After missing most of the 2015 season with a torn left ACL, Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman made 32 starts and topped 200 innings for the first time in his career in 2016. He finished with a 9-10 record and a 4.37 ERA, with solid strikeout (7.32 K/9) and walk (2.38 BB/9) ratios.

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With all of that in mind, is Stroman headed for a breakout in 2017?

After posting a 4.89 ERA over 18 starts pre All-Star break, Stroman improved after that. Over 14 starts (88 innings) after the All-Star break, he had a 3.68 ERA and a 3.95 K/BB ratio. In a direct reflection of how fickle wins are as a measuring stick for pitchers, Stroman went 7-4 before the All-Star break and 2-6 after.

Stroman had a bit of bad fortune through all of 2016, with a .308 BABIP against, an elevated home run/fly ball ratio (16.5 percent) and a low strand rate (68.6 percent). But a top-notch ground ball rate, 60.1 percent, was consistent all season, and Stroman struck out two batters per nine innings more after the All-Star break (8.49 K/9) compared to before that (6.44 K/9). After the All-Star break last season, Stroman’s strand rate normalized to 74 percent after sitting at just 65 percent prior to that. Looking even further into Stroman’s advanced peripherals in 2016, his 3.71 FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching) and 3.41 xFIP reflect poor luck too.

Somewhat inexplicably, with a powerful Blue Jays’ lineup to back him, Stroman got two runs or less of run support in 10 of his starts last year (0-7 record, 4.15 ERA). That run support issue should have some positive correction this year, putting Stroman easily in line for double-digit wins (if you’re into that sort of thing).

The early mixed league starting pitcher rankings on Fantasy have Stroman at No. 38, between John Lackey (No. 37) and Kevin Gausman (No. 39). The site’s default auction calculator, based on a 12-team mixed league, a $260 budget and a 70 percent delegation of that budget to hitters, gives Stroman a value of $6. Once some wider average draft position (ADP) data is available, I expect Stroman to further emerge as a value pick in drafts and auctions.

Stroman is not quite fantasy ace material. But as a second or third starter in mixed leagues, he offers plenty of upside and a virtual certainty of a nice return on a draft day investment.

Marcus Stroman 2017 Projection: 12 wins, 31 starts (195 innings), 3.65 ERA, 7.5 K/9, 2.5 BB/9

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