Public Sector Scouting: Marcus Stroman

Stroman

Over the course of the 2014 season, we at Blue Jays Plus plan on giving you live, in-person scouting reports from what I like to call “Public Sector Scouts”. In recent years, there has been an explosion in talented and eager scouts contributing to a wide variety of websites. While there is some value to scouting via box scores, those stats just don’t tell you the whole story.

After he gave us an excellent report about Aaron Sanchez last Thursday, Phillies blogger Eric Longenhagen of Crashburn Alley was in LeHigh Valley to get a look at the Blue Jays other top prospect, Marcus Stroman.

Since there may be a good deal of scouting jargon in this report, if there are any terms that you aren’t familiar with (or have any other questions), please feel free to inquire in the comment section below. I’ll attempt to clarify anything I can. The notes you’ll see below are all via the wonderful Eric Longenhagen, while the comments that accompany them come via myself, Ewan Ross, for each of the pitches, and Chris Sherwin later on for mechanics.

April 9th

Marcus Stroman vs. LeHigh Valley IronPigs

6IP, 3H, 1R, 0 ER, 5 BB, 8 K

Fastball

  • The fastball was plus, sitting 93-95 early, before showing lots of 92s later in the outing
  • He has enough horizontal movement on the pitch that I’m not concerned about him being homer prone because of a lack of downhill plane on the fastball (like you sometimes see with shorter pitchers)

A typical report for Stroman when it comes to velocity, but its certainly positive to hear more reports about the run on his fastball. For all the positives you hear about Stroman’s slider, the real determining factor on whether Stroman actually becomes the player he’s supposed to will be his ability to overcome the lack of plane on his fastball. Generating substantial movement will go a long way towards reaching that goal.

Slider

  • His best secondary pitch was the slider, which I’d probably stick a 60 or 65 on
  • It was humming in between 83-87mph and had wiffle-ball horizontal movement
  • Some of the ones he threw were plus-plus pitches

The slider has long been Stroman’s calling card, and it’s excellent to see that it occasionally comes in as a 70 grade pitch. The slider is already essentially major league quality, and it will be a bat-misser at the next level. I know that he can get more 2 plane action out of the pitch, but with the extreme horizontal action that’s being described here he doesn’t need much vertical drop in order for the pitch to be great.

Cutter

  • Also has a cutter that he’ll throw anywhere from 88-91mph
  • He likes to backdoor the cutter to left handed hitters and showed the ability to do that pretty much every time he wanted to in this game
  • I’d probably put a 60 on that pitch, too
  • I don’t think he’ll have too much trouble getting lefties out, even without a great changeup, because the cutter will be a weapon against them as well. I’d like to see him cut balls in on lefties’ hands more, induce some weak contact early in counts in effort to be more efficient

This newest pitch in Stroman’s arsenal was added last season as a way to improve his efficiency and mitigate what are thought to be stamina-related issues. Seeing a pitch that is less than 12 months old be described as a 60 is incredibly promising. The fact that he’s throwing it in any situation also shows how quickly he has grown comfortable with a 3rd pitch which will be critical both for help against lefties and for getting quick outs.

Changeup

  • The changeup was about average, mostly 83-85 with some sink to it but he overthrew it at times, left a few up. It’s his weak link right now but I don’t think he’ll have too much trouble getting lefties out, even without a great changeup, because the cutter will be a weapon against them as well.

Another typical report on Stroman’s changeup, which is clearly the weak link in his repertoire. Previously, I would’ve been more concerned that without a plus change, he would have major issues against southpaws. But with the established cutter, I’m nowhere near as worried.

Mechanics/Size

  • Stroman is obviously short but he’s a terrific athlete and, despite his size, has impressive physicality
  • He’s going to face questions about whether or not he can hold up for 180+ innings until he proves he can do it but I’m not sure his size will relegate him to the bullpen as much as his fringe control and command might
  • While the arm works well, he has a full effort, full body delivery that can get out of whack at times because he has to explode in all aspects of it to generate the kind of velo with which he throws
  • He has to launch with the legs, swing the hips around hard and accelerate the arm like crazy if he’s going to touch 95mph from a 5’8” frame
  • It’s hard to sustain that effort and maintain mechanical perfection through 100+ pitches
  • It’s early on the season and it was freezing that night, so it’s possible he just got stiff between innings and wasn’t able to repeat because of that. But I‘m at least a little concerned that he might not be able to operate vs MLB lineups with acceptable efficiency

Some scouts have difficulty separating too much effort with “smooth and easy” efforts. Stroman’s size, quick movement towards home, and efficiently fast arm make it appear that he requires too much effort and can’t repeat. He also has so much torque and power in his delivery that I can understand why some people would be concerned with his ability to repeat. His issues are timing problems which lead to a late arm and over rotation. This is not unusual for a player at his level. Stroman has incredibly efficient linear momentum that leads to easier repeatability in his delievery, so I’m not overly concerned with his recent walks.

Overall

  • With three plus pitches, an average fourth pitch, and fringe average command, we’re talking about a guy with #2 starter-type stuff who might give you a high end #3’s value because of the “lack” of innings he might throw compared to other front-end arms
  • There’s little to no risk here, too. Because the floor is that of an elite bullpen arm; unless he gets hurt

Those last 3 words were the final ones I received in my email from Mr. Longenhagen. Despite reading a very positive report, they’re all that’s sticking with me. I am just a battered Jays fan.

If you’d only looked at the box score, Stroman didn’t appear to have a great game, but getting an eye witness report gives you a totally different perspective. For example, the box score doesn’t tell you about the bitterly cold night, which could’ve led to his inability to command certain pitches. This is yet another reason why these type of reports are just so much more valuable than standard box score scouting.

Below you should see Mr. Longenhagen’s video from the game. It really would be nice to get more Jays affiliates into the tri-state area because there are so many scouts available to us in that region of the country. And of course, please give Mr. Longenhagen a follow on Twitter.

Picture via Todd Bliss

About Ewan Ross

Ewan Ross, a TV and Blue Jays addict, currently lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. He joined the original BlueJaysPlus team in 2012, and he is a co-host of the BJP Podcast alongside Chris Sherwin