s look at who the MLB Network had listed in their top 24:

Jake Arrieta, Madison Bumgarner, Carlos Carrasco, Johnny Cueto, Yu Darvish, Jacob deGrom, Michael Fulmer, Zack Greinke, Kyle Hendricks, Rich Hill. Clayton Kershaw, Dallas Keuchel, Corey Kluber, Jon Lester, Carlos Martinez, James Paxton, Jose Quintana, Chris Sale, Max Scherzer, Luis Severino, Stephen Strasburg, Noah Syndergaard, Justin Verlander, Alex Wood.

The reason I said at first glance earlier on is because now many of are you are likely thinking the same thing I did, which was something like, “sheesh, maybe he’s not quite there”. However, I think there’s a solid argument to be made that he’s ahead of at least a few names here.

First of all, the debate isn’t about contract value, long term projections or anything like that. It’s #RIghtNow, so we’re talking about the 2018 season and how valuable a pitcher could be for the upcoming year. I am a huge fan of Stroman and I think he’s got as much upside as nearly anyone in the game, but I’m not foolish or bias enough to argue against names like Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, or Madison Bumgarner.

That said, I think there are a number of pitchers that Stroman is as good or better than, and I’ve listed them below with their 2017 numbers included:

  • Rich Hill:     12-8, 3.32 ERA, 1.091 WHIP, 25 starts, 135.2 IP, 2.2 bWAR
  • James Paxton:     12-5, 2.98, 1.103 WHIP, 24 starts, 136 IP, 3.9 bWAR
  • Luis Severino:     14-6, 2.98, 1.040 WHIP, 31 starts, 193.1 IP, 5.3 bWAR
  • Alex Wood:     16-3, 2.72 ERA, 1.057 WHIP, 25 starts, 152.1 IP, 2.9 bWAR
  • Johnny Cueto:     8-8, 4.52, 1.446 WHIP, 25 starts, 147.1 IP, 1.6 bWAR

Marcus Stroman:   13-9. 3.09 ERA, 1.308 WHIP, 33 starts. 201 IP, 6.0 bWAR

I thought about making an argument against a few others, but I’ll keep it to these five, which would still put Stroman in the top 20 (in my view).

Rich Hill:

There’s no doubt that he’s a talented pitcher, but the guy can’t stay healthy enough to be on this list if you ask me. His path has made it so that 25 starts was a career high, and he’s dealt with chronic blister issues, much in the same way that Aaron Sanchez has. If he didn’t pitch for the Dodgers, I don’t think he’s on this list.

James Paxton:

This guy could have the stuff to be a top 10 soon, but I don’t think he’s proven enough to be in the top 24 just yet. His 24 starts and 136 innings pitched were both career highs, and until he can prove to be a little more durable then I don’t think he warrants this spot. I honestly believe that’s a “not yet” though, because his talent is pretty undeniable.

Luis Severino:

Don’t get me started on how overrated this guy is. I’m not blind, I saw the incredible season he had last year and I do think he’s a talent to be reckoned with. I just wonder how short the memories of New York Yankees fans are sometimes, especially when you look back and see that Severino posted an ERA of 5.83 in 2016, and was both relegated to the bullpen and the minor leagues. I understand that he’s figured a few things out, but it’s incredible how high on him some people are after just one year as a top of the rotation starter.

To me, he hasn’t proven any more than Stroman has at the big league level, and I’d argue that his resume is thinner at this stage. However, pitching for the Yankees provides an awfully big profile, and Severino answered the bell in 2017. We’ll see if he can keep it up going forward, but until he’s done it for more than one season then I’m not ready to crown him with anything just yet. *Note- I may have a negative bias toward the Yankees, I can’t help myself.

Alex Wood:

I see the record, but like most of baseball I’m starting to wrap my head around how little that matters. That said, you can’t deny the rest of the numbers that Wood posted in 2017, as he was one of the best pitchers in the National League. He’s got a longer history of success than Severino or Paxton despite what I remembered off the top of my head, as he posted a 3.73 ERA in 2016 in 10 starts and 14 appearances, and had a solid 2014 season in 24 starts and 35 appearances with the Braves, finishing with a 2.78 ERA.

He’s probably the pitcher that I would rank the closest to Stroman on this list, although I like the Blue Jays’ right-hander’s durability more at this stage of their respective careers. Either way, I think there’s a solid argument to be made in Stroman’s favour when comparing the two.

Johnny Cueto:

If the numbers don’t speak for themselves, the eye test definitely does for those of us who watched him last year. He had an excellent 2016 campaign for the Giants, but he just wasn’t the same pitcher in 2017 and I feel like we’ve seen the best of Cueto at this stage of his career.

He’s not a fossil by any means as he won’t turn 32 until February, but he’s put a lot of mileage on that arm over the last decade and I feel like it’s starting to show. Out of respect for what he’s accomplished throughout his career I can understand why he was included, but I don’t think he belongs anymore and by this time next year I’m convinced he’ll be dropped from these lists.

I considered a few more like Jose Quintana, and Jacob Degrom, but I don’t want to turn this into a novel comparing Stroman against every name listed above. That said, I will give you my thoughts on where he sits today now that I’ve made an argument for why he should surpass a few of them anyway.

I’d currently rank Stroman at #18 when I look at his numbers and potential compared to everyone else. Keep in mind that’s for “right now” as well, otherwise I’d likely have it a little higher, especially if we’re looking at the longer term. I honestly feel that’s a conservative ranking on my part as well (told you I’m a little bias), as I feel strongly that Stroman can and will outperform guys like Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, and Jon Lester going forward.

Next: Blue Jays free agent foursome remain unsigned

And if Aaron Sanchez can get back to the form that had him lead the American League in ERA then the Blue Jays will have arguably as good a duo at the top of their rotation as almost anyone in baseball. Perhaps a better season from the team as a whole will put Stroman on the map a little more than he is now, as in the case of the MLB Networks top 24 they listed, I’ll respectfully say they missed at least one name that should have been included.