Approximately six inches prevented Marcus Stroman from having a realistic shot at being drafted #1 overall in the 2012 MLB Draft. Instead, Stroman – who arguably has the best pure arm in the draft – fell out of the top 5, the top 10, and the top 20, all the way to the Toronto Blue Jays at #22 overall. While possibly not a surprising fall, for context, Stroman was ranked as the 10th, 10th, and 17th best draft prospect by Baseball America, MLB.com, and ESPN respectively. The reason for the fall however, again, is those six inches. I’m talking about, of course, Stroman’s physical stature. He only stands at a listed 5’9, 185 lbs and that may be generous. While that may turn some teams off, that doesn’t take away Stroman’s absolutely electric arm. When all is said and done, Stroman might be one of the most valuable and effective pitchers from the 2012 draft. I’m sure the Blue Jays hope so and that’s why I’m equally sure they were thrilled to grab Stroman in the latter half of the first round.
As alluded to before, Stroman has a big arm. He can run his fastball up to 97, especially if pitching in relief. As a starter, he sits in the mid 90’s deep into games. Considering his small frame – again, the Duke pitcher only stands 5’9 and weighs 185 lbs – Stroman generates his elite velocity by being a tremendous athlete and having a strong core and lower half that generates significant torque. Velocity is not the only plus associated with Stroman’s fastball; his fastball has good tailing movement. Stroman’s arsenal features another plus pitcher, his slider. The breaking ball has nasty bite and good depth. The Blue Devil pitcher rounds out his repertoire with a cut fastball with good promise that he just picked up and a raw changeup.
In addition to pitching at Duke, Stroman has been part of Team USA. Before this spring season, Stroman’s junior year, in which he was a starter for Duke, Stroman manned the closer role for his National Squad last summer. In that role, Stroman excelled, sitting in the 95-96 range with his fastball. Statistically, Stroman was dominant, pitching 8.1 innings. In those innings, Stroman did not give up a single hit, walking one batter while striking out seventeen. The quality of competition was not necessarily the toughest, but Stroman’s performance was incredibly impressive nonetheless.
2010: 57.2 IP, 5.31 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 64 K, 25 BB
2011: 64.1 IP, 2.80 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 90 K, 21 BB
2012: 98.0 IP, 2.39 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 136 K, 26 BB
Stroman can follow two career paths, and ultimately it’s up to the Blue Jays to decide which one. Stroman could be the first player to the majors from the 2012 draft class if the Blue Jays decide to put him in the bullpen; In fact, he could pitch in the major leagues this year. There, his size, which is linked with his durability, shouldn’t be a problem. Stroman has the pure stuff to close based just on his fastball and slider, although he will need to improve his command for both pitches to become an elite-level closer. Pitching for only an inning will allow Stroman to run his fastball into the high 90’s and his wipeout slider will help complement that. Stroman will still have a changeup in his back pocket too, which won’t hurt. However, if the Blue Jays decide to be more patient with Stroman, they could send him to the rotation, although he would most likely need a few years to help develop into a starter. Doing so would require patience, but the reward could be better. Despite his small stature, Stroman has shown the ability to maintain his velocity deep into games. His slider gives him a second plus pitch. If he can improve his cutter and changeup, that could give him an arsenal that should make him a successful major league starter. Furthermore, if Stroman can refine his command, he has #2 starter upside. That’s more valuable than a closer, even an elite-level one. Still, the Jays wouldn’t mind an elite-level closer either. It’s also worth noting that Chris Sale burst into the majors as a relief pitcher and is in the midst of a successful transition to a rotation, so Stroman following a similar path is not outside the realm of possibility. Ultimately, it will be interesting to see what the Blue Jays have in store for one of their newest prospects.
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