The Toronto Blue Jays' pitching staff is facing a collection of troubling issues at the moment. These issues include — but are not limited to — injuries in the starting rotation (Brandon Morrow), injuries in the bullpen (Casey Janssen) and lousy year-to-date performances (R.A. Dickey, Dustin McGowan, every relief pitcher). As a team, the Jays currently rank 26th in the majors in ERA (4.65), 27th in WHIP (1.46) and next-to-last in opponents' OPS (.771).
Into this big blue mess steps Marcus Stroman, a 23-year-old right-hander who has absolutely dominated International League hitters over five early-season starts. Stroman has K'd 36 batters over 26.2 innings thus far, walking seven and allowing only 22 hits (none of them homers). His ERA at Triple-A Buffalo is 1.69.
In Stroman's most recent start, he pitched six no-hit innings and delivered 10 Ks, issuing just one walk. Check the tape. It's a display of uncommon cruelty. He earned his call-up, no question.
Stroman entered the season rated as a top-100 prospect by pretty much everyone — No. 55 at Baseball America, No. 27 at Prospectus, No. 52 at MLB.com — and his early performance has exceeded the hype. He's not a big kid (5-foot-9), but he generates plenty of velocity. For scouting details on Stroman, here's Bernie Pleskoff, via MLB.com:
He has a wide range of quality pitches that include a fastball, which he can throw at 96 mph, an 86 mph changeup, an 85 mph curveball, and a wicked, wicked slider that may be his best pitch at 86 mph. Stroman also has a cutter that might be the equal to the slider in effectiveness at 93 mph.
Stroman's "stuff" is conducive to strikeouts. While his quick arm can ratchet up the velocity, it is his hard breaking, sharp slider that induces lots of swings and misses. Along with the cutter, they are pitches Stroman uses to finish off the hitter. Over the course of the [Arizona] Fall League season, I saw Stroman's entire arsenal. He can throw any pitch at any count with confidence in his location and with good results.
Toronto intends to use Stroman as a bullpen asset for now, but he'll eventually crack this team's shaky rotation. The Jays had already synced up his minor league starts with McGowan's in preparation for a takeover. Based on strikeout potential alone, Stroman is a viable mixed league pick-up, available in 82 percent of Yahoo leagues.
We all hate the A.L. East backdrop for fantasy purposes, sure, but Stroman's minor league performance has really been too impressive to ignore.