Greetings from sunny Florida! I’m here on the Florida Gulf Coast to provide our Grading on the Curve readers with some first-hand scouting reports on some of the players I’ve seen. I’m covering the Toronto Blue Jays mostly (with a media credential thanks to our friends at the Canadian Baseball Network) but I will provide some reports on their opposition as well. Wednesday, I was the big league game between the Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Rays and I saw most of the game from the photo bays just beyond the first and third base dugouts. Not the best place to scout from, I know, but, unfortunately, the press box was packed and paying customers were sitting in the desirable scouting seats right behind home plate.
Two potential rookies went head to head with Nathan Karns, a 26-year-old righty who played his high school and college ball in Texas, going for the Rays and Marcus Stroman, a 22-year-old Long Island native going for the Blue Jays. Karns was acquired by the Rays this offseason in a a deal that sent Jose Lobaton, Felipe Rivero and Drew Vettleson to Washington. Stroman was the Blue Jays’ first round draft pick in 2012 (22nd overall) out of Duke University and has lit up the minors in his year and half, spending 2013 in Double-A.
Karns, at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds is a big fella and he throws downhill really well. He was really effective against a major league lineup that featured Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind, Colby Rasmus and Brett Lawrie. While he only struck out one batter, he didn’t give up a run in his three and a third innings and surrendered three hits and one walk.
Again, because of the angle I was at for the game, I couldn’t really tell which pitches he was using most of the time, but I did get some pretty pictures (one of which is to the right).
Stroman, on the other hand, is only 5-foot-9 and about 185 pounds. Because he can’t get the downward plane that Karns gets, Stroman really needs to work down in the zone. When he was doing so, he was very effective, picking up three strikeouts in his four innings. He struck out solid major leaguers in Ben Zobrist (looking), Sean Rodriguez (swinging) and Wilson Betemit (looking). That said, when he left the ball up in the zone, he was very hittable and he gave up a home run to Jeremy Moore who, to his credit, has hit .400 with three home runs this spring.
That said, it was an interesting battle of two very different pitchers, both of whom are trying to make the major leagues and will, in all likelihood, see The Show at some point in 2014.
Tomorrow, I’ll update you on the guys I saw in Dunedin today in a match up of Double-A and Triple-A clubs between the Blue Jays and the Pittsburgh Pirates.