Buy Low Candidate: Returning to NY, Could Marcus Stroman Produce A Big 2021?

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While there was talk that the Mets’ Marcus Stroman may reject the qualifying offer, in the current economic environment is it really a surprise that he ultimately accepted? Maybe he could’ve gotten more guaranteed dollars, but $18.9 million for one season likely wasn’t going to be on the table. Instead he’ll bet on himself, and hope to have a big season in order to cash in after the 2021 season (in what will hopefully be a better economic environment).

Now the question facing fantasy owners is what can we expect from Stroman, after an injury cost him the start of 2020 before he ultimately opted out due to COVID-19? Since we haven’t seen him on the mound since 2019, the starting point should be what we said in our 2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide:

Stroman helped push the Mets into playoff contention as a surprising win now move, and while a 3.77 ERA over his 11 starts in New York isn’t going to excite you there’s more in the underlying metrics. While it wasn’t elite, he maintained a strong groundball rate all season (53.7%) to go along with solid control (2.83 BB/9). Strikeouts have always been the biggest question, though the move to the NL appeared to benefit him as his K/9 jumped to 9.05. He had been showing a solid SwStr% all season (10.1%) and he started throwing his sinker less (37.46%), and that alteration with the move to the NL will justify an improvement in his strikeout rate. All he needs to do is maintain an 8.25+ K/9, to go along with the other skills, and what happens if he can do that while generating closer to his 58.6% career groundball rate? Suddenly you get a potentially elite option.

As we mentioned last year, the biggest question facing him was his strikeout rate. While he seemed to benefit from the move to the NL, that was before there was a universal DH. While that may not be maintained for 2021, it’s hard to believe that they are going to take it away.

So the question is, can Stroman continue to post an improved strikeout rate regardless of the rules? His slider has generally been his best swing and miss offering, though it wasn’t his only one in 2019 (Whiff%):

  • Slider – 17.31%
  • Cut-Fastball – 11.23%
  • Changeup – 10.29%

While he doesn’t throw his changeup often (4.47%), his slider (30.56%) and cut-fastball (24.58%) are heavily utilized. It’s that usage of the cut-fastball that’s important, because it’s never been a big part of his arsenal before.

While he did give up 7 HR on the pitch, more time to refine the pitch could go a long ways to his future production. If he can get the production on the pitch just a little bit better, the sky truly could be the limit.

With a contract hanging in the balance and the upside there, would it really be surprising to see a big year? Absolutely not, and that’s got to put him squarely on radars heading into 2021.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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