The Blue Jays will call up right-handed pitching prospect Marcus Stroman, the team told reporters (including Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca) after tonight’s loss to the Pirates. Stroman will pitch out of the bullpen for the Jays, at least at first, though he has pitched exclusively as a starter for the last two minor league seasons and there had been rumors that he was on pace to join the rotation. A corresponding move will come tomorrow, as Stroman isn’t on Toronto’s 40-man roster.
Stroman, who just turned 23 years old on Thursday, was taken by the Jays with the 22nd overall pick of the 2012 amateur draft. He began his pro career in ignominious fashion by serving a 50-game suspension for a PED violation, but returned to post a 3.30 ERA, 10.4 K/9 and 4.78 K/BB rate over 20 Double-A starts in 2013. The righty has been even better in five Triple-A starts this season, posting a 1.69 ERA, 12.2 K/9 and 5.14 K/BB rate over 26 2/3 IP.
This performance earned Stroman a place on several preseason prospect lists. MLB.com ranked Stroman 52nd on its list of the top 100 prospects in the game, while Baseball America ranked the righty 55th and ESPN’s Keith Law ranked him 58th. The 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook ranked Stroman as the second-best prospect in Toronto’s farm system (behind only Aaron Sanchez) and praised his 92-95 mph “heavy fastball…with above-average movement” also counted his slider and cutter as plus pitches. The knock on Stroman is his 5’9″ height, as the BA Handbook noted that “if Stroman does not defy the odds and become at least a No. 3 starter, then he could be a high-end late-game reliever.”
While the Blue Jays obviously hope Stroman becomes a quality starter in the long term, late-game relief help of any sort would be a boon for a struggling Jays bullpen. Toronto relievers have a 7.45 ERA over their last 48 1/3 IP, which includes the five runs allowed by Aaron Loup and Todd Redmond over 1 2/3 IP in tonight’s loss.
Stroman’s minor league starts had been lined up with Dustin McGowan’s starts for the Jays, leading to speculation that Stroman would take his spot in the rotation and McGowan would be moved back to the pen. The Blue Jays were also planning to go to a six-man rotation (with J.A. Happ starting) to keep their starters fresh during their current stretch of 20 consecutive games, though Brandon Morrow’s injury may have shelved that plan for the time being.
If Stroman remains on the Major League roster for the remainder of the season, he will accrue 148 days of service time and be virtually assured of reaching Super Two status. (Two years and 146 days of service time has been the highest Super Two cutoff point of the last six years.) This will earn Stroman an extra year of arbitration eligibility, though Toronto still controls his rights through the 2020 season.