The Mets made headlines ahead of today’s trade deadline by sending their top two pitching prospects to the Toronto Blue Jays for Marcus Stroman. Now, at first glance one might think that the Mets overpaid by giving up Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson for the veteran right hander. However, a deeper look reveals that neither pitcher is part of the recent MLB Top 100 prospect pipeline. In a vacuum, the trade actually looks favorable towards the Mets. It’s almost an impossible task to try and predict the club’s long term plan, or whether or not if even exists beyond ‘compete just enough to keep ticket sales up.’ With that in mind we’ll leave the planning to the professionals and instead take an in depth look at the newly acquired starting pitcher.
By now everyone knows that Stroman is a Long Island native who notably played ball with and against Steven Matz through his childhood and high school years. While we’re at it, let’s retire the ‘Steven Matz gave up his first ever homerun against Marcus Stroman’ tidbit amongst the ‘Kirk Nieuwenhuis played football’ facts of the world. Stroman went on to Duke University where he played three years of college ball and was then drafted 22nd overall by the Blue Jays. It took him less than two years in the minors to make his major league debut.
Stroman will not blow you away with his stuff, as he ranks 37th in velocity and 56th in strikeout rate among 74 qualified starters this year. However, he is most notably known for keeping the ball down in the zone and eliciting a high ground ball rate. Since the start of the 2017 season Stroman leads the majors in GB% with 60.5%. Most Met fans have intuitively picked up that a higher volume of ground balls would not play well with their infield defense, which ranks among the worst in the major leagues. However a counter to this point is that Stroman has .84 HR/9 rate over the last two and half seasons which is good for second best among qualified starters. Can you guess who is in first place among these rankings? It’s Noah Syndergaard with fellow Met Jacob deGrom in fourth. This is especially interesting when you take into account the ‘juiced ball era’ and consider the amount of balls flying out of parks these days. Having three ace caliber pitchers who can keep the ball inside the park over the course of an entire season is invaluable.
Speaking of pitching over an entire season, Stroman has been a reliable force on the mound by pitching over 200 innings twice in his career (and is on pace to surpass the mark this year). He sports an eclectic repertoire of pitches including a slider, sinker, cutter, changeup (with the ever so occasional curveball). This year he has benefited by throwing his slider more often (tied with his sinker a 35% rate) which has consistently been his best pitch over his career in terms of slugging rate against. Most of his pitches live down in the zone which bolsters the ground ball rate.
The Mets have added a young, energetic, all-star pitcher who is under team control through 2020. If they can replenish their farm by trading Zack Wheeler for a pitching prospect they will have effectively gained a cost effective year of a quality arm at no major expense to their future. Whether or not the deal makes sense with respect to their long term operations will remain to be seen. But there is certainly an exciting potential buzz around the clubs pitching which will be interesting to monitor.