Q&A: Marcus Stroman, a Blue Jay Starts Over

Marcus Stroman is back, and he’s back big — at least to the degree a 5-foot-9 pitcher can be described as big. His first performance of the 2013 season certainly was. The 22-year-old Toronto Blue Jays prospect threw five scoreless innings, with six strikeouts, for Double-A New Hampshire on Sunday.

Drafted 22nd-overall last year out of Duke, the right-hander saw his season start late due to a 50-game suspension incurred last August. Before going afoul of Minor League Baseball’s drug program, he made 15 appearances between two levels.

Stroman talked about what he brings to the mound — including his cutter-slider and his non-max-effort delivery — prior to Monday’s game in Portland, Maine.


Stroman on his suspension and starting over
: “[The suspension] was for an over-the-counter stimulant I was taking. I didn’t know it was something I’d test positive for. It was definitely hard to cope with. I was sent home, then went to instructs for three or four weeks. I closed there — I didn’t start.

“When I reported to spring training they let me know they were going to give me a chance to start this year. I had all these games I had to serve, and they stretched me out during spring training and extended. I was able to work on all four of my pitches, and really develop into a starter’s role.

“I loved being told I was going to start. I certainly wasn’t mad, or anything like that. I did both at Duke, so I have experience with both. I knew I’d be able to get into a good routine and really get going.

“I honestly couldn’t tell you what the Blue Jays are thinking down the road — I just know I’m starting now. I feel I can have success as a starter, I definitely don’t feel I’ll be limited to the bullpen.”

On his velocity and mechanics: “Honestly, there’s not much difference. With the workout program I’ve been doing, I’ve been able to hold my velocity as a starter. I’ll be anywhere from 92 to 95-96 for however many innings, five or six. When I come out of the pen, it’s normally about the same. I might be sitting a little higher, but for the most part my velocity is the same.

“I’ve never been a max-effort guy. I stay in my mechanics. I have pretty unique mechanics that allow me to get the most out of my body and my height. I feel if I stay smooth in my mechanics, the ball comes out just as well on every pitch.

“I’m really on my legs. I really propel, and force myself off the mound. That’s how I’m able to throw hard for my size. And I have a little twist that adds deception, as well helps me stay on my back side. Because of that it might appear that I’m max effort, but I can tell you firsthand I’m nowhere near max-effort. I’ve seen max-effort, and that’s not me.”

On his repertoire: “I throw mostly fours. I’ll throw an occasional two-seam, but I pitch mostly off my four-seam fastball. I feel I’m able to throw it through the zone pretty well. I get some arm-side tail, mostly to lefties, but it’s not necessarily what I’m trying to do — it’s just how it comes off my fingers at times. If anything, I have late life.

“I’m throwing a slider-cutter now. It’s a slider and anywhere from 85 to 88. My progression was… we were trying to get my slider harder. I used to throw a slider and a cutter, so we kind of banged the slider. I was throwing a cutter, but it basically developed into the slider I throw now. That’s the reason I use those two references. When I’m throwing the pitch, I think cutter, but it’s more of a true slider. It has depth to it.

“I can actually change it, depending on the count. I can make it have more depth or I can have it move more horizontally, depending on the batter and the count.

“I also throw a curveball and changeup. My changeup is still fairly new. I worked on it all spring and have gotten it to the point where it’s a good pitch, but I definitely want to get it better. It’s a four-seam circle. My curveball isn’t a true 12-6. It’s a hard curveball — anywhere from 78 to 81 — but it’s pretty big and has late break.”

On his approach: “I let the game dictate itself, but I definitely like to establish my fastball first. A key I’ve learned, pitching at this level, is that you have to establish in. You have to throw fastballs in, because if you don’t, hitters get way too comfortable.

“I see how hitters are reacting to my fastball and work off that. I’m reading hitters. I’m making sure me and my catcher are on the same page, but I’m also reading swings. I want to throw the pitch I want, and hopefully my catcher agrees.

“Going forward I think I’ll use more [data and scouting reports]. It can’t do anything but help. That said, I’ve never been a guy to overanalyze stats and think too much. I don’t want to get to the point I’m out there thinking too much about which pitch I want to throw to which hitter. I like to attack.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Big Daddy V
9 years ago

He should change his first name to start with A, and then get himself traded to Houston.

9 years ago
Reply to  Big Daddy V

Took me a second to get, but it was worth the effort.