I was asked today if Marcus Stroman will be a breakout player in 2016, the short answer is “yes, no doubt” but lets take a closer look at Stroman and what is expected. I have always been a big believer of Stroman and profiled him before his debut here.
There is a lot to love about Marcus Stroman, he always shows his big smile, has an extremely positive attitude, gives constant love to the city of Toronto and is the example of young professionals. The guy never stops winning fans over from paying off his moms mortgage, constant social love to his family, shout outs to Earl his massively built dad and genuine connection with his fellow teammates. Off the field he sets the table with a personality that every fan and front office loves to see from their starts or up and coming players.
Heading into the 2015 season, the world was ready to see Stroman lead the Blue Jays pitching staff and fave a breakout season. He was the appointed golden boy, he relished the spotlight, the table was set for him. If it was not for a freak injury in spring training during bunting drills we might have been blessed with his breakout. Instead he tore his ACL, went back to Duke University to finish his degree and made a miracle recovery.
Stroman was a write off for the 2015 season after his injury, he promised a September return but that was the best case scenario. What he did accomplish was 4 regular season starts putting up a 4-0 record, 1.67 ERA, .963 WHIP, and a remarkable 1.3 WAR. He continued to start 3 games in the playoffs covering 19.1 IN, with a 4.19 ERA and 1.345 WHIP. While it’s a small sample size, it gave many the confidence needed going forward. In his 24 career regular season starts, Stroman has a 2.99 ERA, 1.113 WHIP, 7.4 SO/9 while limiting his BB to 2.06/9.
Heading into the 2016 season, Stroman will still only be 24 on opening day and has his career ahead of him. He will be the #1 starter in a rotation that includes Marco Estrada, R.A. Dickey, J.A. Happ, one of Jesse Chavez, Aaron Sanchez, Drew Hutchison or newly signed Gavin Floyd. That is a lot of responsibility for a young player but Stroman has shown he wants the spotlight, he thrives to prove that HDMH (height doesn’t measure heart) and is ready by all accounts to be a top pitcher.
The question is can Stroman put up 180-200 dominant innings similar to his first 24 starts? It is probably unrealistic to ask him to spin a 2.99 ERA over a full season as only 3 starters in the AL achieved that last season in David Price, Dallas Keuchel and Sonny Gray. Being in that company would be an obvious massive win for the Blue Jays.
The first step in Stroman achieving breakout status is to pitch over a full season. He is projected by Steamer to pitch 193 innings with a 3.66 ERA and a 3.3 WAR. Something in that range would be very promising but probably not give him “breakout status”. In this projection he stays around 7.5 SO/9 which is not bad but not elite. To achieve breakout status he will need to move up his strikeouts more in line with his minor league numbers, he would then put himself in conversation with another stud Chris Archer. Now Archer is probably closer to what you can hope Stroman will become, expect with a few less walks and strikeouts.
What is very possible is that Stroman has a final season line something like 15-8, 3.40 ERA, 8.2 SO/9, 2.5 BB/9, 1.2 WHIP and a WAR in the 4.5 range. With this type of season Stroman will have put himself in the conversation as a top pitcher in the AL and be in position to improve on that line and be considered one of the elite starters in the game. Anywhere in between the two projections will be a successful season for Stroman, especially considering his age.
Keep your eyes peeled for Marcus Stroman because he is ready to prove that he is one of the best pitchers in the game.