We get it, Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman is the man. He has a slick haircut that mirrors Odell Beckham Jr. He’s shown off his rap skills, proving that Damian Lillard isn’t the only professional athlete that can spit bars. He even changed his number to six to represent the city that he plays for. But can the Blue Jays really trust Stroman to lead them down a deep playoff run this season?
Stroman tossed a tremendous 11-win rookie campaign in 2014 with Toronto, posting a 3.65 ERA in 20 starts, before tearing his ACL at the start of spring training in 2015. In his road to recovery, Stroman was sure he would return in September as he trained to get back stronger than before. The right-hander even finished his undergraduate degree during his rehabilitation stint at Duke.
As September came, Stroman was able to get back on the hill and perform at a high level, going 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA in his only four starts before the postseason began. Stroman was ultimately a compliment to David Price, with the tandem going one and two in the rotation.
If it wasn’t for Price showing up in Toronto last season, they may have had a much tougher time winning the division even with their high-powered offense. The Blue Jays were a .500 team when they acquired Price, and his Cy Young material season helped skyrocket Toronto to first place. The veteran ace gave Toronto a starter they could rely on, with the expectation of getting a win every fifth day.
When Price decided to part ways with Toronto this offseason, that left Stroman with the six on his shoulders and as the future ace of the Blue Jays. But, is it really smart for Toronto to throw a 25-year-old out on the bump and expect him to perform at a high level after not tossing 200 innings in the big leagues? Stroman’s 5’ 8″ 180-pound frame isn’t the most intimidating thing in the world either, but, he’s already proved in his young career that he doesn’t care about that, following his motto: Height Doesn’t Measure Heart.
The bats will still make an impact in Toronto this season. Reigning MVP, Josh Donaldson, still leads the trio of him, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion in the leagues top offense from a season ago. Although the offense is there, the rest of the pitching staff behind Stroman could go either north or south very easily.
All of these pitchers have major question marks surrounding them and could be a potential disaster. If they stay the course they should be able to finish league average or better, that’s when the bats will be able to bail them out.
Estrada had the best season of his career a year ago, finishing with 13 wins and a 3.13 ERA to go along with the most innings he’s pitched in a season. Toronto better hope that this wasn’t a fluke after leading the league in home runs allowed with the Brewers the season before. The 41-year-old knuckle baller, Dickey, is always up in the air given the nature of the knuckleball. One thing is for sure, as long as Dickey can stay healthy in 2016, he’ll pitch over 200 innings for Toronto, something he’s done the past five seasons.
If the signing of J.A. Happ in the offseason was Toronto’s way of filling the hole left by Price, then it was a questionable move to say the least. Before Happ’s second half resurgence after getting traded from Seattle to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline, he posted four straight seasons with an ERA of over 4.00. Two and a half of those seasons happened to be in Toronto. Some of Happ’s worst years of his career came when he pitched with the Blue Jays. It seems as if the blue and white are banking on the 1.85 ERA Happ situated in the second half of the season as something he can expand off of into 2016.
Stroman definitely likes the task that lies ahead of him. He will be trying to prove his doubters wrong but it’s just not logical to think that he’ll perform at such a high level. It won’t be a sure thing that Toronto will get a win every time Stroman steps on the bump when the offense has an off night. Without a bona fide ace and a shaky back half of the rotation, it’ll be interesting to see how far the offense can carry this team, and how much Stroman will step up this season with the expectations of making the playoffs.