No matter how you slice the 2015 Blue Jays – the future is here, the future is bright, and the future is about to play a BIG role in the upcoming campaign. Let’s take a look at some players under the age of 25 who are ready to tackle the task of getting Toronto back in the post season.
Marcus Stroman – Age 23, Height 5’8”, Weight 185 lbs, Drafted 1st round (2012)
One of the main pieces to the 2015 Blue Jays puzzle will be Marcus Stroman. Toronto is looking for the 23 year old to make 30 plus starts, which can be a tall order for a sophomore pitcher.
Being just the sixth sub 5’10” pitcher since 2001 to make a start in Major League Baseball, Stroman was able to defy the odds of short pitchers and have a successful rookie campaign. Finishing with an 11-6 record and a 3.65 ERA, Marcus was able to stay healthy and start 20 games for Toronto. One (or should I say six?) of the things that make this young pitcher so deadly, is his repertoire of pitches. A hitter can never be comfortable at the plate when Stroman toes the rubber, as he throws a four-seam fastball, sinker, slider, cutter, curve-ball, and a change-up. This was evident in just 1 2/3 innings of work in his pre season debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates where he threw his entire arsenal at them. Not only does Stroman have a variety of pitches, but he is able to locate, especially with the breaking ball.
Against the Cardinals last year, where Marcus struck out 7, he was able to keep hitters off balance by locating low and away with his breaking ball. This is just a small sample size, but it is a testament to his pitches, and his ability to throw the ball where he wants.
Stroman is not only a strong pitcher, but a strong athlete who is able to play multiple sports, and best of all, steal bags. At Duke, Marcus was able to steal 25 bags on 32 attempts and was a pinch runner in certain situations for the Blue Jays last season. His athleticism, ability to listen and learn from veterans Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey, and his ongoing chip-on-his-shoulder mentality speaks volumes for the young gun. One thing is for certain, Stroman will play a vital role this year, and 2015 may just be his coming out party.
BOLD PREDICTION: 20 wins in 2015.
Drew Hutchison – Age 24, Height 6’3”, Weight 195 lbs, Drafted 15th round (2009)
When I spoke to Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun, one of the things he said was that Drew Hutchison has the potential for a great season, and I tend to agree. It has only been 3 years since Hutchison needed Tommy John surgery and was known as one of the top Blue Jays prospects. He showed glimpses of greatness during the 2014 campaign. On August 6th, Drew threw 8.2 innings of one hit baseball against the Orioles and a couple months later pitched a complete game three-hit shutout against the Rangers. Now, he did end with an 11-13 record with a 4.48 ERA, but was able to finish a full season since his surgery and start 32 games for Toronto. Not only did he finish the season, but he had 12 games where he struck out 7 or more hitters, and ended the year with 184 K’s in all. Something else to look for is that Hutchison throws a ton of strikes, and will not give up first base easily. Out of 32 starts, Hutchison gave up 3 or less walks 28 times in 2014. Drew is another young player that has the tools to succeed in the MLB, and is coming off his first offseason where he did not have to worry about rehabbing his elbow. The Blue Jays will most likely have him slotted in as a 4th or 5th starter, and, like Stroman, are looking for him to eat up innings and make a big impact this season.
Daniel Norris – Age 21, Height 6’2” Weight 180 lbs, Drafted 2nd round (2011)
“The King of K,” “The Man in the Van,” whatever it is you want to call him, Daniel Norris is one hell of a pitcher, and is considered one of baseballs top ranked prospects. Throwing 92-96 MPH from the left side isn’t something that comes often, but is a skill that Daniel Norris possesses. In the minors, Norris had an unbelievable 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings. While playing for the Blue Jays Triple-A affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons, he carved up 38 batters in 22.2 innings of work. These numbers, of course, got him called up to the big leagues late last season. Gibbons showed a lot of trust in the young lefty, setting him up against David Ortiz for his first big league strike out.
There is no doubting that Norris is a fastball pitcher, but he also possesses a variety of off-speed pitches that can freeze any batter (exhibit A, David Ortiz, curveball).
Norris throws a four seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a changeup, a slider, a curveball, and likes to make drastic changes in his velocity to keep the batter uncomfortable. The King of K is yet another young gun looking to make a splash for the Blue Jays in 2015, and will be a tremendous asset if he wins the battle to pitch in the rotation.
Aaron Sanchez – Age 22 Height 6’4” Weight 200 lbs, Drafted 1st round (2010)
Aaron Sanchez exceeded expectations last year coming out of the bullpen. Boasting a fastball that touches 99 MPH, the righty is yet another young arm that can make a difference in Toronto. Last year, Sanchez ended the season as the teams closer and held a record of 2-2 with an ERA of 1.09, 7 holds, and 3 saves. He did this all virtually with his fastball. When Sanchez does throw his breaking ball, it drops 15-18 MPH, making Aaron a force on the mound.
In an interview with the Fan 590, Sanchez stated that his ultimate goal is to start for the Blue Jays. In a start this spring he got touched up for 2 ER in 1.1 innings of work against the Pirates. The 2 earned runs were a product of a mistake left over the middle that lead to a homerun by Alvarez. Sanchez could have gotten out of the inning earlier if it weren’t for a Josh Donaldson error. Whether his skill set is in the rotation or the bullpen, expect Sanchez to be a viable talent for the Jays.
Along with the addition of Russell Martin and his tremendous framing ability, these young pitchers are in good hands.
Dalton Pompey – Age 22 Height 6’2” Weight 195 lbs, Drafted 16th round (2010)
The more I analyze this team, the more I believe Dalton Pompey will fit right in as the starting Centre Fielder. The man from my home town (Mississauga, Ontario), and a player that I had the opportunity to play against, is a true speedster that makes consistent contact. Last season, Pompey propelled himself through all levels of the minor leagues before getting his shot with the Blue Jays in September. Through the minors, Pompey’s stats were more than pleasing for an OF:
A (Dunedin): 70 GP .319 BA 29 SB
AA (New Hampshire) 31 GP .295 BA 8 SB
AAA (Buffalo) 12 GP .358 BA 6 SB
Vernon Wells, who patrolled the outfield in Toronto for 12 years, believes the CF spot is Daltons’ to lose, and needs to focus on being the best OF in the American League, not just on securing his spot, (Ken Fidlin, Toronto Sun). As far as spring training goes, Pompey is off to a hot start going 3 for 8 with a double and a stolen base.
The upcoming season is an exciting one for Toronto fans, and the Blue Jays will be relying heavily on their youth…but judging by their success, it may not be such a bad thing after all.
Don’t miss out on baseball tickets this season. http://www.ticketbis.com/