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Stroman mixes a power arm with a deadly arsenal

Blue Jays No. 3 prospect has found success pitching at almost every level

Marcus Stroman is not among the current group of very large framed pitching prospects. In fact, at first glance, Stroman looks more like a shortstop than a pitcher.

That's fitting, as Stroman, the third-ranked prospect for the Toronto Blue Jays, has played shortstop in the past.

As a student-athlete at Patchogue-Medford High School in New York, Stroman earned a gold glove at shortstop. He hit .350 with six homers and 22 stolen bases. He pitched to a 9-1 record as a senior with an ERA of 0.25 and 120 strikeouts. He also played point guard for four years on the basketball team. In short, Stroman's athletic ability was on display for scouts and college recruiters to evaluate.

Stroman, who stands 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, took his skills to Duke University where he became the Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year. He played second base, shortstop and pitched.

Following a fantastic college career that was filled with honors, trophies and awards, Stroman became the first Duke player ever selected in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft. That happened when the Blue Jays chose him in June of 2012.

Stroman began his career working out of the bullpen for Class A Short Season Vancouver. He had a 3.18 ERA and 0.97 WHIP, pitching 11 1/3 innings.

Later that season, Stroman was promoted all the way to Double-A New Hampshire. He finished there with a 3.38 ERA and 1.75 WHIP in eight innings pitched. It was a very good rookie year.

This past season, Stroman pitched in the New Hampshire rotation. He finished with a 9-5 record in 20 starts, and he had a fine 3.30 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP covering his 111 2/3 innings. He struck out an average of 10.4 hitters per nine innings, while walking 2.2 in nine and surrendering 13 home runs.

Stroman is one of the best pitchers I saw in this year's Arizona Fall League. In fact, he is among the players selected by our staff as a top-20 Fall League prospect.

Stroman's combination of a strong arm, good command and solid mechanics make him valuable as either a starter or reliever.

He has a wide range of quality pitches that include a fastball, which he can throw at 96 mph, an 86 mph changeup, an 85 mph curveball, and a wicked, wicked slider that may be his best pitch at 86 mph. Stroman also has a cutter that might be the equal to the slider in effectiveness at 93 mph.

Stroman's "stuff" is conducive to strikeouts. While his quick arm can ratchet up the velocity, it is his hard breaking, sharp slider that induces lots of swings and misses. Along with the cutter, they are pitches Stroman uses to finish off the hitter.

Over the course of the Fall League season, I saw Stroman's entire arsenal. He can throw any pitch at any count with confidence in his location and with good results.

Stroman does not waste energy on extraneous movement in his delivery. His quiet approach and quick pace result in good rhythm and flow on the mound.

In Arizona, Stroman threw 11 2/3 innings, all in relief. He yielded eight hits and walked only three, while striking out 13. He finished with an ERA of 3.09 and a WHIP of 0.94.

Stroman pitched for the East Division in the Arizona Fall League's Fall Stars game. He threw one inning of scoreless baseball, striking out two.

His fall statistics were outstanding, but it was his mechanics and mound demeanor that helped confirm my belief in his ability as a quality pitcher.

The Blue Jays have the luxury of being able to use Stroman in a variety of pitching roles. Stroman has the arm strength and the repertoire that fit any slot on the pitching staff. He is even capable of closing games.

His role will likely depend upon the club's needs when Stroman's development is complete. I like him best as a starter.

Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff; on Twitter.
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