Marcus Stroman had a underwhelming season for the Blue Jays in 2016. Can he right the ship and bounce back in 2017?
The Jays entered 2016 banking on Marcus Stroman to spearhead their rotation. Unfortunately, things did not go to plan, as he would struggle in his first full season as a MLB starter. But, can his raw talent overcome his struggles, and can fantasy owners expect a bounce back performance in 2017?
Stroman debuted for Toronto in 2014 and provided the Jays with a much-needed boost in their rotation. Heading into 2015, he was pegged as a breakout star, but lost nearly all of that season due to a torn ACL. That made 2016 the year where we would finally see what Stroman could do, but the results were underwhelming.
He ended the 2016 season with a 9 W/4.37 ERA/1.28 WHIP/166 K line over 32 starts. He struggled out of the gates, posting at least a 4.37 ERA per month over the first half, capped by a horrid 7.76 ERA in June. He just never got settled in the first half of the season, and hitters were teeing him up left and right.
So what was the cause? It seems as though Stroman’s sinker looked the size of a beach ball last season. After using it successfully in 2013 and 2014 as his major weapon. After two seasons where batters were unable to post a .220 AVG against the pitch, hitters were all over it to a .319+ AVG in 2016.
This led to his absurd 44 XBH allowed and .268 AVG against him over the first half. WIth such ugly numbers, how can fantasy owners trust that he can navigate around his 2016 woes?
The simple answer is: pitch variety. After getting shelled for most of the first half, Stroman made the change to his pitch mix that allowed him to post a 3.68 ERA to finish the season. The major change to his approach came with him featuring his cutter, slider, and curve more.
From July through the rest of the season, he did not post higher than a 3.71 ERA in any month. He was lights out over the last two months as well posting a 3.13 ERA and 3.41 ERA respectively to close the season. That success was not pure luck either, he started to adjust and the impact was immediate.
After going the first half of the season only throwing his curve and slider barely 15% of the time, he upped its usage to over 20%. over the second half. His cutter usage jumped nearly 10% as well, as he began to use less of his sinker. He started the year using his sinker 58% of the time, and by October, its usage was down to 24%.
What owners should be interested in, are those adjustments, and the results that came of as a result. One area that Stroman needs to improve for fantasy purposes, is his 7.3 SO/9. The changes he made with his pitch mix, should lead to a K uptick and second half success.
In terms of his fantasy value, owners have to think a rebound is order. His 3.71 FIP and 3.62 SIERA offer some signs of hope as well, and it is nice to see that his peripherals support that he was not as bad as his surface numbers looked. The velocity was there all season, and his curveball rates as one of the nastier pitches in baseball, so the raw talent is still here.
His 7.3 SO/9 are on the more SP2 or SP3 side of things, but with four plus pitches at his disposal, he can certainly increase those numbers. Astute owners will be able to see past the surface stats, and see a pitcher that made the proper adjustment to turn things around.
Is he going to be a fantasy ace next season, probably not. Does he have the stuff to do so, absolutely. Fantasy owners have to appreciate the talent though, which makes him a solid mid round bounce back pick. Target him again this spring.