Marcus Stroman… The Blue Jay world seems fixated upon his return. Will he be healthy, will he contribute, what do all his tweets about feeling better than ever mean?
Lets review what we know and take the rest in due time, shall we? First, Stroman’s knee is feeling great, which is equal parts hard work with a rehab specialist, and being young and quick to heal. Might it be 100%? Sure. Does that means he’s ready to pitch in the big leagues in the next couple of weeks? Not so sure.
For those of you who don’t know anatomy, their is some human real estate between the knee and the throwing arm, and that’s what we need to focus on now. Getting Stroman back into big league fighting shape against big league hitters. Being able to throw strikes in sim games is not the same as facing the Yankees in a post season race. But, worry not, the Jays know this and they won’t do anything stupid to chance it. Even so, there has got to be some mental juggling happening concerning best post season roster options… Dickey, Hutchison, A healthy Stroman…? Decisions, decisions.
What will make all this easier? Time, and results derived from live competition. If this was 2013, and the Jays were out of the running for anything but an early vacation, then you could bring Stroman back up to the big leagues more quickly, and let him pitch in low leverage scenarios since the focus would be on next season (and all situations would be low leverage, technically).
However, with so much at stake this season, it’s important that A) Stroman be ready—and I mean really ready—to contribute and, B) not be putting himself at risk of getting hurt before next season, when his contribution will matter much more than it does now. To be clear, the Jays do NOT need Stroman to keep doing what they are doing. But, a healthy Stroman is always useful. If you’ve followed the Jays for a long time, you may not be used to this concept—healthy stars not being needed to go to the post season. If this seems like madness, it’s just the sign of the times, one in which the Cubs, the Astros, and the Blue Jays all have a chance at the post season.
In order to buy as much time and let Stroman face as much competition as possible, the Jays may elect to send Stroman to the Lugnuts, the only minor league team in the Blue Jays organization guaranteed to play post season ball this year.
Can a minor league team do that? Can they pad a post-season roster with higher level players in hopes of ensuring a post season victory?
Yes. They can, and they do.
When my 2006 Lake Elsinore Storm, as mentioned in The Bullpen Gospels, made it to the post season against the San Jose Giants, the giants were notorious for getting upper level players sent to their club just before, or around the time of the Milb post season.
It’s also not uncommon for a team to promote star players at the mid point of the season, let them experience Double or Triple A, then recall them to their lower, starting level just before the start of the playoffs so they can have both the upper level and post season experience in one season.
On the flip side, many of the teams that win a post season birth in the first half of a minor league season are NOT the teams that will actually go to that post season series. Their compositions change during the year. As I said, the prospects and starlings that made the team successful got promoted around or just after the half way mark for the LE Storm. That means some teams are left with roster fillers or fresh faced promotions from lower levels, going up against teams with big league rehabbers and demoted studs looking for post season seasoning.
Organizations like when teams make it to the post season, of course, but it’s still a slave to the development of big league talent.
The Blue Jays could play Midwestern League A-holes to a lot of Milb players, both on the Lugnuts team and the teams they might face. First, incumbent players looking to pitch in the post season will get bumped by Stroman if he shows up. And before you go thinking that will be great for the Lugnuts because Stroman will dominate, remember that Stroman may not care about getting outs as much as he might care about getting work in. IE: Stroman could show up and throw 50 change-ups because that’s the pitch he needs to have before he can be promoted back to the Bigs.
At least he’ll buy them a great big league spread for post game. I mean, he’d f#$%@*&! better.
Second, if older players come down, where do the younger players go? I’ve seen big league players left off a playoff roster, and it sucks. But getting left off a minor league roster really sucks because, well, you can really use that extra pay check! Its not much, but it’s better than going home and getting paid nothing!
Finally, If you’re a minor league club composed of all minor league players on the natural promotion trajectory with no roster padding, facing big leaguers is bullshit. It just is. Considering the attrition rate of the average minor league career, a minor league championship may be the only thing you get to look back on when you’re anchoring a barstool, gushing about glory days.
However, if you’re the Blue Jays, you don’t give a crap about any of this. You can’t. You have a chance to reinforce your lineup, the only lineup in the system that actually matters, and you must take it. If you can get Stroman through all of his quality assurances tests, ready to pick up starts or spilt post season innings at the ability level he was in 2014, you go for it.
If the minor leaguers don’t like it, they can play better.
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