We’ve seen it before with Chris Sale, and a few years prior, with David Price. Highly polished college arms can be brought up as relievers to expedite the process of getting them to the big leagues, only to be placed in the starting rotation soon after. For Sale, he spent all of 2011 as a reliever after making his debut as a reliever in 2010. This season, Sale was inserted into the starting rotation and has experienced great success. Price was brought up as a reliever in 2008 and immediately turned into a starter for 2009. It is quite possible that the Toronto Blue Jays take a similar approach with right-handed pitcher Marcus Stroman.
Stroman has started his career with the Blue Jays as a reliever. He was first assigned to the low-A Vancouver Canadians, who play in a league filled with recent college graduates. Since Stroman hadn’t pitched in two months, the assignment was meant to be a quick conditioning stint. Once Stroman demonstrated that he was well up to speed, he was aggressively assigned to AA New Hampshire.
In 14.1 professional innings, Stroman has struck out 18 batters and walked just 6. He has a plus fastball and a plus slider, both of which he can command consistently. The fastball has outstanding late life and touches 96. The slider is hard with sharp bite and will be a swing-and-miss pitch at the major league level. In addition to the fastball/slider combination, Stroman throws an average changeup that he throws with the same arm speed as his fastball. The pitch has some depth but needs consistency. He has also worked on integrating a cutter into his repertoire.
Although Stroman slipped in the draft, he was regarded as having the best pure stuff among his draft mates and was thought to have the highest probability of seeing time in the major leagues this season. Stroman, like Sale and Price before him, has an exceptionally polished repertoire. Like Sale, there are questions surrounding whether Stroman is a better fit for the rotation or for the bullpen.
Whether Stroman ultimately ends up in the bullpen or the rotation is yet to be determined, but his not-so-distant future lies in the bullpen. Even if the Blue Jays decide to leave Stroman in the bullpen for the 2013 season, as well, they could still “Chris Sale” him and stick him in the rotation the year following.
Marcus Stroman has the repertoire to be a major league starter, but the mindset of a reliever. Though his long-term future might be in the bullpen, it could not hurt the Toronto Blue Jays to give Stroman a look in the starting rotation before making a final decision on his fate. That change won’t come this year, but the Blue Jays could make such a change in 2013 or 2014.
Charles Davis is a baseball writer for RantSports.com with a specific focus on the Toronto Blue Jays, their farm system, and prospects league-wide. Read his articles here and follow him on Twitter @CPDavis90.