After an off-season that saw them acquire All-Stars Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin, the Toronto Blue Jays were considered a strong contender for an AL East title. The Blue Jays' chances of dethroning the Baltimore Orioles took a hit on Tuesday when right-hander Marcus Stroman tore his left ACL in a bunt-fielding drill. Stroman will miss the entire 2015 season.
Stroman was the Jays' first-round pick in 2012. The diminutive right-hander zoomed through the Jays' minor league system, reaching the big leagues last year. As a rookie, Stroman went 11-6 with a 3.65 ERA in 130.2 innings. He allowed fewer than a hit per inning and struck-out 111 while walking just 28.
A Duke alum, Stroman throws a sinking fastball that can touch 95 and compliments his fastball with a plus slider, as well as a change-up and a cut-fastball. Some scouts projected Stroman as a closer coming out of college because of his size, but he proved durable last season when he threw 166.1 innings between the big leagues and Triple-A. Stroman was to be part of a Blue Jays' rotation that also features former Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey and former All-Star Mark Buehrle.
The Blue Jays could go in-house to replace Stroman. Right-hander Aaron Sanchez made 24 appearances out of the bullpen for Toronto last season, but he was a top starting pitching prospect in the minors. Left-hander Daniel Norris is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball and he got his feet wet last September in the big leagues, tossing 6.2 innings. Norris has just 22.2 innings of Triple-A experience, however, and Toronto may prefer to give him more time at Triple-A before thrusting him into their rotation.
Toronto brought in veteran right-hander Marco Estrada this off-season, and he was one of the candidates for the Blue Jays' fifth starter spot even before Stroman's injury. He could slide into the Blue Jays' rotation. Former Cy Young award winner Johan Santana is also in Jays' camp as a non-roster player, but he just started throwing off of flat ground last week.
The Blue Jays' Triple-A starting pitching depth took a hit this off-season when they traded for Donaldson. In that deal, the Jays sent two of their top pitching prospects -- Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman -- to the A's as part of the package to acquire Donaldson. Toronto has a strong farm system, however, and they would have the resources to acquire a starter from another team should they choose to go that route.
Stroman is the latest high-profile pitcher to suffer a possible season-ending injury in the past week. Rangers' star Yu Darvish was diagnosed with a torn UCL and could miss the year with Tommy John surgery. Philadelphia Phillies' left-hander Cliff Lee has a tear in the flexor tendon in his left elbow and may also need season-ending surgery.