In a not-so-subtle shuffling of their Triple-A rotation, the Blue Jays moved Marcus Stroman's last start to align with the struggling Dustin McGowan. If it was indeed a sign that he is soon ticketed for a promotion, the team had to be happy with what it saw on Tuesday.
Stroman tossed six hitless innings against Louisville, the Triple-A affiliate of the Reds. He struck out a career-high 10 and walked just one batter. In five starts covering 26 2/3 innings this year, Stroman has a 1.69 ERA, 1.58 FIP, 1.09 WHIP and 36 strikeouts against seven walks. According to MLB.com, he's the No. 2 prospect in the Toronto pipeline, trailing only Double-A New Hampshire pitcher Aaron Sanchez, and the No. 52 overall prospect in baseball. He dominated at New Hampshire last year, posting a 3.30 ERA, 3.33 FIP and 129 strikeouts in 111 2/3 innings.
Stroman isn't necessarily an overpowering pitcher. His fastball sits in the low-90s and grades as a 65 on the 20-80 scale. His slider, however, is already considered a plus pitch, and scouts believe his changeup will get there, as well. That would give him the three plus offerings he'll need to have success in the majors. He woudn't be a top prospect if he weren't young, but it's worth noting that he turns 23 on Thursday. Stroman is a bit more advanced than many of his fellow pitching prospects having pitched in college at Duke, but there's still plenty of growth to be had here.
On the downside, scouts also fear he is undersized at 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds. For every Yordano Ventura, there are 10 Billy Wagners and Tom Gordons. Smaller guys get shunted to the bullpen for a reason, and there remains trepidation that Stroman's small frame won't hold up as a major league starter. His real-life and fantasy value would obviously take a huge hit if he ended up in the bullpen, but the Blue Jays are clearly intent on trying him as a starter upon promotion to the majors. With what he has shown over the last two years at Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo, they have every reason to believe he can stick in the rotation.
The team hasn't made any sort of announcement that would suggest Stroman's ascent to the big league club is imminent, but that shouldn't stop those of you in deeper mixed leagues for making a move for him right now. I would be adding him in all mixed leagues with at least 14 teams, and would even consider the move in 12-teamers with deep rosters.
• After a lost 2013 season thanks to a nagging ankle injury, Oscar Taveras is once again raking for the Cardinals Triple-A affiliate in Memphis. He's slashing .326/.383/.558 with five homers and 16 RBI while playing left and center. Taveras has never been a big strikeout guy, but his K-rate is a cool 10.6 percent in 94 plate appearances. While it's unlikely the team would promote Tavears before the Super 2 deadline in June, he could be up shortly thereafter. While he'd likely hit toward the top of the St. Louis order assuming he gets promoted, since Allen Craig, Peter Bourjos and Jon Jay are all struggling, he projects as a middle-of-the-order bat in the future. Even though is eventual callup is likely more than a month away, Taveras should be widely owned in mixed leagues. At this point, I prefer him to the Pirates' Gregory Polanco and, all things being equal, would prefer him to George Springer, as well.
• Speaking of players likely to get a promotion after the Super 2 deadline passes, there really isn't much more for Alex Meyer to prove to the Twins at Triple-A Rochester. In his last two starts, against the Triple-A affiliates of the Red Sox and White Sox, he has fanned 22 batters and allowed zero runs and five hits in 12 2/3 innings. The rehabbing Will Middlebrooks faced Meyer in his start against Pawtucket, and had this to say, courtesy of Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal:
Will Middlebrooks on Alex Meyer: "I asked a coach, 'Who'd he make mad? Why is he here? Are there five guys better than him in Minnesota?'"— Brian MacPherson (@brianmacp) April 24, 2014
Of course there are not five guys better than him in Minnesota. A rotation comprised of Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey and Kyle Gibson could clearly benefit from adding MLB.com's No. 26 prospect. For the season, Meyer has a 2.70 ERA, 3.31 FIP, 1.13 WHIP and 35 strikeouts in 26.2 innings. Despite that, don't expect him in the bigs anytime before June. The Twins, who won't sniff a playoff spot this season, aren't going to rush Meyer and unnecessarily start his service clock before the Super 2 deadline passes. He also has never thrown more than 129 innings in a professional season, due largely to the shoulder issues he dealt with in 2013. Given both of those realities, the Twins will likely take it easy with him. He'll almost certainly make his way to Minnesota this year, but it won't be until the summer. Meyer is worth adding and stashing in deeper mixed leagues. He'll be ready to make an immediate fantasy impact upon his promotion.