Following two weeks of terrible bullpen performances, weak outings by their starters and inconsistent hitting, the Toronto Blue Jays’ seemingly slap-dash roster moves finally culminated in the promotion of the club’s #2 prospect, Marcus Stroman amidst the chaos of the revolving door of transactions.
With the club’s closer, Casey Janssen, on the shelf (although he’s nearing the beginning of a rehab assignment), Sergio Santos has been a disaster in Janssen’s stead. Santos has pitched to a 10.61 ERA and 2.25 WHIP with nine walks and 17 strikeouts in just 9 1/3 innings.
The Blue Jays have had a rotating cast of characters in the bullpen (with Chad Jenkins and Neil Wagner up between Buffalo and Toronto) but the problems don’t just extend to relief pitching. The Blue Jays recently optioned second baseman Ryan Goins, who had been heralded as a Gold Glove defender, after a season-long struggle with the bat and Chris Getz, a minor league free-agent signing this offseason, was promoted to take his place.
Jonathan Diaz, another defensively gifted but offensively challenged infielder, was also sent to Buffalo in favor of someone who might offer a little more with the bat in minor league veteran Steven Tolleson.
The outfield wasn’t overlooked either. Moises Sierra, hitting under .100 in limited time this season, was designated for assignment (and claimed on waivers by the Chicago White Sox) in favor of prospect Anthony Gose who was then sent back to the minors when Stroman came up.
And yes, pitching woes remained a concern. When it was announced that Brandon Morrow had a torn tendon sheath in his finger and was moved to the 60-day DL, it was Marcus Stroman who got the call.
Stroman, 23, is the Blue Jays’ (almost universally) second-ranked prospect who has been lighting the International League on fire and just came off an efficient, six-inning, no-hit, one-walk, ten strikeout performance against the Louisville bats before his promotion.
He made his major league debut in Pittsburgh yesterday, relieving a resurgent Dustin McGowan in the eighth inning. The 5-foot-9 righty hit 95 mph on the radar gun with his first two pitches and retired former Blue Jay Travis Snider on a ground out for his first big league out. The next hitter, Josh Harrison, drilled a 93 mph fastball to center field for a triple and Stroman hit Neil walker two pitches later. Andrew McCutchen hit a sacrifice fly (on a close play) on a 2-2 count to drive in a run and that ended Stroman’s first big league appearance.
Stroman’s short stature has many people believing that he’s going to be a reliever in the long term but he has been starting in the minor leagues and, it is believed, that the Blue Jays will eventually give him his shot in the starting rotation. The 2012 first-round draftee has 188 strikeouts in 157 2/3 minor league innings (with all but 11 1/3 of those innings at the Double-A and Triple-A levels) with an excellent 4.37 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Stroman has achieved those outstanding numbers with a combination of filthy stuff, which includes a low-to-mid-90s fastball, a sharply breaking cutter, a solid slider and a developing changeup. Stroman also throws a curveball (as a slower version of the slider). The current plan is to have him shore up a beleaguered bullpen but his day in the sun as a starter could be coming soon should J.A. Happ falter.