Is There Value In Toronto’s In-House Replacements For Marcus Stroman (Sanchez, Norris & More)

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by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The Blue Jays have World Series aspirations, but the news that a torn ACL will cost Marcus Stroman the season has put a serious dent in those dreams. Now with two potential voids in the rotation, Toronto is left with some intriguing (albeit risky) names to try and fill the gaping void:

 

Aaron Sanchez
He was supposed to compete with Brett Cecil for the closers role, especially given his dominance out of the bullpen in the Majors (1.09 ERA, 0.70 WHIP), but it now seems like almost a given that he’s slotted into the rotation. He uses groundballs to get outs (57.6% in the minors since 2011), but there are a lot of other questions hanging over him.

First of all, his strikeouts have dipped in recent seasons as he’s moved up against tougher competition. At High-A in 2013 he posted a 7.82 K/9 and was at 7.53 splitting time between Double and Triple-A in 2014. Coming out of the bullpen in the Majors he managed just a 6.2% SwStr%, so there are obvious concerns.

Prior to being shifted to the bullpen, his control was also a significant issue. Since 2011 he owns a 4.70 BB/9 in the minors, a number that obviously would hurt him.  However, according to Rich Wilson of Prospect 361, there’s actually hope:

“It looks like the problem is more in the action that he gets on his pitches. There’s so much movement that it’s just hard to control. This is common of sinker ballers but it can also be fixed.”

There’s upside, especially with the groundballs, but without strikeouts and command? He’s worth the gamble, but he’s nothing more than an end game flier in hopes that he figures it out in 2015.

 

Marco Estrada
Acquired for Adam Lind, expectations were that he’d fill a spot in the bullpen. At this point he appears like he could be rotation bound.

He has control (2.43 BB/9 for his career) and the potential for a K/9 north of 8.00 (despite his 7.59 last season he still posted a 10.5% SwStr, right along the lines of his 10.4% mark for his career). The problem? Home runs, and it could get even worse moving to Toronto.

As it is he’s posted HR/9 of 1.34 and 1.73 the past two seasons. Now transfer him not only to the AL, but Toronto? It could get ugly.

There’s upside, but like Sanchez he shouldn’t be anything more than a late round flier.

 

Daniel Norris
He’s a strikeout pitcher, with a minor league career 10.67 K/9 (11.77 across three levels last season). The question is if the southpaw has discovered his control, after posting a 3.10 BB/9 in 2014.

According to Rich wilson of Prospect 361, it appears he has fixed the problem mechanically:

“Through 133.1 innings in 2012 and 2013, Norris walked 4.32 per nine. His release point was all over the place with many 4.0 IP, 3BB stat lines to prove the point. That turned around this past year as Norris became more direct to the plate and the results were stark.”

That’s huge, as Wilson also describes an arsenal that could be elite:

“The arsenal has a chance to be special with a fastball that sits 91-93 MPH with plenty of 4’s and 5’s when he needs it. The fastball plays up a grade as he gets nice downward plane and a lot of late movement given his long stride and extension to the plate. His secondary pitches can miss a ton of bats. He has a double-barrel slider/change-up combination that jump up on hitters, partially because of the movement he gets but also through his deceptive delivery. Both grade out to be above-average if not future plus offerings. He also throws a show me curve ball that over time could be an extremely useful pitch.”

There will no doubt be some bumps along the road, but it should be clear which Toronto alternative has the highest upside.  The question is going to be exactly when he gets his opportunity, but Norris will be worth the flier when he does.

Sources – Minor League Central, Prospect 361, Fangraphs

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