When fans in today's generation think of the great, ace pitchers in the game of baseball right now, a few examples of names that typically come to mind are: Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, and Matt Harvey. Each of those well-known pitchers are listed at a height of 6'4 and above, which is the common standard size for a big league starter. Now here we have Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman, who is listed at 5'8 and 180 pounds. Yes, his size is a rare sight in an era of larger-than-life athletes, but Stroman is quickly becoming a household name in Major League Baseball and a fan favorite in the city of Toronto.
Stroman is one of only six major league pitchers shorter than 5'10 to make a start at the highest level of baseball in this century. The only other recognizable name that is listed at 5'10 is the past Cincinnati Reds star, former World Series champion with the Kansas City Royals, and current San Francisco Giant starting pitcher Johnny Cueto. A few more notable starters that are listed an inch taller at 5'11 include Gio Gonzalez, two-time Cy Young award winner and three- time champion Tim Lincecum, and current Boston Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel. However, this is about Marcus Stroman, who is currently the #1 starter in the Toronto Blue Jays starting pitching rotation and overcame a few obstacles to reach his success today.
Stroman was drafted in the 18th of the 2009 Major League Baseball draft by the Washington Nationals. He did not sign with the team and chose to attend Duke University to continue his education and baseball career. It is safe to say he made the right decision. Stroman had among one of the best careers by any player in the history of the Duke baseball program in his three years playing under head coach Sean McNally. He currently ranks fourth on the Duke's all-time list in strikeouts with 290 career punch outs from the bump. His 3.27 career earned run average (ERA) is the second-lowest in school history during the aluminum bat era (since 1974) and ranks sixth-lowest all-time. He also recorded seven saves (sixth most in school history) and nine double-digit strikeout games in his collegiate career.
The Medford, New York native ended up forgoing his senior season and signed with the Toronto Blue Jays after being the 22nd overall selection in the 2012 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft. He was Duke's first ever first-round selection in school history.
As expected, Stroman was rolling through the Blue Jay's minor league system making his professional baseball debut with the Single-A Vancouver Canadians. He was then promoted to the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats in August of 2012. However, the highly-rated prospect was hit by his first wall of adversity. He tested positive for methylhexanamine, which is a banned stimulant in professional baseball. Stroman soon served a 50-game suspension, he kept on dealing in the AA baseball for the Fisher Cats.
Stroman was invited to and eventually attended the Toronto Blue Jays 2014 Minor League Camp. He was the opening day starter for the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons, which is the only one level behind Major League Baseball. Despite the suspension for illegal drug use, Stroman is the #3 rated prospect in the Blue Jay's organization almost one year later and is promoted to the highest level of minor league baseball.
Finally, on May 3, 2014, Marcus Stroman is welcomed to The Show. The 5'8 starting pitcher born in Stony Brook, New York is getting his chance to play at the Major League level. Little did everyone know, he would become a sensation in the game of baseball and in "The Six," as the Canadian rapper Drake refers to the city of Toronto. The former Duke super star was called up to the big leagues to replace Brandon Morrow who was placed on the 60-day disabled list.
There were multiple high's and low's throughout the course of the ace's season. He made his first career start in the majors on May 31. He would throw his first complete game shutout on September 8 against the Chicago Cubs and was beginning to evolve into the 'next big thing' in baseball. However, another halt in Stroman's career occurred when he was suspended six games by Major League Baseball for intentionally throwing the Baltimore Oriole's Caleb Joseph. He appealed the suspension and had his suspension reduced to fives game from any baseball competition. As a result of his most recent behavior, he was moved to the bullpen for the remainder of the season.
In 2015, the future face of "The Six" seeks to redeem himself and have a strong second year campaign. Unfortunately, his season never got to see the beginning as Stroman tore his ACL in spring training and it seemed that his 2015 season was all but over. During his rehab, he returned to Duke University to finish his degree and end up finishing his major in sociology. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, he makes a strong and speedy recovery after successful surgery from the world-renowned Dr. James Andrews and would begin his minor league rehab stint on August 5. Finally, on September 12, the ruler of Toronto would make his glorious return to the big leagues against the New York Yankees. His rise to glory would commence in his last three starts of the regular season where he finished with a 4-0 record, 1.67 ERA, and 18 strikeouts in 27 innings pitched.
Last postseason, the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays had the entire city hopping with joy like it was 1991 or 1992 all over again. Never has any baseball enthusiast seen the Rogers Centre crowd so electric since the iconic Joe Carter walk-off home run in 1992 against the Philadelphia Phillies that would bring the organization its second World Championship. After a very long absence, postseason baseball had returned to the Great White North. The young Marcus Stroman happened to be right in the dead center of the pandemonium. He took to the hill in Game Two of the 2015 American League Division Series against the Texas Rangers in front of an absolutely deafening, sold-out crowd in The Six. He allowed three runs and struck out five in seven innings. Stroman would shortly make another appearance in Game Five and he would allow six hits and two earned runs over six innings pitched. The kid from Duke would only continue to gain a hefty amount of exposure from the baseball world, the city of Toronto, and the entire Canadian province of Ontario.
It is now the 2016 season and Marcus Stroman, the man who suffered a brutal ACL injury a little over a year ago, is now the #1 starter in the Blue Jay's rotation. A rising Blue Jays franchise that is continuing to win the hearts of the Canadian people and turn Toronto into a baseball town. Baseball is all the talk in Canada this time of year anyway; considering that for the first time since 1979, none of the Canadian National Hockey League (NHL) teams are in the playoffs. Due to this rare occurrence, it is all about the Blue Jays. It is all about Marcus Stroman to lead this team to the promised land. On Opening Day, he nearly pitched a complete game against the Tampa Bay Rays and held them to three runs on six hits while striking out five in a 5-3 win. The city of Toronto rests on the shoulders of the ace of the pitching staff. A rising star who is good friends with American rapper and former Duke teammate Michael Seander aka "Mike Stud," where they were featured in a music video together a couple of months before the season. A star who is quickly becoming one of the more recognizable names in baseball and all of sports. Not too bad for a 5'8 kid.