45 Prospects in 45 Days: Toronto’s Marcus Stroman
Over the next 45 days the staff here at The Fix will profile and predict the fantasy fates of prospects that could – should, in some cases – be closely monitored on the waiver wire or even in the draft room.
For the projection portion of the article, we will try our best to give you projections from all three major projection systems. Those projection systems are: ZiPS, Steamer, and Oliver. Oliver varies from the other two by projecting what a player would accomplish over 600 PA. Obviously, most prospects won’t reach 600 PA, due to various reasons. It can help to pay more attention to the rate stats that are included in order to get a clearer idea of what you’re dealing with in a particular player.
Marcus Stroman is short. Let’s just get that out of the way. He can’t help it and neither can we. It doesn’t mean much to me. Sure, the track record of short starters holding up well isn’t large, but until he gives reason for us to consider otherwise, he’s a starting pitcher.
After dominating at Duke for a few years, Stroman was drafted by the Blue Jays. Despite his short stature, he possesses easy velocity. And he backs up his fastball with a wipeout slider and improving change-up. There are a number of reasons guys get moved to the bullpen: command issues, lack of a third pitch, etc. If Stroman gets moved, it won’t be due to either of those.
The word bulldog is often thrown around to describe pitchers that are smaller, but fearless. Stroman is known as a fierce competitor and has spoke openly about his desire to prove doubters wrong about his ability to be a major league starter. With his repertoire and make-up, I’m not betting against him.
Most scouts agree that Stroman should be given the chance to start. Their concerns, along with durability, are mostly due to the fact that it’s tougher for shorter pitchers to get downward plane on their fastballs which, in turn, makes the pitch easier to hit. Keith Law, for example, expressed his concern about the same issue regarding Sonny Gray. As long as the fastball is down in the zone, it’s likely fine. The same is true for every pitcher, but the implications are somewhat amplified with shorter guys.
Stroman is regarded at Toronto’s top prospect by Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks and his 27th best prospect overall. Mr. Parks wrote the following about Stroman:
Stroman might be even shorter than his listed height (5’9’’), and normally I would be the first person to put him into the reliever box—especially given the fact that he could be an elite closer in that role. But I think Stroman is a starter all the way, with more than enough strength and athleticism for the workload and a deep arsenal that he can command. He’s atypical and unorthodox, but Stroman is going to be an impact starter at the major-league level. The stuff is well above average, the delivery and arm work very well and should be able to handle a starter’s workload, and the aggressiveness and poise fit the mold of a frontline starter just as much as it does a late-innings arm. If you focus too much on the height you are going to miss the realities of the overall profile. This is a starting pitcher.
ESPN’s Keith Law isn’t quite as high on Stroman. Ranking him 58th overall and 2nd in the Blue Jays’ system behind another young hurler, Aaron Sanchez. Law’s critique which I paraphrased above, focuses on Stroman’s ability to keep the ball down and limit damage done via the long ball. Law might not be quite as bullish on Stroman as Mr. Parks, but he’s still plenty confident in Stroman’s ability.
Minor League Production
After being drafted in 2012, Stroman was eased into the swing of things in a relief role. Last season, though, Stroman spent the majority of the time as a starter and dominated. His command and raw stuff really shine. His strikeout rates are well above average and his walk rates are miniscule, and that’s more than half of the battle.
Minor League Central has his groundball rate for 2013 at ~43 percent. It’s not terrible, but given the worries about his lack of plane, I’d like for it be a little higher. All in all, his minor league production has been freaky good, and also somewhat expected given his polish and the quality of his pitches.
Steamer is the highest on Stroman – at least from a run prevention standpoint. ZiPS is much higher on his ability to get punch outs, but forecasts an issue with homers in the near future. That’s not surprising giving his stature, home park, and the fact the ZiPS works off of historical comps.
I nearly view Stroman in the same light as Kevin Gausman, whom I wrote about earlier. The only thing standing in his way is likely playing time. It remains to be seen if Stroman will receive a crack at the rotation. Quite frankly, the Blue Jays need rotation help. They appear unlikely to sign Ervin Santana. And I doubt anyone in the organization has much trust in Kyle Drabek anymore.
Stroman’s upside is good. If you’re in a dynasty league, he should have a spot on your roster because his stuff will play somewhere. If starting doesn’t work out, you’re looking at a dynamite high leverage reliever. In one year leagues, his value is muted for the same reason. We don’t know how much time he’ll get or what role he’ll be in, but if he makes the big leagues as a starter, follow him very closely. He should be able to provide solid ratios and at least nearly league average run prevention. He makes for a perfect streaming candidate, especially when he’s pitching in a park that suppresses home runs.